I play wallflower to your world. 

Your life—crisply folded, deliciously cookie-cutter,

coordinated family photos that take hours to stage. 

I will never relate to your relations. 

Mine— we’re a loose tapestry,

more rough-and-tumble, less methodical.

Do not misunderstand me, love—

I envy the order of your universe, but mine

has no formal design or blueprint to follow.

I’ve never had to pose before, angling my shoulders

to please the blinding flash. 

Forgive my awkward stance, my lack of grace.

It’s evident I come from somewhere else.

A place where posture doesn’t matter, where Dad 

comes from around the corner without warning

to snap photos of us laughing over our breakfast plates,

never stopping to count down from three but that’s okay

because in that world at least I do not wonder if my smile 

looks forced in the Christmas card you’ll never send.


Soaked by sudden storm, rain saturating the apples 

of our cheeks, there was a time for dripping hair. 

You and I, howling while running for shelter. 

And after drying each other’s shivering figures,

making soup. There was a time for that, too,

warming numb faces against steaming bowls, 

letting the blood return, painting us pink again.

But time does not keep

and cannot endure.

It must make room for other downpours,

new bodies to fill its vacancies, fresh forms.

I run with someone else now, and before the sky pours

we’re already home. But sometimes,

when there is no water to wring from my clothes

and my hair still looks the way it did when I left 

I remember making soup, heat rising calmly

to meet us, all of our leaking laughter— 

you and your still-wet smile.


from my childhood neighborhood

Bathed in blushing light, I do not dwell

upon death for the first time in weeks.

Instead, I let the atoms of my body

make cosmic love to the sidewalk shadows,

a strange sensation of fulfillment soaring 

past the treetops of this miniature world.

I welcome it— these rare quietudes—

where I can lay my armor down 

and think of nothing else beyond 

the forgiveness of sun 

on living skin.


I am sick, Mom.

I am so sick that I convinced myself

I’d been reincarnated as a glass sculpture, 

abstract and unmoving, against the pale blue 

hydrangeas at the butterfly gardens today.

I am too sick for the gardens, Mom.

You took me there to forget myself, I know, 

to feel—for a fleeting moment—less hostage 

of my mind and more dragonfly surfing

the lilypond. But nothing ever becomes

of your worthy endeavors and I am fated 

to be the dead among the living, the girl lying

facedown in the grass, praying for the grave.

Take me home, Mom.

I am sorry that I cannot grow,

that I am not a wild, blooming thing

capable of being swayed by summer air

and wanting nothing more than to live.

Mine are the roots that cannot clutch, Mom—

and maybe I am far too sick to stay.


I want to go home and I do not mean

where I grew up, the townhouse with

the peeling red shutters and ten goldfish

preserved in alcohol and buried in the backyard.

When I say I want to go home I mean the bend

of your neck in November and semi-golden strands 

slipping like silk between feral fingers and

limitless anatomy and not enough time to take

all of it in. I associate home with haunting 

bookshelves at the library, peering between

uneven stacks of alphabetized encyclopedias

and then walking home and kicking off 

our shoes without untying them first.

Home is desperate— all of our hasty acts,

the sacred profane, leaving nothing unsaid

and no parts untouched. I want nothing

more than to go there, to stop for a while

and observe our geography— three summers

and lifetimes of passion— to visit long enough

to absorb it all for good. Would you let me climb

into your bed, pull the covers over my head?

Or would it be too much, too real to relive? 

Tell me before I try.

Or would you even want me to?


I lent you 

weak-spined paperback books, coins for your bus fare home, 

the defenselessness of my body in late September, eager 

silhouettes playing against peeling paint and dying light.

You lent me 

halves of your sandwiches, chronicles from childhood,

the nape of your neck where I would trace my name 

with my lips to make you appear more real 

to me, more conscious.

I liked to imagine 

shaping you with my palms

like some sort of maniacal artist.

As if you were my pottery, my life’s work, 

that I could shape you however I saw fit,

keeping you on the wheel

to be governed by my movements.

But the body is not clay nor soulless.

It cannot spin forever.

It does not defy inertia.

With you I learned

that the body is only lent in intervals

and then taken back after it is due.

