Every bridge I have ever jumped from has talked back to me.
The story of my body has seven alternate endings and a fold-out atlas stapled to the middle. It’s like a choose-your-own-adventure novel, but when I turn to the page I want, it is missing.
The first time I jumped, it was several hours past midnight. Somehow the sun had confused itself again with the stars. The sun fractured into neon confetti and fell from the sky. As I jumped, what appeared to be illuminated starfish stuck to my skin. I survived with two scraped knees and a cracked tooth.
Have you ever spent an afternoon weeping over the dismemberment of Pluto? I have.
The story of my body can be unwrapped in chapters, but they are disordered, of course.
The second time I jumped, the cables and bolts from the Brooklyn Bridge came undone. I slid down, down into the water and climbed toward the ocean’s floor. I ate lunch with a mermaid with braided buildings in her hair. She begged me to stay forever; her voice sounded like smoke and hummingbirds in love. When I ran out of oxygen and conversation topics, I floated back up dripping a trail of salt and sandwich crumbs.
Thank you to Michael Broder and the great Indolent Books for publishing my poem:
nasty like janet or the way one feels after a seven day bath resistance but also like that moment when you figure out the perfect way to describe yourself
I’m not sure if I’m nasty because my version of femalia is like Lombard Street, all zig-zagged and out-of-breath.
You want me to stuff my Feminist deep inside my pockets, and fix you supper. You want me shaved and simplified. You want me pink. Knees pressed. Porridgy girl.
On the other side of Woman is me. Buzzed tongue and vague.
A faint of genitals and unfinished and easily bothered and trying trying trying NOT to apologize.
My mouth is having an affair. It has let a non-degreed dentist inside it, stretching it far past its ability and now I have the aftertaste of sore and bothered.
My father always knew when I relapsed because my nose would be cracked and red. Eventually, he stopped asking. Instead, we’d meet at our regular lunch spot, talk around addiction to remind each other there is more to life than pain.
When I go to the dentist, the other students gather to try and understand the trauma of my mouth. The professors ask questions; my teeth become a pop quiz for what happens when one flosses with stolen pill carcasses for too many years.
Once, my father asked me why I kept putting holes in my body (reference chapters eighteen through twenty-three: The Piercing Years). He’d wince at the hoops and studs and glare of jewelry distracting my skin. I never really knew how to answer. To let the screams out?
My mouth is called child-sized. They need to make an impression of my teeth and no mold is small enough to fit inside me. They stretch and stretch and I wonder if this is what childbirth is like.
Eventually, I stopped taking drugs and cleared my body of jewelry. The addiction will always remain, but all the holes closed up.
I want to tell my dentist that I like the way his facial hair grows and that if I could wake up with a beard, I’d leave it alone. But one day, I woke to find a long, blond hair growing from my chin and it seemed too lonely, so I asked my spouse to take it away. Maybe I have a difficult time committing to the in-between of things.
The last time I consumed “the bad drugs”, I was watching a friend’s dog for a weekend. It was her way of thanking me. The calendar called it Valentine’s Day and I might have preferred chocolate, but it didn’t stop me from consuming.
I tell my father that I have been writing non-traditional love poems. He asks me what that means. I say: the kind of love that runs away from flowers and announces the beauty in mouth sores and cavities. It hurts when I laugh because my mouth is still healing. It hurts when I laugh because I am still learning how.
She called everyone a misfit, wearing the city like a cloak. Fire eyes. Field of poppy lashes. “No one expects anything from us,” she said, “which makes us more dangerous like unidentified alphabets.” I started rummaging for what hides in my shadow, finding a grocery list for ends of times. “Nothing is quiet anymore,” she added. “Our wrists harmonize with the wind.” “Don’t forget our tongues!” someone shouted. “Yes,” she spoke quietly. “Our tongues are the synthesizers to our souls. And we’ve got entire albums hoarded behind our lungs. So, let’s turn up the volume and dance!”
for Adam (and always Rebel),
Have you checked for asbestos?
Could there be mold hidden beneath your teeth?
Are the cracks in your skin signs of shiver and haunt?
Can I rent a kayak and travel the length of your amygdala?
Is there an ingredient your fingernails like to hoard beneath them?
Why is that area of your body police taped and boarded up with planks and nails?
Are your wrists remorseful?
Can you climb or have your knees asked you not to anymore?
Why don’t you wear make-up to cover-up to brighten?
Can everything be altered? Will that make you feel better?
Why do you crack your knuckles?
Why does your belly bend?
Can your shoulders survive the childhood you house on your back and lug around?
What do you mean you never had a welcome mat?
What do you mean your doorbell is broken?
What do they wipe their feet on?
How do they let you know they’ve arrived?
Are you the sort who leaves your body’s windows unclasped and doors wide open?
How stained is your glass skin?