I think I am leaking-
A woman pours her heart into a bowl
and feeds it to her cat. The heart
becomes a liquid thing- like heat,
but not so shocking red,
like my mother’s lipstick, like the first drop
of blood, like the tone of a poem
written all wrong.
Sometimes I look at people I don’t know
and think “I could love you”. My ribs tremble
with survivor’s guilt, and the branches of my
wrists spell out my future.
I think I am leaking-
and this is the sound of fragility.
We are capable of kissing
bruises and watching mothers cry
over lost children, who are not actually lost,
under the kitchen sink,
or in the upstairs closet, or in the concave
that is the human heart,
plucking ribcage songs.
Whenever I pray,
a dog somewhere dies.
My mother can’t look me in the eyes anymore.
I sleep with my contacts in
and I get sweats at night. I’ve gained six
pounds since December
and I’ve lost four friends and two possible
lovers. I bought two bamboo plants last week
and I’ve lied about six things since Wednesday,
(your haircut looks nice, I’ve watered the plants, I ate
already, I’ve got a test tomorrow, this isn’t your shirt,
I love you). Sometimes I think I’d be better off quiet.
I cheated on two math tests in the last year
and I want to learn how to stop bending
and finally break.
Your lips burn when you wet them
and I have mastered the art of focusing
and unfocusing my eyes long enough for nothing
to mean everything again. I wanted to save.
There are fireflies in my throat
and when I cough, I am the sun
for a fleeting moment. We are heaving
and you told me not to write about the moon.
The broken cups make a mountain
of shattered things on the floor
and the lights stay on and the couch stays warm
and January trembles on the front porch.
Your fingers are bleeding and they say,
look, look at what we’ve done.
I think I knew a girl named Luna once,
I think she wore herself down,
I think her waist was a thimble
and we were sewing needles, we were sharp
grins and smirks and messy dissections
in a sweaty lab room after gym, the fan on high,
April murmuring soft weaved thoughts behind us.
I want to save the ones with knuckle
boned scars, the ones who cradle
their insecurities like apologies.
We are heaving and I don’t write
about the moon anymore.
I wanted to save you too.
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My aunt miscarried four times
and after each one, she took me to Chinatown
in the city, and we would watch the gloved men gut
fish after fish after fish as if it meant something.
She carried all the ultrasounds for years after,
with names and the expected date of birth scribbled
on the back, and on the train ride home, she’d clutch
the bag of headless fish close to her body,
and softly, rub her finger over the worn leather of her wallet,
where the faint memories of life gathered dust inside.
My uncle used to burn hundreds of matches
on the front porch, and the first time we came home,
he stared at my aunt’s stomach and stumbled backwards,
something immense, something too big to understand, to describe,
quaking inside of him. He stopped burning matches
and started burning flowers, instead.
My aunt carries him too; in the way she walks,
stooped over, with this gentle sorrow pulling her
into the floor like sand.
Salma, May 17th 2003
Laila, November 29th 2006
Sophia, January 4th 2007
Hanna, August 23rd 2011
Four seasons for four daughters;
every day, dawn is the time for grief,
dawn is the moment where my aunt can finally sob
under the weight of the world, a 34 year old Atlas
with a home empty of children, and a body that deemed her unfit;
I have grown into a family of grief,
a life in which mourning and morning mean the same thing.
She said once: I am a shell, and you can hear
the ocean sputter and cough in my bones; I swear,
I would swim, if I wasn’t already sinking.
The sea rejected my aunt more than once,
and in her blank eyes, I am reminded of those Chinatown
fish more and more each day.
When I was fourteen, my mother told me
that although she was my mother,
she wasn’t my mother and I broke all
the mirrors in the house and crumpled
my baby photos.
When I met my family for the second
time, Meryam told me in garbled French
that we looked alike, and I stared
at the dead roach by the sink and the stains
on the children’s shirts and the sun
that stumbled in through the crinkled shades
and burned me to the same golden brown that they were,
and I thought: no.
Everything was chipped,
my neice’s teeth, the dishes and the cups
and the bit of hope that my first family,
or my second family, or my blood family, kept
in a glass jar in the kitchen cabinet to be stared
at after the sun bled rusty orange, and azaan
spilled into our ears.
It was humanity’s last gift
and the poverty that mingled the humid
August air taught me why Pandora opened
that jar to begin with.
When I left for the second time, the city
looked like it was crying, salty river streams
stetched thin through the Moroccan
you sit in your car mid-march
when the sky is just beginning to bleed blue
and you listen to someone sing
about the love they lost in paris
and you cry.
you hide in flimsy dresses
and you shimmer like smoke
and you pretend that you are happier
in a bedroom you don’t recognize
with a boy who has dandelion eyes
and callused palms.
you call your mother four times a day
and you go to the movie theatre by yourself.
you hang out with your little brother
and play chess with old men in the park.
you wait for him to call you
and he never does
and you jump off the skyscrapers
you didn’t realize you had in your heart.
you are postponed, stilted
and you spill for much too long.
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