I. Those of us born by water are never afraid enough of drowning. Bruises used to trophy my knees from my death-defying tree climb jumps. Growing up, my backyard was a forest of blackberry bushes. I learned early nothing sweet will come to you unthorned.
I suspect it’s difficult for men to imagine a world in which their bodies have long been inextricably linked to their value as an individual, and that no matter how encouraging your parents were or how many positive female role models you had or how self-confident you feel, there is an ever-present pressure that creeps in from all sides, whispering in your ear that you are your body and your body defines you. A world where, from the time of pubescence on, you can feel the constant and palpable weight of the male gaze, and not just from your male peers but from teachers and sports coaches and the fathers of the children you baby-sit, people you’re supposed to respect and trust and look up to, and that first realization that you are being looked at in that way is the beginning of a self-consciousness that you will be unable to shake for the rest of your life.Even if they are never verbalized, the rules of bodily conduct for females become clear early on: when school administrators reprimand you for the inch of midriff that shows when you lift your hands straight in the air or youth group leaders tell you that the sight of your unintentional cleavage is what causes godly young men to fall, you learn that your body is dangerous and shameful and that it’s your responsibility to cloister it in a way that is acceptable to everyone else. You learn that your body is a topic of public debate that everyone is entitled to weigh in on, from a male classmate telling you that those jeans make your ass look huge to the male-dominated United States Congress dictating the parameters that rape must fall within to be considered legitimate. To be a woman, and to live life in a woman’s body, is to be held to a set of comically paradoxical standards that make you constantly second-guess yourself and jump through a million hoops in pursuit of an impossible perfection.
I used to be gold. First prize
collarbones, atomic number
I think of our bodies unhinging.
Dismantling a masterpiece we
worked so hard to build with
creased hands. A workshop of
cracking spines to straighten out
the way we would slouch.
Maintenance was: drilling openings
inside each others joints, stitching
ligaments, embroidering our hopes
beneath surfaces in cryptic codes
When I arrived I was sun. Already
sweltering inside your pores,
glazing skin in honey residue.
My promises rinsed over in drizzling
rain, marinating your bones, flooding,
breaking into the current network
of your nerves.
Often, all I have are promises.
It starts with a loud rumbling noise
from the inside out, a vicious clap of
thunder rendering breathing patterns
defenceless. An expansion of pressure
that is too close for comfort.
When I think of slipped disks,
they remind me of those stepping stones
we crossed towards the Colosseum
we had in our minds.
We hung expectations from our shoulders.
Self depreciation is a gale force wind
who knocks once, twice, strikes fragility
down with her fury—ungluing the grip
beneath my feet, begging that I get familiar
with my knees.
She says, “You’re going to have to look at
them up close if you want to learn how to assess damage.”
When I unzipped my ribcage I saw those
impressions that you’d left on my heart,
ransacked awareness told me you’d been
here, moulding yourself between my
Last night I set a fire,
and watched as it burn the end
of the rope that I’d been holding
to keep you
It seems to me that if you place music (and books, probably, and films, and plays, and anything that makes you feel) at the center of your being, then you can’t afford to sort out your love life, start to think of it as the finished product. You’ve got to pick at it, keep it alive and in turmoil, you’ve got to pick at it and unravel it until it all comes apart and you’re compelled to start all over again. Maybe we all live life at too high a pitch, those of us who absorb emotional things all day, and as a consequence we can never feel merely content: we have to be unhappy, or ecstatically, head-over-heels happy, and those states are difficult to achieve within a stable, solid relationship.
Anyone here had a go at themselves
for a laugh? Anyone opened their wrists
with a blade in the bath? Those in the dark
at the back, listen hard. Those at the front
in the know, those of us who have, hands up,
let’s show that inch of lacerated skin
between the forearm and the fist. Let’s tell it
like it is: strong drink, a crimson tidemark
round the tub, a yard of lint, white towels
washed a dozen times, still pink. Tough luck.
A passion then for watches, bangles, cuffs.
A likely story: you were lashed by brambles
picking berries from the woods. Come clean, come good,
repeat with me the punch line ‘Just like blood’
when those at the back rush forward to say
how a little love goes a long long long way.
I’ve noticed something about people who make a difference in the world: They hold the unshakable conviction that individuals are extremely important, that every life matters. They get excited over one smile. They are willing to feed one stomach, educate one mind, and treat one wound. They aren’t determined to revolutionize the world all at once; they’re satisfied with small changes. Over time, though, the small changes add up. Sometimes they even transform cities and nations, and yes, the world.
We do not come from a long line of women who put themselves first.
We are not porcelain and serene.
We are stain glass.
sweaty palms rough and calloused as a result of hanging on too long and too hard.
This is for the girls with issues.
What are you afraid of?
You are so beautiful, so cute, so lucky to be alive.
Eighteen is too young to be so sad.
You don’t care about anyone as much as they will care about you.
Cheer up, my friend.
Take a breath.
You are so many things.
Would you care if I died?
If I never came home?
I could have left, too.
You look more like your mother every day.
I want you to fuck me. I want you to cum for me.
I’d really like to kiss you right now.
But this is all just misplaced energy.
I can’t smoke a cigarette with you.
Tell me if you stop loving me.
You are not allowed to love.
Stop thinking so much.
Stop caring so much about things that don’t matter.
Words are not a career.
Write the truth, but don’t write your truth.
How can one person be so destructive and so beautiful.
How come you don’t believe in Home?
I want everything inside of you.
I want you to give me your world.
No one will love you the way he loves you.
No one wants to watch you burn.
You selfish bitch.
The world will never remember you.
No matter how much you scream.
No matter how much you curse.
If getting over me is too hard you can always fuck the pain away.
You are the biggest liar that I have ever met.
Thank you for telling me the truth.
I bought your book just to burn it.
I know you were hurt.
Why don’t you cry?
It’s going to be okay.
This is all just misplaced