Lips stumbling over each other like a newborn calf, eyes jumping like a flea
There’s a level 5 earthquake in his leg
No one’s ever been nervous about meeting you
He says something, and it makes you laugh,
and a gorgeous inky blush blooms across his cheeks
blood in the water, crimson, to scarlet, to pink, to wispy threads
You wonder how far down it goes.
When she touches you, you feel sunshine on your skin,
seeping through your pores and muscles and bones
until it rests somewhere in your chest
Makes a nest there, settles there, like you are her home.
Her skin, her skin, is littered with golden freckles that spread down her face,
her neck, her arms, her body. You are familiar with her.
Kisses are cinnamon and sugar on your lips
and when she leaves you, the scent of flowers stays.
She comes out after the rain,
when the plants are bursting with color,
and dances on dark tree branches, her steps feather-light
You reach out, hoping to grasp her, hold her before the world goes up in flames—
because there are people who hate her, would want to see her burn
so they can see another green, a green that is paper-thin and fake—
but she dances away
like a snake in the grass.
They start out blue
then turn purple, black, and fade to yellow and green.
He comes to you like this, and you try to heal him with
a kiss, a caress, a whisper in his ear.
When he does the same, he gives you sharp nails and broken words
as he tries
tries to give some of the love that he has lost.
He is the aftermath, the sleeping or not sleeping,
staring at the ceiling and breathing each other in.
Neither of you speaks, but you both know that it was
do you both come back for more?
The pure, innocent one, they call her.
But she knows
How to pull your hair back to make you melt in her fingers
how to leave marks on your skin that show you are her’s
She leaves you gasping for air and how to make you
Scream so loud that you need to shove your fist into your mouth.
(Sometimes, she’ll put her fist into your mouth.)
Naive, gentle, they all thought.
Wait until she shows you how to—
“What do dead people look like?”
I am six, Daddy is thirty-three,
Mommy is dead,
and Daddy is trying to teach me how to play chess.
He did that a lot after Mommy died.
“They look like you—”
“They look like me—”
(Afterward, my father would pull at his face, his hair, his clothes,
trying to dig out his heart
and plant it six feet under
with my mother.)
“And they look like God.”
“What does God look like?” I ask.
“God looks like what God looks like.”
I sit there, staring at the chessboard,
With its chipped corners and missing pieces—
the white king is now a bronze penny—
“Does Mommy look like God then?”
The reins of Daddy’s knight on F3 slip
through his fingers and the horse bucks,
until it is writhing on the ground.
Daddy’s fingers hover over the toppled horse
staring at it in silence.
I reach for the horse, and it rises gracefully,
licks my hand.
Daddy finally speaks.
“I don’t know what God looks like anymore.”
The dead man didn’t look like a dead man.
He looked like the sun had slapped
him on the cheek, with spilled ink for hair
on the paper-white of his skin.
Words were ripped out of his lungs and tossed
like salt behind the right shoulder to ward off evil spirits.
His clothes were made by the Muses.
When he shook your hand or tipped his hat,
the voices of dead wrenched tears out of your eyes.
The sound of a requiem, scrambling out of the deep
that his throat, rough at the edges
with flakes of dried blood and carved bone for teeth.
I asked the dead man how it felt being a dead man.
“Oh, it’s marvelous,” he said. “No more taxes, no more nagging wife. No more
Daddy, Daddy, can you play with us?”
The dead man’s smile stretched further, as he leaned towards me.
“What’s it like to be a living man?”
The person in the mirror and I are friends.
We have traversed this body like the explorers of old,
digging up the golden treasures in our muscles
and sinking our fingers into the silk of our hair.
When a hickey bloomed on a shoulder, like a purple iris in spring, I said,
“Good job, mate,” with a smile to rival the stars.
“Good job, mate.”
But one day we looked at each other and saw we were matching
gnawing at skin and fat
consuming sleep underneath our eyes
a collection of self-inflicted bruises
reminding ourselves that we were alive
There were scars on our arms, crisscrossing
into alien constellations
our veins turning into poisoned rivers underneath the skin.
If this is what it means to be alive,
I think I would rather be a dead man.
There is an old wives’ tale
about our hair and nails growing after the last breath
has escaped our lungs
almost as if our hair and nails are trying to make up lost
The truth is our skin shrinks around our bones,
whole as maggots burrow into our eyeballs,
digging further into the crevices of our bodies.
While some of us become the homes of scavengers,
others carry gods in their wombs.
(Van Gogh’s body looks like this—
a field of sunflowers, the glimmering of stars
a crow’s nest from the abyss that is his left ear.
The crow eats the inside of Van Gogh’s skull
and begins to go mad too.)
Leave them where they lay,
let the bodies do the rest.
Wait just a moment to see
what kind of flora comes to breathe.
(Greta Thunberg’s body is the best fertilizer
forests grow in her hair
and she holds an entire ecosystem in her lungs
the rivers do not run dry in her veins
and when the world burns around her
she is the only thing left.)
Animals and insects pollinate our brains
carrying the synapses and words from our lungs
to other bodies, other homes.
A honeybee lumbers through the air,
clumsy with the weight of honey in his belly
and words on his legs—
“I miss you.”
“Can you believe this bitch?”
He lands on a sunflower,
and settles for an afternoon nap.
(Only Marsha P. Johnson’s face is visible
underneath the baby’s breath, roses, chrysanthemums, tulips, violets
cradling her in the earth.
They are stained wild, godly, miraculous colors
for her, for the ones all like her.)
This is how gods are born
out of human bodies
that grow on the wretched mountain of remains
we have buried ourselves on.