i

it’s so much easier to think of my bones as oceans,

my skin as a brief expression of clay and pebbles,

to think of my face as malformation of resources

and my pain a natural progression of the

transgression of nature

if my face is just a normal human face,

if my bones feel just like my sister’s

and my skin is made of the same stuff as other men,

if this body is whole & just exactly like a person-

if it is a person-

then this reflection, this observation of observation of thought, of feeling, of ache

is exactly as it should be, my consciousness

chasing itself in circles calling itself insults

until i’m no longer worth those protections

the buffers i give real people,

the benefit of the doubt, tailoring my words to be

sweet or at least not offensive, the way i don’t

force people to orgasm even though it always hurts, just because i want it, the way i don’t hit them when i’m mad they can’t forget about

everyone who died, who they let die, who they forgot about and thought was better off without them and how they died maybe because of it, who they held on to their belly and apologized and then bled out, who they forced away and may as well be dead, who might be dead or alive but they haunt all the same and how fear and grief are oil and water but boiling, scorching and burning and uncaring what they hurt

and i know these metaphors slip away from me

i know i don’t have any friends left

i know i’m being dramatic

i know every time the blood comes i get like this,

and i know women know death, they cook

the food, they clean the sheets,

they supply the band aids

and i do not know if i am a woman, but i know

i am familiar with blood.

i know

she would have been 18 months and 2 days old today and on this side of the abortion

i think i would have been a good mother but

i don’t think i would be a good person

i stand by my choice to go to planned parenthood alone; i didn’t think i’d remember this

i didn’t think i’d think about my choice

to not see the ultrasound or how sad it was

that the jelly felt so good because i was

full of micro tears because those men didn’t stop

do i want to be a man because i don’t

want to be vulnerable to men (the only way to stop them is become them) but we both know

trans guys don’t really have it much easier

and i’m rambling but it comes to this every time:

the baby, the rapes, the deaths, and my isolation

and it hurts my heart that the isolation is the hardest for me to deal with,

my lack of mentors, parents, lovers, companions

this is what makes everything else seem glass

this is why i don’t believe myself and pain is

the only thing that grounds me, because

i love people, with everything, and then they

can’t even see me, they can’t hold me in a way that feels unselfish or informed of my darkness

and pain is the only blanket that waits for me

so my bones are the salt of oceans,

my skin their runoff,

but these goddamn cramps are my humanity,

this heartache and headache

reminders that i am a person who is big enough

to hold them, and the loneliness too

samhain

when i was five my family was
sitting next to me,
at California Adventure in the summer
we were on a ride where you
flew above orange trees,
buckled in but your feet hung into the air

this is the first time i thought of dying.
i knew i could slip out,
and fall, and i would die:
the orchard would kill me

my parents and siblings would watch or
maybe, just keep looking ahead,
not noticing my empty seat until later

i knew what it was to die.
once, in the car,
when they had forgotten i was there
my parents talked about Night,
the part where Elie says you couldn’t
throw a piece of bread to the liberated
concentration camp survivors, because
they’d kill each other fighting to get it.
they knew i was there when they heard me
crying from the backseat

i’m years removed, but,
in many ways i have not left that ride
i’m eating oranges tonight, halloween,
and there’s that smell of oranges,
these old thoughts of suicide

another bit of rust

seraphim, at work my password is seraphim and it is a prayer to the kind of god that lets me be something different, that makes me taller or thinner or less convinced I am fundamentally not worth saving, that my most holy end is that of martyrdom, that this persistent commitment to being alive is just depressing for anyone to watch. None of us are doing okay. We know that.

I’m not going to kill myself, I wasn’t at 11 and I’m not now. I hate the way I exist here, the way history and morality and convention has twisted me up into a scared kid who doesn’t have any hope left. But I’m not a kid- that was years ago, I have to stop crying about wanting parents to prioritize me. My mom only recognizes depression as not being able to get out of bed and it’s not that I blame her for the way I’m bedridden more days than not, but I’m sure it influenced me somehow.

