“We are obsessed with exposure, and prefer to take the initiative, to expose ourselves.”

 

–Louise Gluck

 

I am  walking behind three hooded women in some sort of cave. they are carrying torches so all I can see are the outlines of their bodies and a foot ahead of them. I am not looking ahead of them. I am staring at the back of the woman on the left’s cloak when she turns around. they are all in black robes. they all look the same from behind. she says, you’re lucky, you know. but I couldn’t say anything. physically, I couldn’t move my mouth. the cavern opened to a well. the three women parted and walked around it but I couldn’t see them anymore. I walked closer to it. 

I wake up. I don’t know what time. I turn to the nightstand for my phone when I see her at the foot of my bed. cloaked, she is sitting on the floor, kind of leaning to the side. comfortable like she’s been there for a while and her eyes are green though I know it’s her. when she smiles, I know it’s her. she says

does she kill for you? does she kill for you? kind of hisses it. I can see the corner of her lifted aristocratic brow and her lips are painted a flame red. then she begins to stand.  pressing her arms into the mattress, I feel the weight of the bed move downward. I am not terrified but paralyzed. I can’t say anything. I remember feeling like I couldn’t say anything or move and in her full stance, she was much taller than I remembered. 

“Artemis”

 

from a young age, I cherished quiet. I cherished secret games. the color game I played a lot. I would spend hours in my room alone. as long as I spent outside with friends, I spent alone.  it was soothing, the deprivation. I was often immured in noise or tension so sometimes I  would place my head face first into the pillow and begin to see little colors form everywhere.  squeeze my eyes real tight to see the colors pop and change shape. I could do this for a while, often hiding under the covers to do it. I would pull my eyelids shut or I would stick my face into the bed hard and my retinas would burst like a kaleidoscope. depending on the lighting of the room, depended on the colors you’d see. if you shut your eyes and stare up at the sun, you’d see a burst of red. or if you were under water sometimes it bled: a green spot that slowly spread like a spill on a paper towel. I couldn’t explain the pleasure or the phenomenon to anyone, I just enjoyed the visions it produced without understanding why sometimes I saw orange and sometimes I only got  black static like a tv was out.   it was my secret eye game. a solo activity i did in my room or when I was swimming privately away from my friends. playing with the sun, playing with the shallow end. resting on my daybed.

however, I’m impressionable and one time I saw an episode of Unsolved Mysteries where a couple was listening to a ghost through a pillow and then the wife was possessed. or she floated up to the ceiling maybe even without being possessed. I think she was possessed but for dramatization they made her float.  the beginning music of Unsolved Mysteries scared me enough so that every time I hear it still, I wince. it was the rejection of closure that the series provided. these madmen and mad paranormals are still here.  for years after that particular episode, I had a hard time laying down flat and listening to the pillow. a hard time laying down having to sometimes sit up suddenly.  listening to the buzz that reverberated from each window from the telephone wire outside, I swore I could hear them.  I opened my eyes to look at the closet and felt the closet was responsible. a woman lived in my closet and came out at night to mate with me. I didn’t tell anyone for fear they would disown me for the pleasure I got at six from her sex. 

she was not a color. she was a force. but when I closed my eyes, I felt yellow. 

 

“the color game”

I am thinking of culpability
as it relates to
feelings towards me.
I am thinking
you’re thinking
what’s the probability
I still hold grudges and
what’s the likelihood
I save a thing that any
man has given or said to
me, but we also have to examine
formula so you
reverse and see the way

 

I move at night first.
foremost, you have to
ask yourself whether my stasis
is truth or lie, and if all
perpetrators love getting
caught what does that mean for
us? and starting to feel myself
dissolve into the walls,
I become
first so large I cannot be unseen,
and then with a snap of
my fingers, a panel
blending in like camouflage
with the cracks along my walks.
I could not stop myself
from seeking; even in
chill, I could go from one
end of town
to the other.
like a slow exhale.

when the city closed the
streets for the pope,
I walked from Frankford and
Allegheny to 30th and Market,
having also biked it first.
even though we lacked the
snow capped hills,
something about spending an
entire two months
watching for black ice and cars
even at red lights,
hearing them skid,
thrilled like the slipping
over jagged rocks.
and being watched daily
by a nemesis and every man in this
town really made it feel much
more weighted
and at such a shifting
ponderance. there were
glades of icicles
to wade through,
my hamstrings so strong
towards the end of
February, my fingers
like wrinkled rulers
measuring the space
between neighbors,
the circumference of
baseball sized holes in
windows, the sting of
locked knobs,
and

crippled by the straws
I clutched ungloved.

 

“February/February/July”

 

I have three cuts through
the devil on my leg
and a small bruis
to the right of it,
a large bruise on
my left thigh and
when we met,
you had a large mark on your
right arm that looked
like someone had grabbed you
and I don’t know where
I got it.

you are careful.
I am unsure what to say.
I don’t either.
I gesture to myself,
I mean to mine.

