vitals

when she takes the thermometer
it reads: 97.1.
slightly colder than average,
but still in a window
that’s normal.

this is where i exist:
this window.

break up season

i am your coat cast aside.
bare you arms to the sun, darling.
can you feel gravel through
the soles of your boots?
this is what it feels like
to lose me.
years ago, we stood on silty riverbanks.
and i leaned close enough
to read the ink on your arms.
they felt like bathroom stall promises.
they always made me curious
in ways i want/don’t want to explore.
“ships don’t sail through frozen seas,”
you tell me, when i confess:
imleavingimleavingimleaving.
it’s april, and dead grass and i
are uncovering our souls,
and you have all the time and sunshine
in the world.

rules

1.
cut off all your hair at least once,
because everything moves too fast to get attached
and vanity is just a prop to hide behind.

2.
try not to fall in love with the first boy
who’s poetry you accidentally find when he’s not looking.
or the first boy who plays ‘heart of life’ by john mayer on his guitar,
where the e string has been restrung more times than you’ve been kissed.

3.
go on more adventures.
there is no hair or boys to weigh you down.

4.
jump in a lake fed by glaciers, one that’s barely 33 degrees.
just to know that you can handle the cold.
one day, someone will accuse you of having a frozen heart,
and it’s good preparation to know what it is really like to have frozen insides.

5.
lie on your side and fill all the negative space your curves make
with all the broken promises you’ve been told,
and mix them with salt water and cayenne pepper.
you are not sweet, you are not there to be liked–
you are there to set the world on fire.

thanks

thanks for being one of too many voices
talking at once, sharing ideas like water drops,
mixing melodies–shattering silence.

thanks for pink walls/children’s books/
rearranged furniture/familiarity etched
in 4 years of gradual change.

thanks for midnight texts.
for midnight snacks.
for midnight visits, midnight laughs, midnight walks,
a midnight friendship.

if all else fails

one day, i want my limbs to evaporate
into ocean air. into the kind of atmosphere
filled with so much humidity that
everyone feels like they’re 15 pounds
heavier when they step outside,
like every book they meant to read
is a library on their shoulders.
i will grow wings and teach myself to
fly faster than hummingbirds, and my
hair will get tangled up clouds
when i visit rain that hasn’t fallen yet.
one day, i will rely only on
maps from 1984 to get me to places
where i will find love and kebab all
on one street corner.
one day, i will learn to cut hair,
and practice on boys who stopped caring
in 10th grade. i will build cities from
secrets they tell me, i will wear only
clothes i’ve found in attics and backyards.
one day, i will get lost at sea,
i will write poetry on my thighs,
i will tell stories with the gusto
of 10,000 sincere 8-year-olds asking
their mothers if they can stay out
past 9 p.m. playing King of the Hill in July,
and when i reach the end of the story,
i will start all over again
because no one ever gets the point
the first time around.

blue hole

remember rope swings?
you always held on too long,
and ended up back where you started.
never too scared to leap,
but not really sure where to go.
“Elsie,” we’d yell, “jump now!”
but you didn’t need advice
from skinny kids with popsicle hands,
who couldn’t come up with
anything better to carve into
Oliver Tucker’s oak tree
than our initials:
RS, NB, CB, JJ, BG, JM, EM
it’s been a while, and now
you live in space between the
engine oil on your ratty jeans
and your choice of dark plum lipstick.
still holding on to too many different things.

amicable breakup

there is red paint on my knees,
i crawled in it the last time that
someone told to “express myself.”
like this was an 8th grade art class.
like an empty piece of paper
could hold all of the things that i wanted to say.

instead i squeezed a tube of red acrylic paint
onto the floor of your cabin, and used
one of your three spoons to make angry designs,
like spirals could hold all my feelings.
red, i figured, for love
and war
and strawberries
and the blood bank
and your shoe laces.

after you kicked me out
(“no matter what you feel, you cannot paint on my floor”)
i made a list of places i wanted to move.
(your backyard,
zanzibar,
cincinnati,
the biography section of barnes and noble.)
and essentials to pack in my backpack.
(a toothbrush,
two pairs of socks,
a set of watercolors,
flares just in case,
a pen.)

my mom always made me write a note if i went anywhere,
so this is my note, to tell you i’m leaving.
i don’t think i’m ever coming back.

Glaciers

Inside of me, there are glaciers.
They were still for thousands of moments,
but it’s springtime in my soul and
now they are shifting ever-so-slowly–
but ever-so-much is all I have ever needed.
Soon enough, they’ll melt into oceans,
and ships will sail on my insides,
charting courses to foreign lands,
and historians will write textbooks
about the great icy land I once was.
But for now, that future is as fleeting
as mid-winter sun. For now,
my glaciers are shifting ever-so-slightly,
and that’s enough.