I dream of having somebody to hold. I don’t know my gender or sexuality, not really, but my heart is so empty it feels like the rust in my cast iron pan and the dregs of tea stuck to the bottom of my mug. I’m contemplating paying a tarot reader to tell me everything is going to be okay again. This whole thing is my fault, everything has been.

sweetheart

with your eyes like washed over pebbles I watch you, your hands familiar to me against the steering wheel, your words a prayer of hope- that we might laugh and for a little while you won’t fantasize about driving the truck off the highway and I won’t fantasize about cutting the muscles in my neck with garden shears. I’m just as in love with you as ever- more, now, with the knowledge I’ll be leaving soon. that best friends thing always fucked me up, all my old friends give me distance because I make it weird. I didn’t hold their hand when I wanted to, I just never wanted to go home, I lingered and practiced my telepathy instead. I’m very bad at telepathy. mom said she doesn’t know how to be my mom right now and I said don’t. I have no one to hold and I so desperately need to be held. I want to be wanted more than I want to be loved, but I hate sex. I swipe right on everyone on tinder but I don’t message anyone back. I cut ties and burned bridges and aborted my attachment to all my exes but I still miss them in the abstract. I miss their hands choosing to hold mine and their lips saying my name like it dripped with honey and tasted like cigarettes. I love the smell of cigarettes- I used to date an older guy who smoked, I would stand with him outside after sex and when he tossed the cigarette on the road I would run and stomp on the cherry and he called me bunny. He said once that I was the textbook definition of a sub and I think I was right to be offended. My friend in the truck, she said I for sure was a top and I rode that high for a full week. Every time she slaps my ass I want to kiss her; obviously I don’t, and idk if it’s subdrop but I always get really sad after. She means it as a compliment so I haven’t told her to stop. I feel so broken all the time, perpetually lost, perpetually unsatisfied. I want to stop feeling like reality is shrink wrap and the only thing that can cut through is pain. I hurt so much all the time and I want to die much more than I want to live. Living hasn’t felt real in a while.

burning cinnamon and laurel

I used to take up the whole bed, I think

Now my room is vases and hollow shells to crack

I am living outside my body,

Wanting so much and

Yearning

Not to hate it-

Just growing Rosemary and Sage in my bedroom

Terrified they’ll die

I sleep on the side of the bed that used to smell like the man

Old enough to be my father

Dad to a would-be baby I sent back to heaven

Told God he had the address wrong

I couldn’t tell my parents

Nothing is alive,

No baby giggling,

my period came for the first time since I took the pills

I bleed onto my blankets, my pants, my bed

It collects in my lungs

My God, I need to be held

To be rocked and soothed and

Not asked for sex

There is a boy I think of when I’m close to dying

He feels like home, and we never fit

But that wasn’t why I loved him

I feel like sunshine when I’m four years old in the field

I swear if I lean into that memory he’s beside me

And I want to leave this life with him too

He doesn’t love me like that

I don’t know how he loves me:

Except hard and frantic and it hurts

But honestly all men hurt

I love the idea of making babies,

Of that being sweaty and

heart-racing and boundary breaking

But I disassociate when they’re inside me

Can’t breathe when they’re in my mouth,

And even still, I am never full

Never ripe and whole and present

I don’t get to be twenty years old

I hate myself the most

I fall asleep with the candle burning,

Wake up to ash

Wake up to friends texting me back, six days ago,

two weeks ago, a month and a half ago

Trying to be a lesbian, you know,

Trying to be held,

Can’t see a girl if I keep eating Wendy’s and

Picking at my acne

So I don’t

Text or call or meet up

And I’m chicken and so goddamn terrified

I’m so scared

I’m so so alone

I go to work and feel like I’m trash at it

I want to quit

I know they hate me anyway

my throat is sore from being quiet & my shoulders are hurting from wanting to be a boy and dreaming of building a lesbian cottage with just a hatchet

tell me how to stop reaching for tobias, for the open offer to come to his house and feel his hands make fires all over my skin before i disassociate with his violent sex

one of his best friends is in my dms and i’m terrified of breaking her heart. i have no goddamn idea what i’m doing with girls and i’m scared to death of doing it wrong

one of the managers at work spiritually manipulated me and now i’m going over to his house and he’s going to want to talk about the abortion and i’m not worried about crumbling in front of him, but i don’t know how to say no to him reassembling me

i think of derek every day.

