A good friend asks me
why I delete Facebook from my phone on a whim,
like it does something.
It does something.
I need to check that the doors aren’t locked.
Did you see my escape last Wednesday?
How I slipped through the shackles?
They never fit properly anyway.
My life is a constant sway between
what fits and who doesn’t.
I can’t fit everything I want to say
in a right-sized poem,
but I try anyway,
the way your letters of love piled so high
I had to give away my pillow
to make room on my small bunk.
Nothing better to dream on
than love notes from friends,
and I say friends
even though we all know
that we maybe didn’t know each other,
and maybe we still haven’t met,
and I say love
because I lined my lungs with your handwriting every time I had to
take a deep inhale of prison,
and I know what was in each loop.
The truth is,
I remember a lot of smells
for someone with no sense of smell,
like in fire fighting training,
where I busted up my hip,
when the girl beside me jumped up and down to Happy,
a couple hundred jumps too many
for a woman with stitches inside her–
a woman who just made a baby–
a women who had never jumped for any reason but scare–
and how she wet herself like
Satan himself was leading our aerobics routine,
and how she kept jumping anyway
because she was so afraid to lose a chance
at coming home.
The room always smelled like her to me.
Urine, let’s say, but I can’t smell urine.
Fear, but really more than that,
something closer to a terror
that makes you wish you were dead,
and that’s how I smell to myself now
every time I sit too long,
or walk too far, or brave a staircase.
It’s not the pain so much as the reeking
that makes me wince like
life gave me lemons and I sucked them down
into a mouth full of salt and a belly full of acid.
Pray for me, I say,
but I don’t know if I believe in prayer anymore.
I believe in other things,
wasn’t it the devil leading those aerobics?
Wasn’t it a reading of prison spades that told me Dave wouldn’t be here when I got back?
And wasn’t it a moon-reader in India who told me a sign like mine would kill a sign like Dave’s eventually?
If we didn’t sacrifice something for our marriage.
Burn a tree, he said.
We never burned down a tree.
The bark reminded my husband of our skin.
Brown and brave.
And the truth is,
it wasn’t moons or cards that called his end to my middle,
it was the drinking.
How slow does a man have to die for his death to be a suicide?
It doesn’t matter what you call it,
because either way he isn’t here,
and I miss him.
I miss him all the time,
but the heart has more than two hands,
and more than nine lives,
and more space than the galaxy,
and the truth is,
the men I like to date best are the ones that understand
I’ll never let go
because my heart isn’t broken like my body,
it just has a limp to it.
It’s carrying a whole man,
and the man is carrying a whole forest and calling it kin.
And the truth is,
The folks I like best
are the ones who understand
I always rest easy on you,
the ones who don’t say but-but-but-they’re-strangers like
they don’t understand nets,
or the vastness of my love
and how I am too heavy
for feather pillows
so I only ever rest on words.
I’ve rebuilt my life on scrap and simple words.
I can say a thing without any of the right ones.
My vocabulary is more agile than dense.
I can tell you what the easy words mean when
you put them in a certain order.
How when an officer asks you to step out of a cell,
it doesn’t mean quite that. It means they want you to know
they own you here,
and if they are allowed to own you here,
then someone owns you out there.
How it means the same thing
when someone asks you what you are
and expects you to answer,
even if they don’t have a badge.
How I always hear the shackles then,
and sometimes I just need to escape.
I need to try.
I’m not sure what this has to do with the truth,
but let’s say, everything.
The truth is a hummingbird piercing into my skin to find the tiny pests I am home to. The truth is a peeled piece of bark I walk all over because it doesn’t belong to me. The truth doesn’t belong to me.
But she asks for me to tell the truth,
before I’ve said anything,
and my vocabulary is so flexible I know she means
People like me lie.
I can hear really well.
Once, when I was inside a jail cell,
I could hear my mom singing,
and I laid my head on a pillow of letters
and fell asleep.
My face was sore from where I was hit,
but bruises don’t take up space
and badges don’t count purple swellings when
they wipe a flashlight over a room.
The room I was in locked tight like a cabinet drawer,
and it fit me perfectly.
So perfectly I couldn’t sneak out,
couldn’t manipulate it off my wrists like a stack of bangles.
I almost deleted that metaphor,
because I do that for people
who don’t have a beak like an Indian hummingbird,
a hand like a prison shank,
who can’t reach into my spaces.
I shave away my realities.
People ask if I made a shank in prison,
but haven’t I been making one my whole life?
Whittling down what I have so I can sneak it past you?
Making myself smaller and sharper,
so I can disappear and protect,
disappear and attack.
I see my ancestors in every bark,
some as tall as oaks, but I,
I could tuck my whole self into a hemline,
and fit as well as I do anywhere else–
perfectly and imperfectly at all times, equally.
A right-sized poem would line up right,
would fit all of me in a square box for your feeding,
but haven’t I spent enough time in boxes?
Haven’t I spent enough time in a room without a door?
She asks me to tell the truth,
and my insides bristle like how-dare-you,
but I can’t stop staring at the badge she doesn’t wear, doesn’t have a right to wear,
and I answer her.
I say I am fine, just in pain,
and she tells me about a masseuse on seventh street,
and I nod along,
hands like shanks,
body like small,
small enough to fit perfectly back in prison.
Every prison is so small
people forget they exist,
forget they are cities full of trees.
I point them out but
they can’t see past the cage,
and I am not strong enough
to bend the bars apart,
but I try anyway.
Every so often,
I have to try.
It is the only thing
that loosens these muscles
in my voice,
that blows the smell of
Un-life and un-freedom
are loops and letters
that cross each other so often
I stopped trusting either.
How do you find the truth
in such an
They look like bars.
I pry like it does something.
I hope one day,
I hope one day,
it does something.
I wrote this the other day– but because it only kinda makes sense– didn’t post it. I’m trying to remember my blog isn’t for perfect or perfectly reasoned things. It’s just for stuff I write. And I wrote this, after a particularly difficult week.
So here we are.