For your sake,
I will pretend that the sum total of my life,
this constant collection and connection of random specific indignities,
can be opened as simply as a dictionary.
SCAR, LEFT THIGH, BELOW KNEE:
—had her first kiss too early.
MOLE, RIGHT EAR, UNDER LOBE:
—hates the smell of overripe strawberries.
I wish I could cut myself open
and count the rings inside
and wear them on my cheeks like purple-rinsed warpaint,
a trail of pocks and spots and gold-flicked freckles
that leads all the way from the start.
I am the grey-blue pebble you’d pick up at the beach,
selected and deposited in the crutch of your hand.
Pick me up and measure me against the size of your thumb.
Feel the abruptness of my margins,
folded in from the outside.
Turn me over between your fingers
and remember to check for cracks.
Fling me into the sky and see if I fall.
I am the product of pressure, and heat, and geography
squeezed too tight,
a carbon-based jigsaw of beauty, and flesh,
and the fear of forgetting how to love.
Look at me and recognize yourself
in the strange and starry pawprints of joy that trek
from my salt-stained toes to the secret ache of my eyelids
that shield me in the dark quiet of solitude.
But I will not hide anymore.
I am tired of being small,
tired of tucking my unruly edges
into a gift, neatly folded.
So now I stand here, in the foreign and sickly glare of the dawn,
and the light strikes my skin like a shower of lit matches,
melting away our blindness with the morning dew.
And for the first time, we can see.
You can touch the bones of my brow
and trace the smudged and painful thrill of youth
untempered by time which scabs over feeling.
You can see all the lovely, hushed loneliness
draped across my eyelashes
like silken pearls of desire that goes ignored
and threads of regret as soft and subtle
as the thrum in my chest.
Can you understand me?
Are you paying attention?
Feel the muscles in the arches of my legs,
hardened by all the steps I took
to outrun shame—
that dull little blow of not wanting to belong.
Study me well, and re-read me often.
Underline the shadows beneath the bend of my neck,
and circle the lines on my palm,
and scribble a big question mark
next to my eyes,
one smaller than the other,
two black whirlpools that never return their dead.
Give me a close and careful moment,
and then dive with me to the bottom of what I am
and believe in it.