no thing and no one wants me. not for me.

i keep asking for comfort, knowing full well the thin love of men can’t cover me and the space between friends can’t touch this depth of pain

the idea of god can’t fill me, outside is too cold and inside is too hostile and i don’t want to be around other people and have to consider their feelings

i curl up on couches and beds, too tired to exercise or sleep or read anything but twitter, awake enough to eat and masturbate and write sometimes

i call in sick to work again, my boss gives me valentines cards full of cash and all i feel is guilty

 

2 years & tears

I cried every day, and I know that’s not something you want to read about. Feelings are messy and cringey and so cliche to write a story about, and yet- There we were, in the bathroom of a theatre in Missoula, Montana, in the sweet summer of 2016. North Korea was testing its rope, and North Carolina was hung up over bathroom legislation. The musical Hamilton was the center of our attention, which had only been popular a few months but was already so overplayed. We didn’t care. This summer camp meant growth and freedom unlike any we had experienced before. We rapped those verses with style.

I sang country music too. In early 2014, I finished a performance of Beauty Lou and the Country Beast, playing Beauty Lou herself. After the show I asked my director if there was anything she knew about, any opportunities to get out of this little town, to learn theatre before college applications rolled around? She was a twentysomething touring director with Missoula Children’s Theatre, and had been in Hope, Idaho for exactly six days, and was leaving tomorrow. I was a fourteen year old girl finishing up her freshman year of High School, failing English because she stayed up all night looking at theatre memes on Pinterest. She took my information and said that there was a program Missoula Children’s Theatre ran that I might be a good fit for. She took my information and said she’d call. She never did.
Really, the crying wasn’t the important part. There were lots of things I did everyday: went to dance class, did workshops, learned our choir songs, ate hummus and vegetables in the basement of a church. We were at theatre camp, and our motley crew of 22 singing, dancing, and acting teenagers wanted to be Broadway Somebodies. We wanted our name in lights, we wanted LaDuca character shoes, we wanted to star opposite Jeremy Jordan. That meant a lot of hard work, and we weren’t exactly trained. We were a bunch of kids with dreams locked inside, bursting to get out. The problem was, those dreams had been suppressed by circumstance or parents for most of our lives. We had to get really good in a year or two, before college auditions. We knew that they would only take the best.

I really wanted to be an actor. But, as I looked at the screen of my laptop I saw figures that were impossible to reach. When the director never called, I decided to do my own research. Missoula Children’s Theatre ran two camps for kids my age: South Shore Performing Arts Camp and Next Step Prep Academy for Musical Theatre. The former was only $925, and as I learned later, was probably the one my director was talking about. The problem was, it was only a two-week program and rehearsed both Sundays. It didn’t feel right. Next, I looked at Next Step Prep, the six-week program that boasted guest artists like Seth Rudetsky and Jason Robert Brown. Sundays were off, it was geared toward kids without a lot of training. It was $5,500 to go. I remember, my heart sunk so hard when I read that figure. I could never afford that.

So, we cried: of frustration, of homesickness, of insomnia, of heartache, of hydration. We took turns with panic attacks and anxiety attacks and good old-fashioned breakdowns. There were a few the first day, a lot the last day, and an innumerable amount between. No one was exempt: boys, girls, seniors, or freshmen. The classes were really difficult, and we were running on six hours of sleep at best. Have you ever tried to learn music theory, or dance when every move has a french name and you really don’t know french? I walked out of both classes at some point, tears leaving my eyes in such rapid succession I was forced to spent the rest of the period in the hallway. I brought makeup every day: packed it in my Ikea suitcase next to my jazz shoes, leotard, tights, binders, and water bottle. The foundation hid the red on my cheeks from the heat and sweat and embarrassment. The eyeliner brought attention away from the fact that my eyes were bloodshot and ringed with dark circles. The mascara just made the eyeliner look normal.

