I store every small life I’ve lived inside of me like a nesting doll,
layer by layer, each a dreamy variation of the next. Outermost:
linen sheets, the warm glow of summer painting my bare back,
patchouli and vetiver on my wrists. This is the one I wear now.
Crack me open. Peer in. You’ll find a starry universe of becoming.
The next layer— I could never be ashamed of it. It is painted
in the colors of my hometown: the scent of suburban barbecues
at twilight, my first love’s laughter, anger at God in church pews.
Here, I wear fishnets and write about needing to scream in a town
that would never forgive me if I did. I am untethered, hardly there.
Keep going. There is endless goodness within. You will find me
in patent leather ballet shoes, fingertips stained from art class,
innocent enough to believe in the wickedness of calling someone
stupid. I take care of earthworms and I’ll sing every song I know
over voicemails to my parents’ friends. I pray with my eyes closed.
It’s strange to me— that you will only ever touch the shell I wear
now, that you only know me by the perfume I wear, the presence
of my laughter, and twenty years of stories still tragically untold.
Just patchouli and vetiver, sun on my shoulder blades, and skin.