I thought I’d have my whole life

to sculpt you without flaw, but you,

my almost magnum opus,

are my holy unfinished.


I think I love you

in a different language now—

through gritted teeth at the mindless mention

of your name in conversation, a clenched fist

perspiring against the loose seams of my pocket, 

a sealed and stamped envelope I almost dropped

into the post office mailbox this morning yet 

ultimately decided to save for another day

because why, what’s the point anymore

if you never check your mail or even check on me,

or if you already know my letter will begin with sorry

or remember when we used to or I just wish I’d been better, 

the contents of my heart translated into cursive bullshit. 

So I slipped the letter back into the crease of my coat

and let it burn a hole there, like I’d been shot in the side. 

Then I wandered around town, stopping at our landmarks, 

pretending it didn’t throb and that I wasn’t spilling out. 

It’s funny, though, the things I do to keep you alive.

Like how I still sprinkle cinnamon into black coffee

the way you did for me when I’d rage at you, or how I still

take the scenic route when I drive home, even if no one sits 

in my passenger seat pointing at the cows grazing on hills 

while cranking 80s rock like we’re the main characters 

in a trashy romantic comedy that flopped in the theaters,

or how I still write you into my poems even when I run 

out of words capable of saying what I’ve been needing to.

I still love you in past tense, in isolation, in pretending 

that I don’t. But it’s alright, and I’m gonna be fine, 

because at least I can still hold you close 

in the stories that I tell.


I like to talk about things 

like whether or not God would have friends if He went to my old high school

and how all saints were probably secret skeptics with blasphemous diary entries

and how I’d rather choke myself to death than marry someone stupid.

You don’t.

You’d rather listen, absorbing my farfetched philosophies, nodding

just to gratify my sickness. I get too swept away in passion, but you

find it charming or exotic or something, I’m still not sure—

but you haven’t left yet and that’s what makes you different

from everyone else. You tolerate, 

at the very least, my diatribes and ramblings, 

my red-in-the-face awakenings that leave me breathless and murdered

on your bedroom carpet, muttering Holy shit over and over again

into my hands like litany. You don’t articulate your opinions on whether the universe 

is benevolent or indifferent or evil, or if you believe money is merely a social construct

invented to control us like I do, or if you’re even remotely afraid of dying.

I used to hate it, wished that you’d get bloodthirsty for answers 

like me, violent for truth palpable enough to hold in your palms. But now 

I understand you’d rather just hold me, would rather just swaddle me in stillness, 

or maybe you’re afraid that if you verbalized your inner world

mine would disintegrate, that I’d fracture into a thousand pieces, 

that maybe I would pixelate in your arms. You don’t say much 

but you don’t have to. 

I can feel what you’re thinking without words, 

when you pull me closer, into the act which requires no explanation, 

no language, no absurd fit of anger to express its depths.

In these moments you’re not thinking about God or money

or really anything at all– other than how to keep me 

from swimming too far from shore.


Some things make sense 

but also don’t, simultaneously,

like blasting O Holy Night in July, ninety whole degrees

of hell incarnate. It works only because it shouldn’t. 

Like two wrongs colliding to form a singular right,

two opposite somebodies designing a likeness

called love. Or how sometimes I still choose 

to pour over letters from an ancient flame, 

diving back into the clutches of a dead life

that can no longer warm me. It is foolish, I know, 

but wise to me. It is precisely how 

I find presence in the absence of him,

sacred music in his infinite silences,

some invented, good-enough version of heaven 

to keep me company in this cruel, 


unholy July.


I want so badly to be wanted 

at the same calibre of which I want you.

I beg you— carve your initials 

into the thick of my torso,

stain me permanently pink with longing. 

My want is a needy, impossible creature. 

There is an artfulness to love

and it is measured by how much breath is lost 

in the pursuit of it. Chase me until your knees lock,

until your heels weep out of rage. Make your presence

incontestable, as evident as blood on a blank canvas,

as a sudden blizzard in July, as terminal illness.


love me so physical 

that I lose all sensation.

I want so badly to be numbed— 

overwhelmed, crushed, ruined— by you, 

my strange, timid artist,

as you engrave your name into the small of my back for good.