There was over a year that passed before the camp turned from an impossibility to a goal. I got a job working in a bakery, saving money. At the same time, I wanted to run away so bad; I channeled that energy into my application. If I got in, if I got scholarships, if I could somehow manage to save enough money to go, I would be able to run away for six weeks to learn musical theatre. However, going to NSP was as much about gaining experience as it was about seeing if I was worth my salt. High school hadn’t offered me the chance to take many acting classes, and the ones I did take were group settings, taught by unprofessionals. I needed to know if I was good enough to keep pursuing it, and I wanted reassurance from people who were qualified to say. I decided to apply.

Once, I spent an hour in the dance studio, sobbing to my assistant dance instructor about how I just couldn’t, about how I was trying so much but it was so hard. She was nineteen, and was choreographing a modern group number. The steps were so hard to grasp. They kept slipping out of my head like soap falling to the shower floor. She held me and said that she was so grateful that I cared. This hurt and disappointment was a million times better than being satisfied with mediocrity. It was a small comfort, and I ended up in the front row at our performance of the piece. My pas de chats and glissades weren’t the sharpest or the most graceful, but I learned the whole routine. Sometimes the basics are enough.

Backtrack to 2015. I was actually going to do this! I asked my mom and my dad if they would let me go, as a 16-year-old, to stay in dorms in Missoula, Montana all summer. I downloaded the application, and filled it out with my very limited experience and most charming anecdotes. I asked my english teacher and my principal for letters of recommendation. I entered my information on the scholarship website. This was happening! The deadline for it to be postmarked was in January. I finished the essays, crossed my fingers, and mailed it out. I was so nervous. What if they didn’t like me? What if my application fee and hours practicing my song and monologue was all for naught? A few weeks later, I saw a voicemail from my mom on my phone right above a voicemail from Missoula. She said that I needed to call Missoula Children’s Theatre, who said that I got in! They were giving me over half tuition in scholarship, and I saved just enough to cover the rest. I could go!

On the last day, we were all on the ground. Twenty-two heads lay on tummies, like a big puddle on the floor. We listened as our director read to us a speech by his favorite man in the entire world, Neil Gaiman. He orated that the important thing was to Make Good Art, to keep trying until you can create the same caliber of art that inspires you. If you never give up you have no option but to succeed; persistence was the important part. My director said that we were talented and would do well in lots of professions, but that we could be actors. We just needed to stick with it, to show it as much love as it’s shown us. The whole summer seemed kind of perfect in that moment, with light filtering through the windows onto the piano. We were all feeling the heartbeats of each other, breathing in and out, swimming in collective appreciation. I was finally content, finally happy.

I looked up at the ceiling, and I cried. Again.

dry tongues

tinder is a fire lacking a hearth

love isn’t flames, it’s coals-

hot and there to tend and warm

 

he sits in Springs, working and burning and

saying he’s done and I’m 700 miles away

without an ending

 

i sleep on the floor, on a yoga mat covered in scratch marks

junior year yoga was just

trying to crawl out of my own skin

 

a lot has changed, but I don’t remember much

I found out I was queer that summer,

Olivia and her hair on my shoulder all through the play

 

this is to say, I don’t want to meet anyone else

I feel myself resenting my own atheism,

wanting to believe again,

 

withering without fire and wanting

to speak, and taste, and my tongue, dry,

asks the boy for repentance, & embers, & him

 

 

 

Mine

I cut my hair with safety scissors last night at 1:30 and I love it, I love it, I love it

I feel like leaving my religion, keeping my testimony and I feel so free, so free

I’m going to apologize to my ex and it feels right, like home

When I fantasize, I cut open my chest down the middle, pulling the ribs apart, and the lungs collapsing and the heart stilling.

I don’t want to work on a future that’s just going to break.

my mom pulled the seventeen year old card again and I hated her again

an older curly-haired fake ginger at choir is trying to be friends with me, she’s so cool that I can’t talk to her about what’s actually happening