028

We’re tangled by our ribs, marrow weeping
if you could just put me down, I could cut the feeling
but when the air comes in and my lungs expand
there’s a little bit here that isn’t you

there are moments where the muscles don’t rip away
and I walk to figure out my pace
but ribs rubbing on ribs and
micro-tears, it’s enough
it’s enough and I want to give up

Could I have seen you coming,
the impact of our first collision?
the consequences of being naive,
when all I needed was to breathe

I’m just a vessel for dying cells
my inner arcade, collide and reload
you count down every coin
and I pray as my hands shake
for just a little more time

I was born with your voice in my head
you had me before I could be me,
before I had a light in me.

Stories from Growing Up: Not a Wardrobe to Narnia

Running for safety is not graceful. It is tucking yourself away in the back of a closet, smothered in the smell of stale shoes and feeling the grit of dirt pressing into your feet. You sit back as far as you can, hoping the coats will cover you and no one will know where you’ve gone.

Safety, at times, is knowing where other people are, just as much as knowing where you are.

I did not know that he was coming down the stairs. In the briefest moment, I mistook his scream for saying “goodbye,” to us as we were leaving. The chase scene plays over in my head on a reel: she is trying to get out and he is exploding.

He is the collision of a glass ashtray on her head, a storm punctuated by thunder, and I am terrified to be caught in it, so I run to find safety. They go at each other relentlessly, until somebody wins. He leaves, she cleans up the mess.

I just wanted to learn how to dance. We were going to dance. when my mom found me and said he just made a mistake, I decided I could never go back.

She tried not to cry.

 

 

027

You were my first
thought I was going to be shockproof
until I was running away from you
tripping on my words, I
just couldn’t get it right

tricking my footing,
you were winding me up to fall
just so you could catch my arm
and I could thank you for the bruise

any tentative foot forward was a test
black ice patches to frozen leaves
when I move slowly it lets you know
I feel your tactics ready to go

It’s like being up high
from bears circling like sharks,
the illusion you afford me
I could be safe from the ground,
but reality catches me
preparing to fall down

all so I can thank you
for scattering my bones in the mud
lest another monster may need a sign
that I’m not worth the game.

Stories from Growing Up: Have you ever heard the silence?

We stood across each other at the kitchen counter. You were much better at averting eye contact than I was, a mastermind at holding ground in petty wars. I looked up at your face, searching for something beneath the hostility.

I looked for the right way to break the ice, wondering how you were doing or making a joke. There was no room for speaking.

Three months, this time. Three months of your silence to teach me a lesson, to teach me that you were right and I was not.

Three months of the door closed, the passwords changed, you staying up late so you could avoid us.

My mom used to tell us it was our job to fix it, to make things better for him. We were supposed to wave a white flag that was not ours, to let him know that this was okay and we didn’t have to talk about what happened.

I am confused about what sorry is for, if not a mechanism for smoothing things over.

 

Stories from Growing Up: Never Weightless

I always said you did not transfer any of your fixation on weight on to me. It was so normal in our household that I disregarded it as much as I could, but these things have a way of coming up when you least expect them.

You look better with more weight on, you look sickly.
Comparing sizes; I’m bigger/smaller, I’m so fat.
I hate how I looked at your weight.
You’ve been gaining a lot of weight.
Angry because the clothes were too small or too big.
Don’t eat so much.

I would cover myself up in 90° F weather because I thought I was too big. Jeans, a t-shirt, a long-sleeved shirt or sweater. I would grow my hair long and keep it down as if it would hide me. I had “fat jeans.” I was hardly even a teenager.

And today I look in the mirror and I repeat the things you said to yourself. 

Too fat.
No ass.
I would feel better if I could finally be skinny.
Two down on the scale, and I’m getting closer.
Don’t. eat. so. much.
The best praise is when other people notice I’m smaller.

Stories from Growing Up: Treating the Psychosomatics

I sat in the bathroom in elementary school, feeling sick. I didn’t know why.

When I was older, I had a favourite bathroom for throwing up in. I knew the smell of the water in the toilet, and I was comfortable watching for cockroaches coming out from the walls and shooing them. We called it food poisoning. It was a “me” thing, something about a weak stomach that no one else had.

It scared the shit out of me, not knowing what was going on. I would sit up through the night, wondering what was wrong with me and why I was alone.

Worse yet, the nights where I would wake my mother. It felt safe just to sit in the hall and hear rhythmic breathing. If I woke her, she would be angry sitting with and eventually she would give up and go to bed, something I could not do.

So I started to sit alone again. I counted my ribs each night for the fear that not eating would wither me away.

I sympathized with her fatigue, her desire to sleep instead of being with this.

I asked for a doctor. I sat on the couch with my heart palpitating in my ears, my body shaking and the tiny hope that this could be over.

She said no. That was when I started sleeping on the bathroom floor.

I just didn’t feel safe going home after school. I didn’t feel safe growing up. You can’t treat a kid for a problem other people pretend not to see.

 

Stories from Growing Up: Dreaming of Trauma

I have nightmares when I sleep, more than ever before. I dream about being in physical danger, rage, violation, and about trying to pack my things and leave but never getting out the door.

fragments of phrases; “this doesn’t feel like home,” or inarticulate screaming that never says enough.

When I wake up, I wonder how I could leave them behind but they could still have such a hold on me. Physical departure is not mental departure, but one day I will wake up, having made it out that door.

 

 

026

feet barefoot out the car
under streetlights
that haze of a long night,
that lull towards sleep, I
don’t know the time

that way I think of you
when the strap breaks off my shoulder
taking on too much
drinking my way off the sofa

falling all over yourself
to hold me steady
thinking I’d barely remember
the night

but I fall to your stillness
I rest, I can’t take this
the way safety lives in the past
and now you sting me in the present

the way you drink my sadness
to fuel your madness
like comfort and warmth
were never what you told

as I rested on your soul
I never knew how it could burn
I never knew the cost to learn,
but I see it now.

021

Counting ribs in the night
little notches from silly fights
the framework for things said in spite
we face our walls to sleep at night

Too scared to say what’s on my mind
the way you make up things to find
my inner sinner, you speculate,
you’re a saint to tolerate

my inferiority like a bitten lip,
holding me down between sips
when you say you love who I am
you’re full of shit, a martyred man

Kiss me on the surface, bleeding
your teeth always out, feeding
I wear the skin you weave for me
stretched thin against the knees

tethered to you by my neck
you nestle in this little wreck
uprooting all the things I know,
I’m the champion of letting go.

 

019

I am your slowest burn
you didn’t know I was here
breeding a quiet yearn,

coniferous rage,
you were a wasteland before you knew it
could have been forever but you blew it

a little bit of tugging at seams
nothing between you and me
is it the absence of feeling
or the way you’re leaving?

before the fire lit
bet you thought you had it
like it was a spillover you missed
won’t make that mistake again

some sort of fire watch, but you
weren’t looking out for me
sow your skeletons and seeds,
the barren and the rage

smoke signals, I was just leaving
particles to choke on, no breathing
bet you didn’t expect to be laid bare
bet you didn’t expect how little I care.