growing up is just an elaborate ruse

Because all I'm really doing is falling apart.

1
sick of watching you
slide by
your eyes level
and proud

2
all I want is for 
you
to feel ashamed
of how easy it was

3
deposited :
like a card declined ,
an opportunity unvisited ,
my thighs are green pastures
and i hate
that you are still welcome

4
don’t know how to tell my mother
on the phone

5
never knew how to talk
on the phone when you’d call ,
tripping over words ,
your laugh not yet hurting :
we spoke before
inequity became familiar ,
before i began to bookmark all pages
containing the word lost

6
sweetheart , i put faith
into your words , their pace
and sway . it seems that a person
can mean so much
that their emptiness is discernible ;
i learned your empty

7
still somedays cars on the street
make me think of you , i still read your name
into all serialized crime novels and kiss
rain with thinned lips , see the refraction
of your grin plastered on billboards

8
last night i had the dream about
his funeral , except this time , you attended ,
sat beside your sister in the aisle
by the window . when his mother spoke
you looked asleep : opened at the end
with a suspicious wetness 

9
finally
a trace of unmistakable empathy 
and even that , feigned

Impromptu Statistics Society

Out to dinner with a rush
of fresh oxygen, the way 
your steps curve as asymptotes
approaching sidewalk edges:
we learn what lines to cross,
cross-cutting anticipated disaster
with the typical prescribed panic.
8 P.M. and the city slumps
from the valium pump of April warmth
following a cold winter, coldest
in fifty years; trains settle content,
warm and full, conduct their own
after-dinner conversation. We treat
forty degrees like an invitation,
imagine this is the tropical life.
Later, we settle into your thin
living room, its poor impression
of what living entails, half-asleep
with the television on, stirring upon
the shudder of the train at the 13,
26, 39, 52. We want to quantify
this existence: calculate temperature,
pacing, blood flow, but we’ve forgotten
that trains are made to move us,
that other worlds lie outside of
our hovel, isolation is self-imposed,
the 76 steps to the bus stop
present options we cannot imagine.
Geographically precise maps
cannot be the whole picture, 
nothing covers the messiness
of narrated tragedies we wish
we didn’t obsess over. You lurk
in the dark hallway to the bedroom
and wonder when life became
so narrow: I can give you a day,
a chemical analysis, not quite
an answer, not when sleep
blends into work so convincingly,
not when we wake after dinner
facing away from one another,
our bodies slipping elsewhere
before anything else. As a child,
you dreamt often of falling off
a rough precipice, waking when
your body jerked in terror. Now,
you say, you miss the spasm,
the accompanying thought that
the tension in your shoulders
is justified. We’ve learned to dream
in a limited palette, price-conscious
even in hypothetical, pragmatic
and feverish in our shared delusion
of a world shaded in Euclidean planes,
filled with computation. In hazy almost-
morning, the :39 arrives late; we later
hear it was delayed by a track suicide,
a woman from two neighborhoods down
who thought to pray lying down wanted
to crush a former lover out of herself,
rend the contained ugly into
outright violence, visible pain. As news
flashes her face, you wonder: how fast
was the train going? Which area of
the Red Line tracks: the part near stairs,
aging and solemn, or the sparse
railing at the edge of the platform,
away from commuters, partiers,
the usual sorts? By midday,
the train runs back on schedule,
13, 26, 39, 52. You are comforted by
the reestablishment of proper time,
the predictable shake of the floorboards,
your life realigned with expectation;
I want to turn off the television, shed
statistics, dismiss all claims of rationality,
but I don’t know that you would survive
the transition to nomadic philosophy,
a sky illuminated by forces we can name
without comprehension, a world populated
with needy, empty people, each trying
to fill space with self-arranged logic.

