how to feel.

I could never forget your birthday, since it shares the same numerals as mine. And our hair color is the same except yours is from genetics and mine is a mixture purchased monthly. You were an artist once. A painter. Your smile opened windows.

***

For several months, I had a pen pal in prison. He found me through the magic of technology and I accepted his request to write back. At first, I didn’t want to know what he did. I thought it would affect my words; however, I was extremely guarded in my language to him–asking more than telling. When he’d move beyond what I was comfortable with, I did something I rarely did in real life: I told him to stop; I said NO; I spoke up.

Then one day I looked. Nowadays, it is difficult to hide. Some want to be seen and some hope their secrets can be camouflaged in corners. When I learned of his crime, I started to imagine things. I grew angry and didn’t know if I could ever write to him again. My pen pal wrote about why he was in prison and often denied it. His long explanations of what really happened shook my skin. I felt haunted by his stories and his (sometimes) sexual grunting. Sometimes he would ask me about poetry. He wanted to know what I was writing about.

It’s severed now…stopped as suddenly as when it started. But I am thinking of bars again.

I have had bars on my windows in not-so-nice apartments. I have made some extremely dangerous choices. Yet, here I am with a mailbox and closets and a chain on my front door to keep the animals out and I have bills I can afford to pay and I’ve let go of all my addictions minus coffee and poetry and I have freedom and I have freedom.

Somewhere in a state where a federal prison lays, there is a woman who shared my birthday and hair color and didn’t she go to my birthday party several years in a row and didn’t I have a crush on her and wasn’t she like a firefly–glowing and magnificently unbelievable.

Some might say that all crimes are unforgivable. Oddly, I tend to forgive the wrong ones and hold judgement towards those I need to show more love toward. I don’t seem to know how to ration my hatred correctly.

This woman admittedly committed a crime that I cannot forgive. And yet….I think about writing to her. Why did I choose to commit different crimes?

Perhaps it is in this moment where I just do not know how to feel. What is the proper way to mourn someone’s freedom being taken away knowing she took someone else’s away.

In the movies, it’s easy to just find out where someone is serving their sentence, get searched and then suddenly find yourself across from the prisoner. Maybe you share a sandwich or sit in silence.

If I were to write to her, what would I say? Maybe I’d just want to bring her a tear drop saved from the many drips of salt that plunge from me. And I’d ask her to look inside it. Eat it. I’d say. This is what pain feels like and sadness and love and wonder and hatred and kindness. This is human. Are you human still? I’d ask. Am I?

for Mary in Lagos and the man with blurred eye due to punching

justify monsterism:

remind me to sharpen my fists into callused bullets
and i will remind you that these animals live beyond your cell and interrupt me when i masturbate.

photo by Francesca Woodman

photo by Francesca Woodman

these men these men these men these savages these beasts these men
flatten themselves like cockroaches and they cling to door knobs.

these animals these animals these animals these brutes these men
linger on stairwells and wait in mailboxes to bite the fingers of readers.

What I am trying to say is they linger outside of prisons and cooped up concrete entrapments.

In my land, monsters do not wipe their limbs before plunging their screwdrivers into women.
Men light their wives on fire because of assumptions and poor manners.

Mary, your skin will never grow back and
somewhere in Lagos, you must lay on your spine to insist away the burn of bubbled shadow.

humans shut out the sounds of screams when they become too frequent.
pliers.
a settled weapon.
a death of normalcy.

I gave up collecting stickers and stamps and rocks found in gardens.
Started collecting humans and hideaways and addictions and diseases.

I gave up on straightening my hair, my sexuality, my walk-away.
Started growing tangles and teased limbs and touched as many genders as I could find.

[ … ]

The sun is engaging in a love affair with the clouds today. The clouds are holding her down. She likes it. Because of this, the trees need an understudy of light to guide them toward the direction of the wind.