I’ve got this tea-stain on my shoulder and an ache in the core of the joint. It’s in no discernible shape; I can’t cloud-project to see something that Rorschach would like. My boyfriend squeezed there, accidentally, reminding me that my nerves are intact and very much alive. Sometimes I forget myself in those moments when I’m reminded of life. I flicker under the lamppost, stationary on the sidewalk. The cars from last year have shifted.
An April breeze goes by, and it’s a different night, now, months before. Tell me, how mad am I, sitting on that same curb with cigarette burns on my thumb and forefinger?
Oh, what I do in the name of a dead man and living girl.
They’re not equal. That’s why I call them man and girl.
She has not earned the title “woman” in her twenty-odd years, despite her body being well acquainted with the term, with its shedding blood and nocturnal invasions. We are tethered together by shared DNA, origins of the same narrow womb. We paid rent for an umbilical cord and stretch marks. Our mother’s stomach has never felt the same since us.
He, now, is a friend of the soil in a New York cemetery. His body was left vacant years ago. I wondered if I could see his body dancing in the smoke from the free cigarette. He used to dance, my mother told me. Her father. That young man tinted sepia in old photos we found after he disappeared from the hospice room at the end of a hallway. Oh, my mother. I felt her eyes across state lines, disappointed in the curves of my mouth.
Meanwhile, a fire larger than my palms and fingerprints lingered and roamed behind my back. I saw something in the smoke that night from the wildfires burning a couple miles away from me. Someone’s face just above the mountain.
Not his. Not hers. Not my mother’s.
Not of God or angels or genies or aliens or whatever myths I heard growing up.
Maybe it was a banshee, since it’s spiked Irish blood pacing about my veins. Line dancers in my capillaries, red skirts twirling in plasma and heat, gripping oxygen in dizzy waves.
May I chase you a little while longer? A while. A while. Come on and dance, until the very end. Cigarette smoke softens and burns my eyes.
It all echoes in my body. I only wish for a night’s peace, an end to the race of figures brawling in my brain. They’re sketches of memories, edges all splintered, black, defined. They consume one another. A family’s cannibalism, my skull the chalice.
A bit of flesh in between my teeth. Bitten inside cheek. Is it really my skin there? Or someone else’s? The face I saw in the smoke…my own?
Or is it ash I’m chewing on? Wildfire or Marlboro? This is what it feels like to be a poet, right? Phantasmagoria and the resulting fear of some disorder in a doctor’s handbook? Eccentric, my mother calls me. I wish it was just crazy.