He is sitting in the room with the creaking couch and you are dizzy with desire, sharp as a punch to the gut, your veins conductors for this impossible desperation. You can withdraw it. There is something inside of you that purrs audibly at his approach. A peaking of sweat behind the neck, a quiet to your arguments: how could he not know? He doesn’t. He forgets the name of your hometown, never asks after your mother. There are worse things than going unloved by the boy with the teeth-gap, but, of course, you can’t see it that way. Distance is perspective. Yes, and tonight is dark, and devoid of meaning until you decided to care about the invisibility of stars—how they are there despite your inability to see them. Inability. Disinterest, nearness to the proximal star kingdom that is downtown, semantics. You don’t know him. The gap is on his left, your right, it’s not huge but definitively noticeable. Did he have braces? Maybe yes, maybe no, his mouth always clean, incisors at an angle. You don’t know him. The narrow torso, his favorite red-lined hoodie, how certain words of place taste sour in his mouth. Is this beautiful? I wake in the morning awash in the sensation, wrinkle the letters of his name like an aging appliqué. Beautiful isn’t the word. Tragedies move you. I am no longer trying to be the heroine of anyone’s story, I am writing parts only for women with hard laughs and beady eyes. But you’re writing. It doesn’t mean what it used to—the pen across a blank page, the infinitesimal possibility of tatters of dialogue arranged in ever-new formations, a story like a building, sturdy and heavy and whole. What happened? I started seeing him as a skyscraper with an electrical system that allows all the lights on at once, instantly illuminated. I wanted to count his ribs like an ascending elevator, his eyes dark and searching, to find him standing still in a crowd like a storm tower. You changed him. Neatened his edges, reduced him to sound bytes, however you say it, it is not a lovely thing I did. You meant well. Good intentions and all that, I told my best friend that he laughed like wreckage washed ashore, but his laugh is high, silly, graceless, a gesture of ease and simple joy. Never the boy from the books, never the moment of realization in the rain. I would have settled for snowstorm. I would have met his mother, made pancakes, cleaned the kitchen counter on Sunday mornings. I would have sunk into him in winter, awoke just after dawn to his toes curled and back tense. This too is a myth. Before there were billboards and Snapchat stories, those were all we had—huddled at the feet of the storyteller so he could make disparate tragedies meaningful. Is this your ambition? I no longer dream in pastel. I am untidy and inexplicable. My tragedies have no significance independent of my existence. I am a repository of ugly moments. He will not appreciate the mess.

indisputable facts worth noting

1 you are lovely in a very non-lovely way.
2 there is a gap between your front-right teeth or is it your front-left i do not recall
3 i think there might be something desperate inside of you
4 it peeks out and peaks on those weekend nights
     something like the night we met
     it was a friday
     you were laughing while we walked down
          the too-narrow street
5 i am pondering addressing words to the
thing
inside of you
6 i think it likes my name
7 or my face
     or the skirt i wore saturday,
     my soft thighs underneath
8 i think you want to pretend that
     no part of you likes me
          for the softness of my thighs,
     if at all:
          some part of you has seen my mind
          and found it lovely,
but everyone knows
i have lost my mind 
and thusly you would be lying
9 if you have my mind,
          give it back
10 you may soon come in possession of my heart
                     the dusty inheritance of deceased great-uncles
and i would ask
that you regard it carefully,
stare seriously,
deliberate
11 i know you better than 
                                           that
you tend toward
                        entropy
     in a way the universe does not yet know to envy
12 your hands are steady and mine shake
13 it is not more complicated than that

