CHAPTER SEVEN

You loved me

the way you loved your favorite book

you read other books, of course

caressed their pages in your hands

carried them with you

discussed them with pretentious people in coffee shops

but still you remembered the sentences filling up my pages

the ones which made the blood

flood straight to your heart

you often thought of chapter seven

even months after putting me down

my cover art was pretty

I looked good on your nightstand

where I slept each night

the other books

which you stayed up late reading

could never quite understand why

you would not return me to the shelf

where I belonged

But

I loved you

more like I loved my favorite song

always stuck in my head

often hummed under my breath

while in line at the bank

or belted proudly, naked in the shower

rinsing the shame off of

my body once again

one time I got so into you I almost slipped on a bar of soap

if I really liked someone

I would show you to them

but mostly I didn’t want to share you

at all

you were not a physical object like I was to you

I could never hold you in my hands the way you could hold me

but there you were in my music collection

alphabetical order

next to all of my other favorite songs

isn’t it time you put me next to your other books?

I promise you won’t forget me

even if I burn

you’ll still see my words in your mind

the way I hear your beat

BLANKETS

Your fallacies are my fortress

I hide within your lies

disassembled 

from the ass up

I feel alone on top of you

 

the mask you wear doesn’t fit you 

it slides off 

as you slide in

distracted 

by the warnings tacked 

to the walls of my skull 

empty with you inside of me

 

if I am my ugliest 

as you whisper that I am beautiful

what would happen if you shouted it?  

 

wrapped up in your favorite blankets

my bones are freezing cold

SHARP OBJECTS

       Pretty girls remain sharp objects, no matter how smooth their skin. Pretty girls will harm you even if you get down on your knees, tug on the hems of their tight skirts and beg them not to. They will cut you to your core, quickly and loudly or softly and silently. You won’t know which it was until it’s over. A pretty girl will leave marks inside of you that you may not even begin to discover until you’ve nearly forgotten the way her long and silky hair would blow in the summer breeze or the anti-rhythm of  her uneven breaths which would threaten to keep you up all night. Beauty is power. No matter how handsome you are and regardless of how intelligent, you are impotent. Pretty girls are nice to look at and no matter how many times they’ll complain to you about the shapes of their bodies, their inadequate height, or their thin lips – they know it. 

 

       They know it, and they will use it against you if you let them.

 

       There are stacks and piles of poems written about pretty girls. There exist entire novels and award-winning films devoted to girls in possession of a type of beauty so powerful that no one can deny it is there. Too many artists have spent the better part of their lifetimes painting a pretty girl, just so that her beauty could live longer than she would. People like pretty things. We are drawn to them, regardless of our age, gender, or sexual orientation. But a pretty boy, a pretty flower, or a pretty car will never destroy you the way I am promising you a pretty girl will. 

        A really pretty girl will get under your skin until eventually you will hear her singing out of key in between your joints and tendons. She will cause you to ache in places you didn’t even know existed. You will lose sight of yourself on your mission to see her more clearly. You might even lose sight of all of the other pretty girls – and there are many – if you are unlucky enough to find one with eyelashes just long enough to destroy you. Your brain will trick you into thinking it’s worth it. Beauty is pain, they’d told you, and maybe this was what they meant. 

       Pretty girls have existed since the beginning of humanity, and you are not the first to experience their wrath. Nor will you be the last. But you won’t be able to save your successors just like your predecessors weren’t able to save you. So don’t even try. Let the pretty girls get inside of the bodies and minds of the men and suck them dry of all their rational thoughts. Let the men lose sleep. Let them look like fools. 

 

       Always notice the pretty girls when they pass you on the street or when they lay restless next to you in your king-sized beds. Remember the way the corners of their mouths crinkle when they smile or laugh. See them for what they are when you look at the way their jeans hug their hips. Note the way that only certain parts of their skin will tan. When her sky blue or honey brown eyes look directly into yours or off into the distance in your direction, think to yourself how pretty she is. Appreciate that beauty, respect it. Fear it a little bit. Do not worship it. For pretty girls remain sharp objects, no matter how smooth their skin. 

EXISTING HERE

Existing 

in this place 

like it was an art form

day by day 

nothing would change

but years would pass

and nothing was the same

condescending 

was his tone 

when he would speak to me

but I still liked the sound of his voice

 

playing with fire

was much more fun

than patiently waiting

for the ice to freeze

I loved him quietly

never shouted it from a rooftop

or showed up at his work

there was never a need 

for kissing in public 

oh yes, my love was quiet

but he was always close enough 

to hear it 

 

DO NOT READ THIS IF YOUR HEART IS NOT BROKEN.

