through struggle to the stars

before you were born,

you scraped per ardua

ad astra onto the inside of your collarbone,

and injected glowing nebulae

in between your vertebrae

because you always loved finding shapes

in star clouds

 

and on your longest days now,

when the heat wraps its loving arms around you

in an embrace you can’t escape,

and the sun lays salty beads across your skin,

you trace your collarbone absently

and draw a little strength out of your spine

 

and you’ll stoop a little more with each passing year,

but that’s okay.

it just means the star stuff did its job right.

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blood-red wine and skeleton jazz

i.

the day you left,

your cobweb dress clung to you in ways

that i would dream about for years,

in hot, fevered nights

when the moon thought it might burst

in the sky,

and even the wind wailed your name.

 

ii.

i remember how you called make-up war paint,

and you drew it across your face like a message

i could never decipher;

i remember how i got goosebumps when i heard

your heels clicking across the floor at 3am

when you finally got home and slipped into bed;

i remember longing for you with every fiber of my being,

feeling separate from you even when our clothes lay on the floor

and your fingernails dug into my shoulders

and your toes curled into the sheets.

 

you were always just out of reach.

 

iii.

i tried to break my fist against the wall

the day you left,

but i couldn’t punch hard enough

so i lay in bed nursing my bruised knuckles

and imagined you going to parties in hell,

drinking blood-red wine,

your skin glowing in the light of the flames,

decomposed corpses playing you jazz,

party-goers flocking around you like

the devil queen you were.

 

iv.

i imagined you everywhere.

you were a ghost

and i was haunted.

 

v.

i saw you once, years later,

and i had to blink to make sure you were real.

you were so normal

so banal

so human.

you weren’t an angel come to save me,

nor an otherworldly creature with moonlight in your veins,

nor an all-powerful being with burning skin

and cruel, bloody lips

and perfume that smelled like bottled sulfur;

you were just a girl,

riding a crowded subway at rush hour

 

and you smiled at me with recognition in your eyes,

but you didn’t say hello.

chasing shadows

she swallowed the darkness like it was medicine
and didn’t stop until she knew it had turned to poison in her veins.
all she wanted was her skinny heart to shudder to a halt
and her blackberry blood to stop teasing her
from under the pseudoprotection of her skin

but poison doesn’t always work the way you want it to.
sometimes, like the wishes that a genie grants from behind his grinning mask,
poison likes to trick you into thinking you have control
until you’re too far gone to realize
or too far gone to care

so her skinny heart never stopped,
but her bones began screaming under her skin
and cobwebs wove themselves in front of her corneas
and the vines she had once used to decorate her throat began to constrict
until she could do nothing but hope that blue lips
were in fashion that season

and she went out at night and looked for the stardust that used to illuminate her darkness,
but she could see nothing but empty light
and hear nothing but the pale voices of the dead
and silky whispers of sin.

she knew for sure that you can never see what’s in the shadows
until you walk right through them–
they look like nothing but blackness
until they surround you.
so she plunged forward blindly,
rust-stained hands outstretched,
letting the darkness envelop her
and waiting,
desperately,
for her eyes to adjust.

thimblefuls of milk

butterflies tear apart the inside of my stomach

and pristine paper crinkles under my fingertips

and the back of my neck itches from invisible eyes.

 

i like rabbits in my poems

and the sea in my words;

hipbones and collarbones and ribcages

and lungs that don’t work properly;

i like melancholy moments and shoulderblade wings

and toes curling into sand;

hot, empty summer nights under pitch black skies

and the smell of rain pounding onto tarmac

in my poems

 

and they tell you to kill your darlings

but i like mine quite a lot

so i feed them bowls of milk instead,

and let them sleep in matchboxes

on my dresser

and sometimes,

when butterflies tear apart the inside of my stomach

and pristine paper crinkles under my fingertips

they sit in the spot that i can’t quite see

and they tell me stories.

the boy who swallowed a star

the moon drizzles through the clouds.

i’ve been thinking of you.

 

sometimes during a storm,

i imagine that the electricity snapping through the air

is your touch;

that the rain splattering on the roof is your

fingers, tapping impatiently;

that the petrichor-infused wind

is your perfume,

your breath

 

and i walk,

letting the water kiss my eyelashes,

caress my collarbone,

tug on my clothes

 

i let the wind give me goosebumps

and fill up my lungs with the smell of

 

you, my nowhere boy

my shadow boy

the boy with constellation freckles and

sensitive veins, who would swallow a star

just to feel its fire.

 

it’s been storming a lot, lately.

i’ve been thinking of you.

the fear of being alone

the blinds made the moonlight fall across

the bed in cold silver bars

and you looked like you were in jail,

lying there.

it wasn’t beautiful at all.

 

on those days when my lungs ache

and i hear the ocean in my ears

and feel the ocean in my eyes

i wish for someone

but i’ve never wished for you.

 

because of course nothing’s ever effortless

but apathy drains me more than anger

and the spark that we never had has disappeared from

my imagination

 

so we’ll keep kissing

and our teeth will clash,

and our hands won’t know where to go

and the right moment will drip down my thighs,

but you’ll miss it just the same

 

and there will come a day when my lungs ache

and i hear the ocean in my ears

and taste it on my lips

and i’ll wish for someone

but he won’t be there

and neither will you.

salty insomnia

it was a quarter past midnight

and everything spoke in the rain.

 

the trees, the windows,

the roof

all murmured softly

 

and the girl lying under the sheets

listened.

 

insomnia-riddled and morning-

crushed, she searched the darkness for

dreams she could only have while awake

and the monsters under her bed

whispered hush,

so she pressed a hand against her lips

and tried to stop her lungs from crackling

too loudly.

 

evanescent snippets of sleep left her drained,

itchy, lost

as though the rain had washed the rest of the world away

while her eyes were closed

and she had been left alone.

 

when she gave up on sleep entirely

[as she did every night]

she went to the kitchen and sprinkled salt

on her tongue.

it tasted like the sea they had swum in together;

like the soup he had tried to cook;

like the tears she hadn’t been able to cry

since the nurse had pulled the sheets over his head

in the frozen hospital room

 

so she carried the salt back to [t]he[i]r bed

and curled up on his pillow.

 

the trees, the windows,

the roof

all murmured softly

 

and the girl lying under the sheets

listened.

 

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