Open Hands and Silence

Poetry by someone who cannot write poetry.

On Wednesday four boys lay dead
on the beach where they played
and there is no way to describe this beautifully that does anything but
hide it, because it is not beautiful.
It is not a beautiful thing, the oldest
was eleven and yesterday in the Home Depot
I watched an eight-year-old boy with his two-year-old brother
patiently carry the child from one green tractor to the next
green tractor,
his face serene
with concentration from lifting
this little boy
in his limited arms
and every time his brother pointed to the next one,
he would nod–
and there are no words to describe this more beautifully
than it already
paints itself.

When I’m home alone and I hear someone at the door,
my heart
for the same reason I won’t look over my shoulder when I walk alone.
When I look in the mirror I avert my eyes from the parts of myself I still
have not learned how to love.
I’ve told too many stories about bears
homicidal gerbils
to the people who look at my arms before they look
at my face,
and how many nights have we spent curled together,
with you hiding your face and me feeling your shoulders jerk as your breath
catches as you try
you try
you try to cry,
while you say useless
undeserving and I remind myself that I know nothing
about forgetting how to love this–
This, that carries me through the longest days and wears the arms
that hold you.

The word “anger”
is crossed out so hard in my dictionary that the pen
tore through the paper.
I am serene, but the children are dead,
the parents are dead,
the children are dead and home
is also synonymous with trap, home
is something we must build and never can come back to, but home
is not, cannot be
the place where I have to destroy something I’ve made just to get up off the couch
just to remind myself what I deserve
and put it aside put it aside put it aside
everything is more important than the way screams
turn to blood in your throat,
the way no
was never in the dictionary at all so yes,
when you ask me,
I am tired.
And I swear by this pounding heart,
these ribs are not a cage,
these hands are not clipped wings, this voice
is not a mistake; Yes.
I am tired,
and I will burn this world down.

My roses are dying on the ledge.
This is not a metaphor.
Do what I could, I couldn’t keep them alive,
and this is not mine.
Anger is not mine–
not since I felt my last line of defense crumbling in my hands.
At the time, I thought
“This is what you get.”
I may have said it out loud.
I may have been weeping.
I may use the language of possibility as opposed to certainty to deny reality when it comes to things
I cannot bear.
There’s no keeping myself safe now; sometimes a dead rose is just
a dead rose,
and believe me when I tell you that when you say “the ugly truth,”
no matter what the context, I think of my reflection.
is what I get.
It isn’t poetry.
It isn’t a metaphor.
Not anymore.

I bowed beneath the anguish of this strangled need
and the bricks were cool under my shoulder
the rain was waiting
until the sun went down
I wait until I’m alone to weep
I wait until it’s gone to admit I wanted
all I wanted
all I ever wanted all I ever

Oh, I was young
and I was breaking
and no one ever told me I was brave
but I held in my heart an indescribable sky
Now I know better
I know better
Now it’s gone

The sky is wide here, and deep
and, through the window,
we watch the clouds go by.
He told me looking up will make you sick and I thought “don’t look down,”
but through the window, I watch the clouds go by.
There is something solid under me,
something brave inside me.
It will not let me fall.


Yesterday something simple as
“Can you throw this away from me?” turned into a scene out of a horror movie. You know,
the ones where it turns out you’re the killer at the end
your hands moving of their own accord like mine did
when he gave me the light bulb and something in my bones said
close the distance
and just like that, my hand was full of what was left
of light
blood on the floor like roses and pieces were all that was left and my supervisor
Oh god what happened what
and me saying I don’t know except I did
I did

Only that’s not what happened at all, no
my grip tightened, tightened
and then the bulb was in the garbage fast
as flinching
like it had burned me
It almost did just like
in the end it turns out you’re the killer
and I am kind until you give me something to break

Down at register two they hang brand new knife blades on the counter and I look at them all day
pace the same five feet all day
but I don’t want them

Last Light

running through the parking lot like fleeing
like flying
barefoot and fast enough to catch the light and my heart
is beating in my hand
these are the moments my god
I almost have the words
and it’s something like “remember”
something like “home”
or “here”
my blood humming
along the telephone wires
hands reaching for the sky and it’s something like my breath
like sun
like song

Go to bed, Pandora.
The words you’re looking for are in the box
on the table and I know all you want
is to explain,
but trust me.
A poem like that is too expensive
at this time of night.
A poem like that will leave blood on the walls for the one
in the other room to clean up
when they wake.

Just don’t, sweetheart.
Go to bed.
Dream, for once,
of safety.

It’s been insane lately, and I suppose I have, too. We could talk about finals and moving into our first apartment and job search and the usual mental health nonsense, but that’s not the point. The point, right now, is that A. and I are officially ensconced in our new place and have unpacked enough to make a book nook. The window is open, and I can hear birds outside. Inside, the room smells like vanilla and fresh basil and lavender, and it’s quiet. I can look up and see A. across the room, safe and here and… Well. They just made a face at me. But that’s the thing, you guys. It’s been forty-three days since I last deliberately hurt myself, the person I’ve fallen in love with is my best friend and we make the best team I’ve ever had the privilege of being a member of, this apartment feels like home already, and crappy frozen pizza tastes pretty damn good when you add your own seasoning and extra cheese.

Poetry is important, too, and poetry can be part of moments like this, but sometimes– Sometimes it all goes quiet, and sometimes that’s exactly what you need. I write to get the bad blood out, and you all have seen some of my darkest nights what with one thing and another. Thank you for sticking by me. I’d like to share the evening with you, too.

Tell Me a Story

This is bleeding.
This is looking out the window to see the streetlights
like jewels laid out on black velvet. This
is walking back from the clinic, a new prescription clutched
in your fist.
This is peppermint tea.
This is 4:00 AM in the computer lab,
writing, “IT’S NOT THE END OF THE WORLD” on the whiteboard
as a reminder to yourself and coming back to see someone has added,
“it’s just the beginning.”
This is your new apartment and a job interview on Tuesday,
this is microwaved leftovers in a styrofoam box.
This is your dragon,
one you haven’t been able to slay so maybe try
making friends with it.
I don’t see it trying to kill anyone else but you.
This is life, little girl.
This is life, and I know you’re not big enough for it.
I don’t know how much bigger you’ll get, but maybe start
by filling the space that’s already yours.

The Year Without Spring

This is how we lived:
We wore out our summer with the oldest songs
and dipped our hands in streams, pretending
for an afternoon
that there was no pollution, no solar eclipse,
just berries and cream and the sweetest, sweetest heartbreak.
This is how we lived:
Too fearful of the winter to pick apples
in the fall,
but I saw how you forgot to breathe when you explained the light
and I gave you, for a kiss,
the reddest leaf.
This is how we lived:
With blistered hands and bruises on our shins,
building things we knew
were made to be torn down– but god,
they were beautiful
while they lasted.


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