      It hurt very softly. It was not an all-encompassing hurt, never a constant one. This was more of an achy, dull pain that would almost go away and then come back worse than before. It was the type of hurt that I would almost forget about if I was in the right place or with the right people or took just the right sip of the right drink. If the weather was just the way I liked it, and I didn’t get any parking tickets that day, and I got to do something I loved – like read a book on the beach or discover a new coffee shop or take my dog to the park –  I would almost completely forget that the hurt was ever even there at all.

       But then – quietly, softly, without warning, the hurt would come back. Just walking home from work some nights, I would pass a certain crack in the sidewalk or a certain song would come on Pandora blaring through only one side of my old headphones or maybe I would think of the way he would look at me or the way he would call me a ‘sexy, sexy minx’ or the way his skin felt brushing up against mine or his obnoxious laugh – randomly, for no apparent reason – and then, there it was again, that damned familiar hurt. Deep hurt. The type of hurt I couldn’t quite explain and didn’t even try. Not even to my closest friends. I needed a shoulder to cry on sometimes, a phone number that would text me back at any strange hour, or a human chest to breath onto in the sticky heat or the frigid cold. The people who really mattered would always give me that. I didn’t want to talk though. I didn’t need to talk. Talking never helped. Talking about the hurt brought thick gunk up through my throat and made me feel as if I would vomit if I had to say his name one more time or speak out loud about the past, or often even the loveliest possible rendition of the future. 

        I never felt it in my brain or my veins and it wasn’t really in my chest either. It didn’t feel even remotely close to the way I’d heard heartbreak described. I’d read all of the poems from the beat era and I’d listened to the ear-piercing “emo” music from the early 2000s before and I had talked many friends down from the ledge after being dumped by the people they’d truly thought were the loves of their lives. It still caught me by surprise. I didn’t really have a stomach ache. If I focused, I could certainly breathe. It was a hurt felt more in my bones. In every part of me, to the point where there was no way I could escape from it. It was a part of me. Sleep was only a temporary fix – for when I woke, BAM – there it was again. But not always. Only some days. There was no way for me to predict when it would come. Sometimes, I didn’t even realize it was happening until I was in tears outside of my apartment, wailing so hard and loud that my neighbors would come out and express their concerns because they’d thought my dog must have just died. Something did die, though. Not my dog. Not even a person. But death hurts the living no matter what it is that has died. That’s the thing – I was living. I must have been, to be feeling so much, so intensely. Even death can’t hurt the dead. Nothing can. 

        I know you’re hurting. I know it. It’s awful. There’s nothing anyone can say or do to console you right now. I get it.  It hurts bad. It hurts because it mattered to you more than anything else, and I’m glad that it did. Maybe it still does. I hope so. Something mattered to you so much that it had the ability to tear you apart this badly. You think this is ugly? Who told you that? It’s not ugly at all. It’s fucking beautiful. Some people never get to hurt this badly ever in their lives. I feel sorry for them, and you should too. To feel this much is human. Hurting this terribly is only an indicator of how much we were capable of loving – and guess what? That only means we are capable of loving that much again someday. I don’t want you to hurt. I know how it feels and I don’t want anybody to feel that way. But I want you to know that hurting is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s something to be proud of. You have a big heart just like I do. And that’s not wrong or embarrassing or shameful at all. Not one bit. 

         So don’t forget about him, or her, or it – that thing, that person, that place – whatever it was that has caused you to hurt this way or to cry this much. Whether your tears are on the outside streaming down your face where everybody can see them or deep in your bones. Maybe you can’t eat or sleep and you can’t even be yourself anymore. Remember this. Remember exactly the way it feels. Don’t ever forget it. Thank it. Cry when you have to. Laugh when you’re able to. You are not special because you’ve had your heart broken, and neither am I. But we are not big babies for crying often. We are not immature or crazy or unstable for yelling and expressing our every emotion so loudly it might wake somebody up. They can sleep tomorrow. You are hurting right now. Right this very moment.  And that’s OK. 

BAD EGGS

remember that night we took way too much MDMA and

you projectile vomited onto the sidewalk and

i asked if you were ok

you just laughed because

we were “so high right now” and

i carried you home which was sort of far and

you were really heavy

my bouncy curls went flat because

the air was wet and then

we slept on the shag carpet

in my friend laurie’s apartment

for seven hours with

all of the lights on and

when we woke up i cooked us some eggs but

i think those eggs were bad and

we shouldn’t have been eating her food anyway

 

BENNY

       The garage door was open. It was summer. The radio was on. A rail thin woman with long, dark hair set in perfect curls came up to my driveway. I had been working on my car all day. She said that she‘d lost her dog and asked if I could help her look for it. Grasped in her long and bony red-nailed fingers was a full color flyer with a blurry photo of her dog on it. She called me ‘sir’ multiple times. I didn’t feel old enough to be called ‘sir’.

