You are the back of my neck,
you trickle down me like a flock of sparrows
migrating south to my navel.
When I inhale, I spell your name.
The freckles on my shoulders
are shameful little spots (I get them
from sun-kiss betrayal) but
when you hold me, they sprout feathers
and I can fly.
I soar to the instrumental.
Your fingers lilt on my mind almost as if
I were made of ivory
and you played me to paint the sky–
a sunset of harmonies, silhouetted birds
made of black keys.
And yet we never touch; I am,
after all, across and not beside–just a footnote
on your path, in your book
and these lonely lips implode, bite
themselves, drawing blood, painting
last night I had a dream where you lay against me
and I woke up with your memory
on my hands, and to this very hour
I can’t come clean.
Your fingers roll
like thunder, and for a moment
I believe my skull is doomed to be dough,
the way she had me
when I was a tie-dyed joy ride
in the palm of her hand, and
I’m weak to flinch—after all, that smirk,
playful, doesn’t match hers—
but it’s a mirror image (I am flipped)
and that laugh, that perfect, awful laugh, is identical,
though not as ambiguous, and so when I choke
I can better mimic your sounds than I ever could
hers, making you more willing
to loosen that sweat-stained collar after
you’ve buttoned me blue,
and I am quicker now than ever
to my wobbly knees, splintered shins
and cheeks singed tints,
Emulation of “Loves” by Stephen Dunn.
I fear the suns that have yet to set and wink
their nighttime bruises across my feeble skin–
my eyes, my mouth sealed tombs
before I utter anything monumental.
I fear passivity, consumption
with no effect.
I once sat on a bumblebee
and now fear forces me to pick apart every patch of clovers
before I settle down.
I once settled too deeply into a love
and it stung until I cried, but it never died
and late at night it sneak into my thoughts,
my inbox. I fear her baubles and lures, for their hooks
will snag me if I don’t stay awake;
under those moons, fear is the Siren
singing on the underside of my pillow.
Of all friends, the closest; of all songs,
the most beautiful. I fear the words that feel
like siblings–the horrifying hallelujahs
shuddering in the road, drowning
in the frosty oceans of lamplight.
When I learned how shallow
a puddle must be before becoming a lake,
I feared the fluid in my veins.
I fear love–I fear kisses
and hugs and making promises and passing notes
in class and among friends. I fear the finality
of first and foremost.
What could be more petrifying
than the anticipation of the end?
What monster could rival that phone call?
I fear mediocrity. I fear fate. I fear the unassuming shoes
at the end of my bed, red and unlaced,
a pair of perfect demons, carnivorous, expectant,
their flailing tongues tasting the air,
inhaling my raspy pulse.
When I looked out
over the plains and saw nothing
but dead grass with barbed pock marks,
the tornado in my stomach clenched
its muscles, torn by wear,
contracting into compressed electric anger
that bleached my fists.
I was a storm then. I screamed. Debris
of myself, like a bird but lonelier,
closer to the ground. A propane tank collapsed
in the trailer park of my mind,
and every gallon fled the scene, finding shelter
at last in my forearms, settling and bursting,
an eruption of lost.
Do you have any idea
how many times I’ve set my veins on fire
only to have you
wish the flames away?
My dear friend, how often have you ignored
the smoldering, and the pain,
and the way it stings at first
then slowly turns to acid? Do you have a clue
how seamlessly your downpour
has rescued me?
I wasn’t born in these twilight shades.
Someday, you said,
I’ll be green again. What a beautiful blue