I begin to tell her a dream.
he begins to tell me a dream.
I am in the middle of a forest
and she is in front a fire
and all she says is
wait, be careful
what you say
and holds her hands up.
she kind of walks towards me.
she is young but
but like also like her child.
like she is her daughter.
she is walking up,
she is wearing a long white
pj gown and has long hair,
hands out saying
be careful what you say.
and then I just wake up.

and then wake him up.

“datura moon” or “the story of us”

 

“We have, I think, great terror of pain, and consequent resistance to what it can teach.”

–Louise Gluck

freedom is a cage
of smudged windows,
or it is a knot
in my stomach,
wriggling.


I dream of white frogs
at night in pools
covered in tea lights
and women swimming ahead
to cavern and I
feel caterpillars
washed in symbol,
incubated, sliding through
my gut, inching
their way from corporeal
packages when the day is
warm and facing them,
unbridled.
when the wind is favorable

my unimpeded exodus
through speech
prevails;
from chrysalis to
window, cracking
pane and tracing spit
like slug on glass
to mark the gust
that carries.
from gut to
chest to
windpipe:
carved.  how screams are
rushed when pushed,
or just when they finally
meet the Earth
as voluble flutter
that maims itself
to form.



“Arachne”

I took myself
to the welfare office,
not even getting lost as
I’m prone to do.
          why can’t you just figure it out?
I live right down the street.
it took fifteen minutes.
my shorts are stuck to my thighs,
and my neck is drenched.
I wipe my forehead with my hand
to her disgust.
“It’s unseasonably warm for June”
I begin and elucidate the drawl,
smile to beg for my Access card back
but here comes the recalcitrance;
she asks me for something
I don’t have and I
smacked my lips the wrong way
so I snacked on my servility
inch by inch as I
inched my way
back to our place.

months later,
I lose a diamond necklace there.
there is nothing more satisfying
than losing things or
shaving my head or
throwing away the clunky pepper
spray that women wraithed into chains
and hung from their hips
as if fear and trepidation
and weaponry have
ever kept me safe.
someone told me failure is perspective
but all I see are cops
pinching women with latex gloves
and all the little shrubs
that line the block look like
workers shaking their heads at me
      leave
or,

get on with then.
I am  throwing coffee grounds
into a leaky cardboard box,
our first CD is scratched  and
on top.
I’m on a bed that lifts
with one giant sigh
and no top sheet and
no frame.
they said risk meant courage
and I say you fucking
left me here
into your voicemail.

I’m eating sprinkles with a spoon
in a freshly inherited
two story townhouse.
It’s the sixth of June
so I got weeks.

“grace”

remember how you ranked
yourself: not top
but low and lowly,
seething. beguiling
with your rueful moan
repeating
your endless epoch of dystopian
psychosis that started the minute
someone said hello
you swear; this
tale you would
tell them as you were tied
down or arrested, and
habits don’t change just
because we do.
there is an insidious nature
to mechanism. it has worked,
it simply cannot fail,
that’s what you told yourself
(I want the daydream gone)
and 


remember how cold
February can be?
you in a staid state
of assessment that lacks
any empathy; you’re
in nine places if you’re any less
than three and recalcitrant,
turned inward so you
bark at the shades,
slice at the lines of your
hands when dusk hits.
mistake things for sirens,
police yourself scourging,
marks on your legs, your
forearms.

but when you sink,
you can feel the tongues of
nearby dogs,
your fingers half
in fur before your mind
has even greeted the owner,
feel the pup’s skin
and smile; broken
by the thing.
you were just  contemplating
the ways in which
water-boarding is
so necessary if you
actually have to force someone
to purge and
you can imagine places you could
use to get there having
felt so close to there before
and then
standing and
smiling to the man–
big and broad and sunny,
like you’ve never
thought a thing.

just rocking there,
picking daisies
in a raincoat.
It’s May and
you’re alone. 

“February/February/May”

 

we left with our hands
uncurling
in separate pockets, fingers
strained against the denim.
I left a place where I found
God and
a studio apartment
with no utility bill,


foothills with no rain and
zero percent humidity,
sun 300 days a year and
a rose blanket that smelled
like my parent’s room.
I left my
first incantation,
      my brother is dead
in the margin and
you left me with this
townhouse.

an abrasive echo
that scratched marks
in the walls,
no budget for paint.
one half of the utensils,
a couple of wicker baskets
and no end table.
you gesture to the antique armoire,
remind me it’s yours
even though it’s not your
taste, you see the value
in heavy wood.

you took the bigger bottle of
toothpaste.
five chairs,
all the curtains, the area rugs,
the broom and your
glare lingered on me
counting dollars
in a borrowed sundress,
feel my clavicle
jut out the skin
as I rationed meals.

you took the kitten and
the lighters,
every last card
(left the armoire)
and  so abruptly like when
you took my waist that
one breathy night,
pulled me into the crook
of your body. said
you were going to
      squeeze me in this bad neighborhood
rolled out of that soft spot,
grabbed a litter box,
took clean off.

“doors #13”

“Why does insanity always twist the great answers?
Because only tormented persons want the truth.”

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