From the collection:
In the Bones
Some days, it looks like everything around me is floating.
I climb all the way to the top of the tallest tree in my front yard,
and watch all of the leaves dance away from their branches.
They stay with me, show me how to move through the open space,
how to swim through the air.
Some days, I like to run. Far and fast.
To the stop sign at the end of my block, then to the next one,
and the next one, until I can’t see my house anymore. I don’t want
to go back there, where the hands on the clocks don’t look like they’re moving,
and everything moves slower than I want it to.
Some days, Daddy comes home and doesn’t even look at me.
I think he’s scared of the Hell in my heart. It comes out when I start to kick
and scream, because no one’s listening to me, not ever.
The evil builds up inside me until it gets stuck in my head and makes me very tired.
Some days, it storms. The thunder gets so loud, I have to hide
under 6 blankets, 4 pillows, and 1 giant stuffed bear. The rain gets too heavy
and I think it’s Mommy crying. It probably is.
Some days, my best friend comes over to play. He tells me stories
about pirates and knights and happy families. His mom makes him
pumpkin chocolate chip cookies every Halloween and she reads him books every night.
She loves him like love didn’t exist before she met him.
He always makes me a little sad.
Some days, I feel like I’ve lived for a very long time, and I wonder
when I’m supposed to die.
The day I turned 15, I got scared.
Monsters were hiding in my ears,
You couldn’t see them, you said
I was crazy.
Sent me to live on a farm, upstate,
Where I could run and play with my friends.
That was the dog, Elvis.
I forgot. I felt so much like him. In the days before he died,
He’d sit by the front window, staring out at the street.
You could call his name 20 times
And he’d never turn to look at you.
I felt bad for him,
Like I felt bad for myself,
Stuck in those rooms. I was told
The walls would be so white,
I would go blind. To me,
They looked like they’d been painted
With handprints, trying to push their way through
To The Outside.
We called it The Outside.
Capital T, capital O.
I heard there was air out there,
And it felt so good on bare skin,
It made you believe that dying
With it wrapped around you was probably
The best way to go.
I remembered it.
The way it smelled in our backyard,
Like the ash from the fire pit
Daddy liked to roast marshmallows over
In the fall.
I swear, that smell stayed
In my hair and on my clothes
Every day I was away from it.
3 years after I got scared, you took me
Back. You thought
The pills were helping.
They weren’t helping
Anyone but you.
I could still hear the monsters
In my ears, telling me to be afraid
Of you. Of everyone.
I still felt like sitting by the front window,
Staring out at the street.
Then maybe sitting out in the street,
Waiting for you to come and pick me up,
Before something else did.
Like maybe there’s a God with hands bigger than yours
Who would reach down and lift me by the collar of my shirt.
But He didn’t.
And you didn’t.
And I was so scared.
Andrea says her wrists are bullseyes,
and she shoots an arrow at them every day.
She braces herself, pulls back, deep breath, lets go.
Waits for impact
of point to skin, hard and sharp.
As soon as the red drips out,
she can breathe again.
She says she takes three showers a day,
four on weekends,
but she never feels clean.
She can’t get the dust from the mouths
of angry men out of her hair, can’t get the smell
of her own blood off of her hands.
She scrubs and scrubs
until her arms look like sandpaper,
feel as dry as the inside of her mouth.
Andrea says the psychiatrist thinks
she’ll find a good man someday.
And that would be nice if she weren’t so in love
with the woman who does her dry-cleaning.
She says Heaven is so far away,
but the clouds seem pretty close,
so maybe if she just climbed up to the roof of her building
she could hang out with them for a while,
watch them break apart in the air.
Things might feel a little better.
Andrea tells me the last thing she’d ever do is die,
cause, hell, it will be the last thing she does.
But she’s scared of death,
of what happens after, because she’s afraid
she’ll end up in a place just like this,
feeling just as sad as she did before.
She doesn’t care if anyone else feels like she does
cause sometimes, she needs to feel like she does.
And it can’t be my pain,
cause she’s the one who couldn’t get out of bed this morning.
The chain that ties her to the bedpost
pulled her back to the sheets.
She can’t believe that “it gets better”,
cause today, it can’t get better. Today,
air keeps finding its way into her lungs
no matter how hard she tries to keep it out.
Today, she feels the pressure of the air building up
in the empty space around her. She says
it feels like when she was in the fourth grade
and the fat kid sat on her chest
telling her to suck it up, queer, or he’d squash
the breath right out of her.
Andrea says she misses her father
and the way he used to rock her
when she was a child.
She says she wishes she could fall asleep,
and that she didn’t always feel like she
just woke up.
Andrea says she’s okay.
Tomorrow she’ll feel better.
She says I shouldn’t worry.
I always tell people that I write because it’s a good way for me to let out my emotions. But the fact is that I write because it has always come naturally to me, and when I decided that there was probably a reason for that, I studied and practiced to make myself better. And yes, it’s true that my writing does allow me to channel all of my nervous energy (I have a lot of nervous energy), but no writer writes just for themselves. That’s what we want everyone to believe. It just comes to us, we put pen to paper, we write to keep ourselves happy and sane. I don’t think that’s how it works. If we all wrote just for ourselves, we would never publish anything. We write so that readers can find something to which they can relate. That’s why we read, isn’t it? So, of course we write for the same reason. Or at least, that’s why I do.
When I was a Senior at West Virginia Wesleyan College, I was tasked with writing my Senior Capstone project. I had always veered toward poetry while on the writing track of my major, so I decided to write my first full collection. I was challenged by my brilliant advisors to write poems that meant something to me, but that would also make sense to readers who weren’t necessarily poetry-lovers. I made the call to write about my own anxiety, depression, and recovery, as well as the general experience of these three things. This series of poems allowed me to get out my emotions, but my hope was always that they would speak to someone other than me.