67

You’ll watch me bottle up and explode

never thought I put a lid on it

but I smash my head on glass, thinking

here I go, here I go,

here I go again,

Like there are no streaks from muddy hands, or

shorelines from better times,

can’t you see it up and go?

I can’t see it, no.

Bottle up and explode,

eyes that seek like lightening,

looking inside just to try and run out,

scared of my cell walls,

can’t find my outside voice to say so.

Narrow as it goes, up the drunken bottle,

I see the seam, can’t take on me,

all I’ve tried is to kick and scream

I know, it’s all on me,

it’s all

it’s all

it’s all me.

031

I rest my head on your shoulder
you take the picture and let me go
take the picture and I don’t know,
if it’s all the same to you,
I don’t want it this way

You light a cigarette
ducking under an umbrella
going out into the rain
I taste the smoke as you go,
if it’s all the same to you,
I’m a little over the burn

You sit on the edge of the room now
indentations in the middle cushion
where you used to be,
won’t retract, no welcome back,
if it’s all the same to you,
I think I’m gonna spread out now

I’d show up for you out of love,
ride the aisle seat so you can see
be a window ornament
while you sit on your phone,
If it’s all the same to you,
I think I should sleep.

smooth white, you find the walls
more interesting than my eyes,
your drink is a better walk
than a walk with me,
If it’s all the same to you
I think this is it.

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: 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: 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.

 

018

You think you can hold the stars from below
Every single time you burn up and go
Think I don’t know you are just buying time
You pull out your wallet and flick me a dime

I am seasoned in running from your explosions
Hiding in closets to protect my emotions
Still keeping the dirt on the bottom of my feet
reminding me of where I can go to flee

Whenever you fuck up, you’re guessing my price
No less than a handful for each time you strike
The dirtiest thing on the bills is you
another meagre effort to subdue

What can you buy, I’m sure you could guess
Feeding on dreams to show me your best
The views might be beautiful, as you know
but they won’t stop me from letting you go

no more nickels or dimes for the times I cry
I’d rather be broke than something you buy.

 

012

I was always laying you low
shrugging you off and blaming the heat
calling it early, leaving you in the street

Always had my feet hitting the ground
prepared to take you on the runaround
while I was a breath away from leaving
and you just wanted to keep me

I’d begged you to praise me and called it a lie
determined to forget whenever you’d try
decided your crime before you’d commit it
I was driven to blame you expecting you’d quit
Here’s to the shock that you finally did

I was always laying you low
shrugging you off,
but
I understand now
why they always want to hold you
one last time.

009

You made me funny

I made you broken

we came together in a war

set between me and I,

 

couldn’t see what you saw

chasing the novelty of a wreckage

you thought you’d hit the bumper

and watch me go,

I thought you’d heed the thunder

and just let me go

 
I could flood the cities like a hurricane

didn’t you know,

I’d sink my teeth in, in a heartbeat

take you down like a rogue wave

 
You made me think

but I made you sad

the resignation in creases that don’t go away

the recognition I don’t grow,

not into these capsules,

never be easy to take

 

You tried to make me free

wrapped in my vines, can’t breathe,

halfway up to the canopy,

 

you lost the war between me and I,

took down my armies

just to die at the door

you fought the war between me and I,

just to fall down on the floor

 

you made me funny

and I made you broken.

008

You could have been safe with me

hand to the gearshift, holding me

 

You could have been kind to me

playing old songs just to bleed me

no such thing as running on empty

 

You could have been just for me

Soaked by the blood in my heart

but you hold a quarantine so well

just another one you keep from afar

 

You could have been right for me

If you’d just stop being so wrong

Could have spent days in that car

Head in your lap,

 

You could have taken me anywhere

And I would be pacified without a where

 

Could have just kept me

But you wrote my goodbye and made me leave

 

Could have let me go

But you spun wheels to my door–

changed your mind

 

Could have stayed home

But you asked me to run away with you

I could have gone,

except–

there was no love left

We could have gone, but

you’d take me, and I’d go alone.

What We Learn About Love

I am not gracious when it comes to being loved. I do not trust intent, I feel solicited into an impossible tit-for-tat that I did not intend to enter. My brain tells me to ask them why or what they’re gunning for. I am suspicious, uncomfortable, and resistant.

It is not that there isn’t an underlying appreciation. I have been told that the saddest thing about me is that when people are kind to me, I cry. For a large period of my life, I could not be hugged without crying. I do feel it, but in a way I cannot explain, those gestures feel much more like pain.

There was no hugging in my household, growing up. Emotions were bottled until they burst, we shared underlying fears but did not talk about them. I was the sensitive one, as if the moniker would invalidate the somber reality that we all shared– the one I tried to suppress until I was sick, but it still managed to find its way through every crack.

As I grew up, I held that moniker close. Sensitive, in a way that implied that I was needlessly emotional. Needlessly upset, reactive, even happy at times. I was the “you were just a happy little girl, what happened?” child, the one who was held responsble for the way her parents smothered her in order to encourage silence.

I stayed in that world for too long, sitting a table that served only silence over a defeaning abuse that we all tolerated.

By the time I started to shift my attention to other relationships, it felt like pushing my chair back and hearing it screech against the floor. A listening ear would hear the collapse of my sense of self, hugs felt agonizing and I pulled my shoulders up. I was hyper aware of the sensation of other people against my skin, averting eye contact and either saying too much or two little.

I learned how to move past the people who worked to keep me strapped in my chair, I learned how to survive the sound well enough to leave in that moment. In me, I know, is the dueling of the love I was taught and the new ways I’m learning to be with other people.

But in truth, escaping that world has largely felt more like a physical move than an emotional one. I am free, but I am still there. They sit content, while I try to change my understanding of love. They are comfortable enough, while I still hear the chair screeching when the affection starts and I recoil from it.

So much of what we learn about love is taught by people who never really loved us – r.h. Sin

I have been asked if I grew up in a house where I felt I was loved. The further I go, the more my answer transitions into the honesty I could not offer as a child, the naive girl who lived in a neverending cycle of harm. No. I do not feel that I was loved. This is not a question of whether they meant to love me or whether they had tried– I did not feel it. There was no physical, emotional, no nothing.

I remember being left behind in the house when my mother walked out, when she took my siblings.

I remember being yelled at for not telling my mother that the boy she let my sister babysit was harassing me. She didn’t do anything about it.

I remember when I was assaulted and my mother made it about her, my father ignored it, and my sisters thought “it wasn’t that bad.”

I remember the sound of my father when he was angry, the silence when he ignored us for months.

I remember when I decided that this was not love, was not enough. I remember when I finally made the decision to leave and I felt like my entire world had changed. I was afraid to see them, but I came to find that I could own my space, start to see with clarity what went wrong.

But these are all pieces to a world you could not truly understand, fractions of my life that made me the person who cries at kindness. Even in the distance, I have all those years that cannot be unlearned as easily as blocking phone numbers.

I learned the wrong things. You might have too. You might not know that you can be loved even if you weren’t before, that you can restrain the voices that tell you to question affection and kindness. Maybe we can be the ones who learn how to love the people who love us.