On roadtrips, we all moaned
of squished toes. The minivan lacked
legroom; it seemed our knees
were millimeters from goring
our eyes. One of us would pull a chair back
and smack into another––
like a humanoid chemical equation,
shifting towards equilibrium,
fluctuating and hitting
each other’s shins.
We spent hours like that. Days.
Mom pulled her hair
and drove with her elbows.
We bickered while leaving the hotel parking lot
in the morning, and we sneered
as the car screeched into the next at night.
That was years ago. With a bigger van
came less time for the road.
We pack lighter now, only seven days
of clothes. We stretch our arms outwards
and still can’t feel the window.
We have space, but no time
for chatter, for yelling, for chair-fights.
The clock moves too quickly
for laughter and violence.
I used to think of myself
as quite the little fashion designer.
I spent hours poring over sketches:
young women with block-color hair
wearing dresses full of angles,
collars chopped crisp and low
to emulate the girls I’d seen,
the youthful actresses, the older cousins
who I someday hoped to become.
Every face shone bright
unless it was mine, when I drew myself
in baby blue and titled it “Shy Sky”––
that one features a reserved smirk,
and even the exaggerated emerald
I chose for my eyes falls flat,
impassable. It’s hard to imagine
I once thought of myself this way,
misunderstood and tightly self-reined
when really I have always possessed
the multitudinous vibrancy
of a fully-stocked box of pencils.
I have always sashayed and wept,
rainbows, ostentatious and unafraid
to illustrate myself brightly––
and although nervous to document
my full-blast vulnerability,
I’ve remained courageous in the flesh.
Author’s Note: Okay, so maybe I’m misleading you with the title of this post. The entirety of this poem was created on July 8, 2017, because I was a busy bee on July 7. But don’t worry––yours truly will still be providing a full 31 poems this month for you to enjoy.
Summer leaves me too sleepy
to complete a poem.
The oxygen is unenriched,
swirling without syllables.
All I want is to feel the sweep
of the fan as I nap.
It dawns on me that bedsheets
will offer little consolation.
The A/C’s gentle electric rattle
sings a lullaby via the vents.
In the afternoon,
inertia quietly maintains
the wordlessness on my page.
My mechanical pencil,
below the mattress, rolling,
is surely dreaming, too.
The curtains cave and expand,
as if they were blowing
on a dandelion.
Molly slides a new calendar
onto the old hook. Last year was clouds; this year,
twelve mountains plasticine on pages,
each wearing a glossy white cap
as if it were mink. Molly’s brown hair is in a braid,
swinging like the pendulum
in a grandfather clock, and I watch it
until I lose track of time.
I still don’t know how many days
are in a month: for me, days
seem to swirl, elusive as heavy snow.
Flurries are impossible
to greet. Anything that touches my nose
melts in moments.
The kitchen is warm. Molly clucks her tongue
and makes hot chocolate. Under the dimmed light,
I see her first grey hair, glinting platinum
like a wedding band.
I ask her why she didn’t tell me it was there.
She says it’s just her inner child
poking its nose out to play peekaboo,
its color bright only with shrill laughter.
For a moment, I can hear it
in the hot water she pours over the brown powder.
I laugh along. She drops three marshmallows in my mug.
Her lips on my cheek
bring me back to our first kiss—
it was January, and I’d never been so cold.
I told her, “The only thing I know about snow
is that I’m tired of dragging my boots through it.”
She said, “The only thing I know about snow
is that we are never as alone as we think we are.”
Our gloves met each other,
wool as good as skin.
A fourth marshmallow arrives ceremoniously,
followed by a rise in the small chocolate tide.
“This is today,” Molly says,
sweatering me inside of her. “Tomorrow is the new year.”
Her flyaways tickle my cheek until I feel
like champagne. Another grey hair drifts
before my eyes. Everything is blurry.
Crooked-tooth beauty, your wide smile curved
I saw you were everything I almost deserved
Head on your collarbone, I didn’t feel so alone
Affectionate words, unreserved
Your eyes, crinkled pastries all happy like that
Your toes, autumn-awkward on the welcome mat
You shone perfect pink, let your long lashes blink
Then lifted me up, swift, strong acrobat
Crooked-tooth beauty, you spun me around
Like a hot-air balloon peeled up from the ground
My giggles went pealing; swear I touched the ceiling
And back in your arms, warm and safe, I was found
What bright stroke of luck had granted me you?
What guardian angel did I have? Or who
Would read my bent mind and then be so kind
As to hand me the best thing the heavens can do?
Tumultuous beauty, I held you to me
Light met your green eyes like sunsets on the sea
Sweet fragile foam, you became my home
Now my boat is lost and I am so alone.
After a day spent lugging
my gunship around, a drape of foam
sighs over me––your arm, deep blue,
a velvet of cool crashing calm upon my hull.
An ocean you are that cradles
me, cannon-tattered, munitions-depleted,
safely towards the horizon’s lighthouse with waves
no harsher than the tinkle of your breath along my ear
as it glitters its way
in escapades down my legs to dispell itself
like a dozen rockets from my toes––You pull me closer
into a dream, the night all black except for
the whispers of stars you use
to navigate gently to the new day.
And so we go
Without a flashlight, I toed my way
barefoot across the salamander skin of the leaves
in the dead of night in the woods.
Fingering the toad scratches of the bark as the canopy
suffocated my eyes
and the mossy fur of the air
tickled my Id, I thought on the beasts of the full moon––
Dracula, the mummy, and the bad man
with the bolts in his neck (I was not ready
to wear the bride’s lightning scalp)––
only to find that the tattered-flannel werewolf
was only you,
you, as I’d always known you,
a mutt of fluff, tail wagging, unghostly,
just the other side of the clearing.
I unfolded myself and you lept into my arms
as if you didn’t even know the monster you were.