Afterward, there were
questions asked: the flash of
cameras and the curious
grocery store clerk, your city
smoke-sputtering my name
like a hit held too long,
closing itself to my touch.
Your grin is Russian dolls,
all pretty trim and shrinking
stature, your toes are
winking statuettes, and
I am tired of hiding
in the garden-trail for days,
just the marigolds and I
strutting our stuff. You said
you were tired of alien
encounters. You said we’d
lost the nitty-gritty
of those first months, that we
were disintegrating into
crossword puzzles, origin
stories. I told you I’d ugly
us: we’d turn the radio off,
strike out our own myths,
we’d skim substance only
from messy things, families,
Facebook messages,
candid video. You
are a purpled plant
whose veins channel sap,
you were not always this
way. Before, we would sit
at restaurants until
anxious waitstaff made eyes.
It started with the voice
across the stereo, the day
I imagined us as movie heroes,
reenacting Titanic on
the fire escape, and you said
you hadn’t cried since Up.
We are extraterrestrial
and it shows, watch us shine
on the evening news broadcast,
watch the way your teeth gleam
when we become tabloid
fodder, watch how the women
rush to speak to you now,
now that I’ve made you lovely.
Watch the recap footage, the
throwback story, watch
how beautiful our tragedies seem:
the night Chris searched out
his own marrow, we slept
on the floor, did not make it
to the fluorescent hallway,
we have no bloody memories
to speak of. His mother said
the stains are still visible,
that she will sell the place
to a couple with a toddler,
that she will tell them to hide
the knives and the pills both,
tell them to remember Pepsi tabs,
to have another kid in case 
this one goes bad. Like a rotted
plant, you told me, scuffing your
dress shoes on the curb. Like
the fucking flowers just did not
bloom this season, like spring
wasn’t coming. Now I see you
on the television, your suit
professionally cleaned,
hair combed. I can’t go anywhere
without hearing your name,
and the newspaper headlines
spit out our favorite scripts,
check who-follows-who
on Twitter. At memorial services,
you duck your head and
bring flowers. The blogs
call this classic.

listen listen listen maybe this could be the night I get to taste your skin, the sharpness of your collarbone, maybe I can just be a passive participant and you will ruin me with your intensity, and maybe maybe maybe this ends in me crying in public restaurants but it could end elsewhere, or at least could temporary occupy some essential space, we could waste days hiding out in my bed—mine, because your dorm room has no kitchen—and venture out only for coffee and condoms, the ones we jokingly leave on the kitchen counter but are no longer a joke alone, no no no you are not funny you are too intense for your own good burning and crashing in the way of expressly beautiful things please just lower your glorious head to the juncture of shoulder & neck and i will show you my most hidden universes

I want you for your hands and how they fold outward like parallel universes, like two trees forked from a single root, the branches broken by nights that ended poorly, for your beach shore chuckle and the gap between your right-back teeth. I want you for the timbre of your voice when you are speaking to me in a room of friends, the ease of it, how I will never mistake your words for those of another. I want you for your hips, their tilt and bluster, and the way they settle so neatly against my own. I want you for the deleterious confidence of your shoulders—shrug fast, rolled back, tensed before you ask a question: where now? There are not enough words across all the books to contain you, but that does not stop me from searching. I read the cast of your face into everything, your quick-curve nose, dark lashes, dark eyes. I want you for your sloped palm, the centuries I could waste hidden under there, and I want you with a stunning disinterest in rationality, in deliberative behavior, in the world that exists outside of you—just you and you and you, hair and grin and whistle, you however possible, you until desire itself is forgotten.

You used to tell me I was too morbid. Laying back on your bed, the arch of your hip sharp against the comforter, you’d tell me to stop thinking about the wood paneling of coffins. You are fascinated with the way dirt looks underneath your fingernails, how you must wash it out with such deliberation, the mirror above the sink an impartial observer to your ongoing degradation. I used to like watching you in the mornings. You can’t sleep through anything, so as soon as I began to toss and turn, you were awake, and you’d stalk to the mirror, smoothing your impossible hair, leaning in close til your eyes were maybe half a foot from the glass. You have such dark eyes, darling, dark eyes and thin lips and an unbelievable gravitas to even your most casual gestures. On those mornings, you looked like you had survived a shipwreck, like the crew was gone and the water was cold and it was all simply a matter of time. Morbidity is the fine art of trivializing the ensuing terror of death while obsessively cataloguing it, a multi-tasking brand of neuroticism both of us have perfected. You have paled and thinned since I last saw you, and I expect you’d say the same of me, losing long hours to these cavernous heads of ours, streamlined to the primordial ache of too-sharp bones rubbing against one-another, the poetry of pain, a grace to our mutual decomposition. The walls say you leave tomorrow. As I lose pieces of myself to this home of your ancestors, pieces of the castle settle into me in turn, murmuring, a wise chorus of your progenitors that swear I am where I should be. They teach me. I know now that every horror story needs its hapless victim, and that anticipating the end in no way changes it. I eke out my place in your hero’s tale in small ways, cutting our initials onto the skin of the door, the skin of my side, writing us eternal wherever I can. This is why my hands shake. I am waiting for the jump in action and you cannot even see it coming, so preoccupied with the tools of your eventual destruction. If anger has scalded you clean, resignation has done the same for me, the slosh of my stomach the most appealing thing I have heard in ages, so lovely that I follow the drained liquid all the way to the river, sitting at its side for hours wondering which one of us goes first. I know the answer. Now, when I wake up, I scan the ships from the waterfront, wondering which will bear you to your destination. I do not trust these ships, their wooden flanks curved like your notched spine, too smooth, too sly. I am the daughter of the river and a dead man, and you lay claim to both halves of me. You will ruin the ending through your own morbidity, and I hate you for your deleterious pacing, scheming, your cowardly, childish vengeances; still, I see you as you were: hazy in the light of early morning, your face illuminated in patches through slatted window panes, the entire home silent in the face of your prescient terror.