       The woman looked semi-familiar to me. I asked her where she lived.

       “I am staying with my father, just up the street from here. He suggested I ask you for help, because you are one of the only people in this neighborhood who has a car.”

       I nodded, and invited her into the only-slightly-cooler-than-outdoors garage. It smelled of sawdust and gasoline.

       I did not care much for dogs. I had never owned one, and didn’t give much thought to the beasts when I saw them attached to the ends of leashes walking by my old and crooked house. I certainly had never helped anyone look for their lost dog before. I wondered how she had lost her dog in the first place. Aren’t they supposed to come when you call them? I tried my best to make conversation.

       “What is your dog’s name?”

       “Benny.” she paused.

       “Will you help me look for him? It’s getting late and will be dark soon, and then it will be harder to find him.”

       I asked her how long she had owned Benny.

       “Only a year. I was sick. My father adopted him for me to aid in nursing me back to health. Benny helped me more than any of the expensive medications ever could.”

       “Everyone thinks I hate dogs, but I don’t really hate them. I’ve just never had one,” I told the woman defensively. I don’t know why I felt the need to tell her that.

       “What were you sick with?” I asked reluctantly.

       “I had a brain tumor. I don’t remember much of that time, because all of the medications made me very weak. I spent six months in the hospital, and once I got out I was confined to my bed at home for another six. If it hadn’t been for Benny, I absolutely would have gone nuts. I think he has healing powers.” The woman smiled crookedly as she gently brushed one of her dark curls out of her face with one of her sharp red fingernails. It dawned on me just then why her hair was so perfect. It was a wig.

       “A brain tumor, wow. I was just reading an article about brain cancer statistics yesterday. It explained that it is more common in men than in women, and is very rarely found people under forty. “

       “I am under forty,” she said quietly.

       “I think I have also read somewhere about people bringing dogs into cancer wards to help brighten the moods of the patients,” I went on.

       “Mmhm, there were other dogs that they brought into the cancer ward I was in, but Benny was the only one who would get under the covers and snuggle with me on my hospital bed.”

      “Yes,” I said, my voice rising, “do you think you could tell me more about him?”

       She stared at me for a moment, thinking.

     “No,” she said, cautiously.

      “I don’t have much time. It’s getting dark and I need to go and look for my dog.”

       I struggled to think of a proper response.

       “I understand.”

       Looking at the artificial center part in her wig, I thought to myself that she was right – she did not have much time at all.

       The woman handed the flyer with the photo of Benny on it to me. Her pale hand was shaking subtly until I grabbed it from her.

       “Have you ever seen him?” she asked.

       Upon closer inspection of the photo, it registered with me that I had seen the dog earlier that day, digging though my neighbor’s tipped over garbage can.

       “Let’s go and look for him,” I told her, knowing he couldn’t be far. We got into my mint green ’76 Cadillac Eldorado together and drove only a few blocks before we simultaneously spotted the mutt. I’d never seen so much genuine joy on the face of another human being as I did on hers right then.

       I kept in touch with the woman after that evening. A couple of years later, her brain cancer came back and killed her within just a few short months. I took Benny in when she died. He was the best thing that has ever happened to me.

       From time to time I tried to explain to people why I had adopted Benny. After awhile, I moved to a different city where no one knew that I hadn’t always been a ‘dog person’.

 

MY OWN KEY

you gave me my own key

to your place but

i don’t know why you did that

because

if i ever showed up there

uninvited

you would think i was

crazy

and we both know that isn’t true

 – or at least one of us does

i’m just not sure

which one

YOUR OTHER GIRLS

they liked it when you paid for

their drinks and

opened doors for them

they wanted to kiss you

during sex

which was weird

when you tried to reference

a mitch hedberg joke

they pretended to get it

but didn’t and

when you talked about

your wax art

they pretended to care

but didn’t

they hadn’t read anything by

truman capote

not even

breakfast at tiffany’s

your other girls

were much prettier

than me

they had bigger tits

better eyebrows and

louder orgasms

some even had

college degrees

some would cut your hair

for free

or get you into

exclusive parties

but none of them could

suck your dick

like i did

and none of them knew

what it felt like

to hate themselves

like i did

i could have tried

a little bit harder

i suppose I could have

done fewer crosswords

in the mornings

and spent more time

on my complexion

or spent that money

on breast implants

maybe

instead of buying

all of those vintage typewriters

on eBay

but that wasn’t really my style

and

you didn’t fuck me well enough

for me

to change myself

for you

 

 

 

COMMON GROUND

There were not

enough doors

in that house 

for me to slam

my anger was fresh

and new

to him

that day

but not 

to me

it was then that

he finally

understood

why hurricanes

are named

after 

people

sometimes 

the only thing

you have 

in common

with someone 

is that

you both

will someday 

die