24

All my love had always been held
in callused touch.
I was used to unreturned calls;
unopened text messages;
laughing at jokes that weren’t funny;
pretending not to be hurt when
he said he wanted casual,
as if me taking us seriously
was a silly miscalculation.

I’d stay awake nights
the bags under my eyes
heavy with tears
like lost luggage,
a carousel spinning away.

Every pair of hands upset me to the point I thought
I had made a grand mistake,
thinking there was not a single soft pair of hands
in the world meant for me.

I had been so used to being shut out
that your warmth and tenderness terrified me.

But you didn’t leave–you said,
“Where else would I rather be,
than here, with you,
as you have so graciously made room for me?”

Advertisements

23

It’s easy to romanticize the past,
that we once had it so easy
because damn,
it sure hurt a hell of a lot
at the time.

At the core of me is a
jaw breaker centre
filled with ghosts of all the people I could’ve been
all the tears I shed, in defence
and how they turned me to cement

All I wanted to say, realized
only after I’ve walked away.
Like trying to subdue a snowstorm,
I should have been Miss Behaviour
and turned back around.

I always thought we experienced pain now
because our future selves deserve more;
they’re worth more than this ache
and frankly,
they have more important things to tend to
than themselves.

We hurt now because pain hurts less (later on)
when we’ve already
quietly forgotten what we cried about.

But as it turns out,
it has been quite the effort
to keep afloat.
The promise of “later”,
a doll, dulled
waiting in the cold so long,
waiting for the water to run warm
that once I dipped my toes in,
the drastic change burned me, even so.

22

In daylight, I radiated its warmth
finding softness in the caress of another’s hands
I was told I was chosen because
I was the most vibrant, the
most desired in the whole plot.

Callused hands took me
displays in vase
water and sugar
you told me to take this as
a compliment

You’d watch every morning as I withered
you mourned me and thought
“She was so young, just so pretty,
if only she’d live on her own strength,”
but I did!
but I would’ve

You pulled me from the soil I had been nurtured by
so you could feed from my beauty.
You only gave me sunlight through the convenience of your window
when I had already inherited it from
the blossoms before me.

You’re not my saviour
(not that I ever needed one)
women aren’t flowers
underneath, we’re a complex
a web of intertwined roots

And you better believe that next time
our network of infrastructure will run so deep
you’d have to yank us from the ground
with all your might
if you ever want our sisters again.

21

Children killed by
a gun in a child’s hands
and all we have left
are grains of sand
slipping through our hands
fleeting, passing
until it happens again.

How can I not be sentimental
over lost time?

What if all of life was a bank
withdraw and deposit as we felt fit?
All those years those children will never live
placed in a pool
for anyone to fulfill.

A father on a deathbed
aching to walk his daughter down the aisle
buys a few years,
based on another’s sacrifice.
Just enough time to make a memory,
postpone the tears.
If only we could live on
borrowed time.

“How sad we have become,”
but have we really “become” anything?
we’ve become complacent
we’ve become regretful
of all the ways we’ve let them down
of all the children we couldn’t save.

20

The chorus within
swelled a rush of relief
a pendulum that had finally
acquired equilibrium

Tucking in my memories of you,
I slipped away quietly
into the night
with only so much as the
click of the door
behind me.

You gnawed through my wires
and instead of throwing you out,
I just kept buying more to replace
the ones you ruined.

I filled my home with ghosts
of all the traits I tried to make you into
of all the kind things I wished you’d say
hoping one day you’d
fill in the blanks;
all it left me with was
a haunted house.

A cabin, fevered
of seasons passing while I
stayed the same
my leaves, still in place
my flowers, still in bloom

You aren’t the sun
and I’m not just a
stained glass window
I am the moon, the stars
and you’re a telescope
and goddamnit,
you’re going to admire me.

19

Maybe I love you like
I love a friend’s photo albums:
distantly; a story apart from mine,
adoringly; happy for their happiness, or
curiously; questions I don’t
know the answers to.

Maybe I think of you like
a dream forgotten
by coffee brew.

But every afternoon at 3:39pm
hitting that midday wall
my sleepy yawn ignites a memory:
hard hands holding mine
dress shirts, hung neat
the clink of unmatched glassware

Dreamt dreams reminding reality
of a fever I couldn’t sweat out
of a nice heart I couldn’t melt
of a boy I swore I hadn’t met
but knew, somehow.

My mother warned me about him
while tucking me into
princess palace sleep:
“A hyena doesn’t always have
flesh in his teeth. Know enough
to stay away.”

But when the mercury rose too high
on that temperate thermometer
my mother also used to
keep me near a pot,
rolling boil, saying
“Stay as long as you can,
and you can sweat the toxins out.”

18

A story I’m ashamed to tell:
of red dots under eyes
popped blood vessels
counting the minutes left
after delicious dinnertime
to keep myself in check
to a schedule I created.

The unabridged tale
of satisfying my hunger with another’s envy
“Whatever you’re doing, keep at it!”
“You’re looking better everyday!”
“You’re so small!”
so so so so small

The strive to be size zero
my superficial goal to be
the bottom of a spectrum
to be loved, not revered
not an economist or a journalist,
just skinny.

On display: my greatest play
if the numbers on my plate aligned just right
it would create constellations of compliments
and everyone would finally
love me.

Every morning, I wished to lose more
even if it meant
the weight of my mind.

The Sparknotes of a novel I wrote
where flattery was food
and everyone wanted to know my diet secret
but no one cared to read cover to cover,
only the summary I fabricated
so I could fit into the clothes I thought
they wanted me to.