I am writing myself into the stories, the stories of yours I found in the attic, hidden under rip-tear boxes of indeterminate age. I tried on your winter coat and found myself familiar with the shoes you used to wear when he took you out, your calves like those of a fucking goddess as you two sat and parsed out the rules of an unfamiliar world. You didn’t know what you wanted any of this to mean and similarly I sit in the home you hated and try to make the meaning out of my dissatisfaction. You always say goodbye when you mean I love you. You would call it semantics and kiss the top of my head but it is cold outside and my hair is cold and the coldest parts of you are the ones that stay the longest, the don’t-call-back bitch with the sure-shot grin, and how do I preserve the memory of someone that is still alive, only elsewhere? Your bedroom is empty except for the books. Yellowing, useless, they keep me company on these lengthy weekday mornings, too much to do but no interest in doing it, and when he comes to me after his classes, I bring him to this place, the futon a spot of inconceivable cleanliness in this splatter-strange house. We waste hours trying to recreate our fondest memories of you, his palms driving into my waistline like he could make me into you, skim the padding from my breasts and scratch your name onto my ribcage. I fade under his attentions, wither and thin into the grasping creature you knew me to be, loud, empty sounds echoing from my cavernous torso. I am a machine of changeable proportions, and I hear the goodbye in each of his I love yous. I am disintegrating into the navy knit bedspread and you would still call me lovely, palm my shoulder, kiss my cheek. In those last days, you lashed out over a myriad of unchangeable wrongs. You cried for wars we’d never experienced. You’ve been gone for almost a year and I cannot leave this place. You are gone and I am here. All stories, all lies, all come from a truth. You left and we are here and the rest is refracted memory: you blank-faced at the kitchen table, your shoulders quaking, like you were all alone in this room, like you were already out of my reach.

I see how that boy of yours looks at you—like you are a hallway with all the lights blinking at once, jarring, confining. To me, you are a receiving chamber with the potted plants all real. The spice rack, the french press, the kettle-shudder. He thinks your eyes are marbles and I see only their dark framing, brows like lined pages, perhaps their luster in the light of early morning. Each of your joints is creaky-clean, and your collarbone is the calm removed from the storm, candy sweet, whiskey warm. I taste you for hours after you’ve left, catch myself drawing your name onto foggy windows with my pointer finger, and I want to say it’s not my fault that I do these things. You have an unfairly write-able name, memorable scent. You are neat books and careless smile and unheeded apologies. You are a deviant perfectionist with piano-player fingers, so do not be surprised when your long-discarded clarinet pops up in the living room—I hear the notes tucked into the spaces between your toes, sonatas composed by your locked-tight smirk, dancing creatures that tear as they sashay. You say you are margarine on bakery-fresh bread, but you are peanut butter-easy, breakfast at the kitchen table, awake without an alarm. All your prayers are love songs, and the staccato of your sleepy exhalations is church-pew conversation, whispers heard by no one else.