LAYERS

To be born a creature constantly evolving
is a God-given grace I do not deserve

but one I savor with every fiber
of my being, to be made of layers,
to be allowed the gift of unraveling.

As if no matter how much of me this world
takes and takes and takes, whether it be
the strength from my spine or the flush
of my face when it finds yours among many
in a crowded room, no matter if everything
I hold is stolen from my hands, cupped
in prayer, no matter if I am left with nothing

I will never truly be left with nothing.

I will always have poetry.

And layers.

And you.

escapril day 30: catharsis

Today I give thanks

for April and how tenderly she treated me,
for the roses back home in my cheeks,
for the syrupy breeze of perfect springtime.
Today I give thanks for the word “blessing,”
because truly, there is no other word that could
possibly suffice in capturing all of this striking color
that now blooms like awkward patches of wildflower
around my tired body, overcoming everything I am,
this sudden reanimation of all I swore was dead,
this unexpected burst of breath, and my own life,
brand new and blushing pink, born just minutes ago.

because I looked around this morning and all I saw
were these little somethings, miles of simple blessings
sprouting everywhere, germinating, peeking up shyly
from soil as if planted just for me, as if the universe
conspired to plant for me a garden just so I could
stand in it, trembling awestruck, blooming with nothing
in my hands but gratitude. and so I give thanks to you,

month before May, for this resurrection,
this graceful uprooting, for showing
me the way back to the roots of things.

escapril day 29: may flowers

ODE TO 220

Campbell Hall, the first time I met you I cried.
Your paint peeled in layered petals from sticky walls,
crumbling to death. Past midnight after settling in,
I taped photos of my family to your ceiling tiles
as an attempt to make you feel more like that,
like home, less broken sink and drafty door,
less stuffy air and moldy window sill.

I watched the seasons turn from that top bunk.
Sweaty summer, golden autumn, and then months
and months of endless white. We kept the fans
blowing constantly through knee-deep snow.
If air could be airless, that’s what you were:
oppressive and stifling, a prison of heat.
My photos could not stick to your facades.
I watched as they all fell, one by one,
leaves of memory collecting on the concrete floor.

220, you smell of mildew and winter sickness,
of Saturday mornings, someone burning muffins
in the kitchen next door. Of muffled music
playing through cardboard walls, of whispers
that somehow wake the whole world up.
Of no time like the present for being 18, then
too quickly 19, then old enough
to finally move on from you. And who knows
how much of me you’ll remember,
but I think I’ve decided to forget you for a while.

It’ll be hard, I know,
now that I know so much of you
and you of me. Your walls have numbered
all of my tears, each and every one,
from the moment my parents left for home
and I sobbed through the peephole,
wondering how to survive the year.

Now it is time to shut you away forever.

I just hope, friend of mine,
that you are as kind to the next one
as you were to me.

Keep her secrets,
her madness, her Scotch-taped photos
and unsleeping midnights. And of course,
(and you’ll have no problem
with this one, I’m sure)

Keep her warm through the winter.

Soon spring will come
and she, too, will hesitate at your entrance,
wondering just how to leave you behind,
how to exit the home you have become.

escapril day 28: reflection

These days,

I tell people I grew tired of feeling,
so I decided to stop. Just like that.
Cut the melodrama. I have matters
to tend to. Weeds to pull, papers
to write. No capacity for mourning,
no time to process, no mental space
for any kind of earth-shattering emotion.
I’d like to order a blank slate, please,
I bargained with the universe one night,
so apparently, this is just how I live now.
I just wake up each day and promise
to keep composure. I can control the flux.
I am my own government.

A new law: nothing can seep into my skin
if I don’t touch it. It’s that simple.

But it’s impossible for me to move
and not be moved. This I realized
as I watched probably the thousandth
sunset of my life bleed into the horizon
and felt its colors seeping into me, too.

escapril day 27: the state of it all

THE WORDS I CARRY

a short memoir of sorts

As a little girl at Sunday mass I would often daydream through the gospel until a particular line would strike me, as if tossed down from the heavens, wrecking me against my will. Some words are adhesive like that, sticking with me for seasons until they begin taking on new meaning, fermenting into fine wine just for my tasting.

Love. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

I was far too young to grapple with the poetry behind this line when I first heard it spoken. First Corinthians something or other. I was too distractible then, too deeply immersed in the matters of innocents. But some words just cling without tangible reason. This one did just that. It was only a matter of time before those reasons were made known, standing in my field of vision like holy apparition, basking in the soft light of complete and total understanding.

I didn’t fully comprehend it until 19, the wreckage of a thousand and some failures collecting in fragments at my feet. There was nothing left to save and nothing was holy. Everything was tainted, ruined, shards of stained glass littering the aisles of my worth. If my body was a temple, it was burning. My heart, a cathedral aflame, its spire just moments away from plummeting down to earth. Gone were the days where I could be little and absentminded in the pews. Now I was a trembling creature in the furthest back row, only here because of my mother’s insistence, picking at my fingernails to try and stop the bleeding. That never works. I know that one well now.

And then it came. The spire. The river of blood. The line I could anticipate but could not for the life of me predict the magnitude of its impact—

Love never fails.

