staring through the white plate, completely through the kitchen counter and laminate floor;
i saw the way the tendons in her neck cinched rigid.
a string of rubies pulled too taut: bursting, then an echoing scatter across the cold tile;
maroon, maroon, spilling into the ochre-pallor bathroom
she spills out of control / squeezing her fists so tight, she can feel too clearly when it wrestles out of her fingers / she wants to be (seamless vessel) but she can’t just can’t, she just…
she just spills.
steadying herself in the corner, against the far wall.
smudges of dirt on her Michelangelo cheeks.
a pearl peering out from the cracks of a gritty, crusted oyster.
the Dogwood Tree: branches like tendons reaching to the spring sun,
thinly veiled with their delicate blossoms:
teardrop white opal petals, suspended
in shadow & light;
she dances, intricately
suspended in shadow & light.
i could hear her outside. i could hear him outside.
they promised a storm this january. i could hear the wind gusting the leaves against the bony trees outside. the smell of the vapor clouded with dirt. condensation steeped with metallic taste. water shuddering in the teapot. and i could hear them outside.
they were the eye of the storm.
the glass leaning against all shades of dehydrated purples and swollen greys. the gusts rattling the leaves. the wind whipping her hair. soft solar flares with medusa in mind. and his hair as well. the mane of a lion mask. they promised a storm this january.
they were the eye of the storm.
a soft whistle turning to a scream. the teapot.
behind me the sliding door opening the wind shaking the leaves against the bony trees the sliding door shutting behind HAVE A NICE DAY AT WORK and then her collapsing collapsing collapsing onto the bathroom floor. shutting within the collapsing. the moans and final gasp of a redwood tree as it shudders to the earth.
i poured the water curling steam, filling two ceramic mugs.
a tiny breath between the frame and the door creaked ajar. she let me in. there, a gloating room of yellow light and her a dark smudge scrawled on the tiles and the wall. with her shoelaces still tied.
she shields her eyes with one hand, IT’S NOT SUPPOSED TO HURT.
in the other, a gold tuft of lion hair clenched in a fist.
i could hear the rain on the roof.
as a child
before hopping on the merry-go-round
i’d survey each of the painted ponies spinning
looking to choose the steed that most struck my fancy –
not too plain & not too pink
a little bit of lightning in its eyes,
a few hot coals stirring under its hooves.
i’d swing up into the saddle
the music would burst
& all at once we were sent:
motionless & spinning.
at the age of 23
i dragged myself coughing up north to a stage set for a skinny jean teen
prophesying her vision of swinging to the loudest versions of chasing-defining
struck by the fancy of “there could be nothing after this” –
came to the show with a boy in love with me or my denim vest / patched & distressed
i won’t be corralled in a tower stance
shielded from the stampede of fists and humeri
hurricane of sweat spilled beer & biochemicals
like forked lightning into that little thunderstorm,
a few hot coals stirring under my converse hooves.
i chomp at the bit before i spit it out
& when the music bursts
all at once we are sent:
(he lets me go)
CERTIFIES THAT [your patron ghost] HAS SUCCESSFULLY COMPLETED REQUIREMENTS FOR LIFEGUARDING [Date completed: 05/17/2014 the first known sighting of our patron ghost] WITH COMPREHENSIVE UNDERSTANDING OF THE ACRONYMS FA/AED/CPR/EAP [valid 2 years between each festival of our patron ghost]
cement cold as cathedral walls
complete with a ten-foot vat of holy water you may piss in only if you pass the swim test
please be seated for the reading
it’s one thing to prepare to hold your breath it’s another to be suddenly underwater
please stand to recite the location of the automated external defibrillator
twelve laps with your sweats on go
then you may take turns three sets of thirty
dripping clouds of chlorinated incense amongst the congregation
do my eyes look red?–they sure sting and you look blurry
cross your chest compressions
cardio pulmonary resuscitation
cardio pulmonary restitution
kardia pneuma recitative
this is the heart // prepare a poultice of figs dewed with milky sap
take and eat and give thanks
this is the spirit // pour the fermented amber hopped to a frothy head
drink from it and give thanks
or wait is it the other way around
give thanks before you hey wait
come back and give
thanks i’m not waving i’m
PLEASE BE SEATED
she blows her whistle screaming
activate the EAP
shoot how does this one go again
i’m not waving i’m
i wake up after midnight in another coughing fit
choking out watery spit
the leftovers still sloshing my lungs from the time you held me under
i was waving my arms like Hey remember?
we were blanketed on your couch like Hey you can crash for the night
and i was leaning in like Hey i think you’re beautiful all right
like Hey this is completely normal right
and your hand behind my head like Hey you’ve caught my attention
like Hey you’re close to something i wouldn’t mind loving
after you paused to ask You ok? like Hey are you having a hard time breathing or something
and i said Yeah i’m fine like Hey come closer
when it should’ve been Wait i’m not sure like Hey be gentle i’m honestly on the verge of breaking
right there! first, it happened where i let myself out of your car that night and made you promise me you wouldn’t pretend / the next morning i found some of myself shattered in the cracks of the driveway
i kept collecting more pieces in weird places, crumpled and strewn
— a broken vertebra in my pillowcase, my shoulder blade in the kitchen sink
shards of ribs, scattered around on the trail i use to walk to work
and right beneath that bay laurel tree over there, shavings of skin and muscle tissue
i don’t even want to talk about what i found under the bench the same one where we sat down together under a sunlit redwood fairy ring / under your dark serene gaze so you could state how you weren’t really in the business of looking for the rest of me
your hands on my shoulders like This won’t hurt a bit no bruising no bleeding
your hands on my shoulders like Try to hold your breath as long as you can underwater