On the way back, with no breath left in my lungs, I sung it over and over like a lost hymn I had long since forgotten the words to. Love never fails. Love never fails. Love never fails. Each time I repeated it, the death grip around my throat loosened a little more, unraveling, weakening, until I could finally breathe again, in and out, a new melody.

I made that line my song. I walked out of those church doors and walked home. It was the beginning of spring. I looked up at the sky, a neverending blue, and back down at my hands, which I could see for the first time in years, empty, hollow, holding nothing, completely my own.

Love never fails.

It had carried me to the moment I knew that I had won.

escapril day 26: girlhood, boyhood

LESSONS FROM A BUTTERFLY

Consider the monarch.

She only lives for herself,
as flighty and elusive as she desires.
Ungoverned and unrestrained, she soars
without seeking permission to do so.

I admit, I could learn a lot from her—
like how to flee when the season has ended,
how to migrate thousands of miles away
from bitterness, how to taste like poison,
how to settle elsewhere and not look back.

Mostly though, how to be that bold,
such a fluttering, wild, brutal thing.
How to be weightless enough
to still be carried by wind,
how to be heavy enough
to not get carried away.

escapril day 25: pick an animal

Remember when

you swore you’d stay? Pinky promised to stick
around, that you wouldn’t even let a muscle twitch
even the width of a strand of hair away from me?
How you vowed to always speak the language
of my being, in some peculiar way always yours,
that choked-up, too familiar vernacular of us?

But fluency is so short-lived, my darling.
Tongues can only twist to remember so much.

I still can’t decode what sort of tragedy
came to be born in the space between your lie
and the time that followed it.

All I know is that you don’t speak me anymore.
So untie your tongue. You are unworthy.

I am a dead language, something buried
in the earth, unspoken and fossilizing
to be made holy again. I am the rotting pages
of a gospel hidden from the cruel hands
of ancient, nameless persecutors.

I used to be worshipped.

Untie your pinky finger from mine,
still intertwined in that stillborn summer night.

We don’t mean anything anymore.

Untie me from you, I demand it.
I’ll watch from afar, with graveyard eyes,
(more empty socket than sight) as you unravel us,
mute blasphemy, until all that remains is
what cannot be translated,
what cannot be put into words,
what cannot be uttered out loud.

escapril day 24: liar, liar

SCENES FROM THE AFTERPARTY

There is still goodness in the world.

I know this
as I wash oil and grime from tired skin, picking
clumps of smeared mascara from eyelashes,
considering boiling water for a cup of tea
but ultimately deciding otherwise.
I am far too tired tonight.

There is still goodness in the world.

I repeat this,
as if to somehow convince my body,
prisoner in a sequined dress pinching the waist,
that these fiery red marks will fade by morning.

The unholiness of the night, liquid and artificial,
burns as it reaches the back of the throat.
It will all be forgotten in hours, the whole night
reduced to foggy memories of my too-clumsy dancing,
this utter lack of judgment, hoping you’d come find me
just to kiss the life out of my frame.

You never did. But I’m glad you didn’t.
It would be so much harder to forget this night
if I had to remember how to forget
the feel of you, too.

There is still goodness in the world.

I trust this
as I change out of my misery, standing under
scalding water and letting it burn me pure again.
Tucking my soul into itself, I turn off the light
and force my eyelids to fall deep into a dream.

I don’t recall what it was I dreamt, but I’m certain
it wasn’t you. Maybe of sunrise. Or a kiss.

A clean one, though,
one born out of something good.

escapril day 23: when the party’s over

PART TO WHOLE

Because what am I if not handwritten letters,
signed, stamped, and sealed— writing tangled
as if perpetually in a rush to find you? And what am I
if not a flustered bundle of nerves and blood and skin,
pouring all of my wreckage into words and white envelopes,
either too deep in love or too busy looking for it,
always on the hunt for another bundle to belong to?
And who would I be if not a poet?
If not a soul nourished by the sun,
by long walks to nowhere, shoelaces caked in mud?
If not fueled by passion, addicted to the way light
falls gently on your shoulders, soaking up the way
you speak to me— lush and lovely in the dying light?
Because who am I, truly,
if not this strange way that I love—
sponge-like, obsessive, untamable
love? It feeds me. It sustains me,
this hungry way of living,
watching you breathe, and
needing to capture every color.

escapril day 22: nourishment

APOCALYPTIC DREAMING

I imagine there would be water. A lot of it.
Seeping through the windows of the living room,
pulling cars into the ocean without regard
for the souls still trapped within them.
The universe, I picture, would show no mercy
in saving what cannot be saved.

But what if there is no water, no cinematic tsunami
hungry for civilization, waves of indigo blue swallowing
the world whole. What if instead, it all ends
without a chip in the china, without blinking twice,
no headlines or mayhem. Just a flash.

What if we ceased to exist
the same way the clock strikes midnight,
the rhythmic turning over of an old day?

We wouldn’t even know it had happened,
no time to brace or prepare, no time to make amends.
We’d be writing and fighting and sleeping and cooking,
some of us keeping to ourselves, most of us keeping it together
—then a flash—
and all of us, suddenly, gone.

escapril day 21: it’s the end of the world