i remember turning 13
and trying to understand
why my hands shook as
i held the mascara to my
eyes, trying to paint myself
into someone else;
i remember turning 14
and staring into the mirror,
looking for any visible signs
of the boy who had explored
the most sensitive parts of me
with equal parts embarrassment
and delirious desire.
i remember turning 15
and hoping i wouldn’t
suffocate under the weight
of how ordinary and plain
i felt in comparison to my friends.
i remember turning 16
in the arms of a man who
left bruises on my neck and told
me that love meant never saying
‘no’ — and crying myself to
sleep because i believed him.
i remember turning 17
and knowing how many hands
had roamed my body, while
i struggled to quail the anger
in my chest at how unkind the
world had turned out to be;
i remember turning 18
and pretending to know how
to be an adult, with my stomach
turning over and over in my
throat at a party where someone
told me to make friends, i just
needed to take one hit—
i remember turning 19,
and hating the awkwardness
of remembering all those who
had pretended to love me on
my birthdays, scrolling through
names and faces and doubting
they had ever loved me at all;
i remember turning 20
and crying on my way home
over the nicest act of friendship
i had ever received — in the form
of a heart-melting cookie cake,
handed over with the kindest smile
ever passed on to me —
and finally feeling more like myself
than i had since i turned 13.
but the truth is this —
i wake up in the morning,
with your hands tangled
in my hair and i doubt
there is a happier place
on this earth than when
you kiss me until i giggle
no matter what heartaches
we may leave each other
with, they pale in comparison
to the happiness i feel
each time i look at you.
the most beautiful creature
in the universe, and i get to
come home to her every night,
i would do anything to be so
it’s getting worse in here again.
i wrote the words over and over
in my journal last night, but my
hands shook so violently that
the words looked as though they
had been spilled from a child.
when i got tired of swallowing
the pills, i packed up my tears
and gave them to an aquarium,
because dolphins have more
use for salt water than me —
but then you touched my face,
and i couldn’t imagine a world
without that feeling. so my entire
body tore at the seams and i
cried for two days on end.
now i can’t stop thinking about
the plant my mom gave me when
i moved away, and how i worried
so much about neglecting it that i
see, i take beautiful things like love
and happiness, and i smother them
until they can no longer breathe.
and no one knows it better than me,
that if you love something enough
to let it go, then you didn’t deserve
it in the first place.
and i’m sorry that you cannot save
me — that all along only i could save
myself — but i’m just so tired, tired,
tired of being me.
and goddamnit if i could just
breathe for five seconds then maybe
i could get better again, but the
monsters are nipping at my heels
and i just can’t
maybe it’s true that we were all
forged of stardust from a million
years ago, and maybe our bones
radiate the warmth of forgotten suns —
i don’t know, i never was any good
at astronomy in school.
but i do know that your arms are
the safest place i have ever been,
and your cat talks in her sleep just
like you do.
you love bette davis and sing cake
at the top of your lungs as you drive,
no shoes touching the pedals, only
bare feet and rolled down windows.
so maybe we are all infinities, merely
wrapped up in human shapes,
but if we were born of stars burning out
all that time ago — you must have been
the brightest in the summer sky,
worthy of even galileo’s search for the
i am convinced that your smile caused
my entire planetary alignment to shift,
and that’s how i know if you were a
constellation, it would be the most
brilliant one in the entire night sky.
there’s a song on the radio,
and it reminds you of the hands
of a distant lover, but i pretend
your eyes don’t glaze over and
my heart doesn’t hurt at the thought
of any other hands upon your
you dread our first winter together
like every sad storybook character
fears their redemption, but can’t
you see, those parts of you —
twisted, scarred, burned —
function like the most radiant
gardens of spring—
beautiful things rise out of winter
like the sun from behind thunder
clouds, and i want to watch you
someday suddenly realize how
much more you are than who you
might once have been.
you say her name in your sleep —
just once — in the saddest voice
i have ever heard and i wish
there was more to do than roll
over, afraid of the lightning i know
will soon come.
i love you, i love you, i love you.
some nights are a sleepless hell,
and i listen to your nightmares take
hold; but then you wake up in the
morning and for one blinding moment
i know that there is no one else
in the universe for you but me,
so i will blink my eyes to make sure
this is real —
and when i kiss you,
like a ship lost out at sea,
i will need you, my lighthouse,
to guide me back to you,
i wish i could understand
the way you wield pet names
like weapons — your best
sword and shield have always
been words designed to
hit me at just the right moment.
sometimes i stand just outside
the doorway to hear you sing
just one more line of your
favorite old song, torn between
too many emotions to count.
there is the potential of love
within me, which could burn
the heart out of you, so my
fingers tread lightly over your
hipbones with the hope of never
pushing too hard.
i’m sorry that some days
my words will cut through you
like a katana, and i will
pretend i didn’t notice the
tears in your eyes as i told
you that i don’t love myself
the way i wish i could.
but there will be days —
like today —
when even simply scrubbing
a bathtub is the most
exciting chore i could ever
do, because i get to
share it with you.
i don’t like who i am when you leave—
i become a person i wish i could not recognize;
her eyes shift from the color of leaves
to the darkest shade of jealousy;
this silence is threatening to suffocate me,
but every damn song i hear seems to
be whispering your name over and over
again until i can’t stand it.
i guess i’m afraid to find out which
one is the real me:
quiet, depressed and insecure or
clingy, needy and cocky—
take your shot,
and let’s hope for the best two out of three.
but then i close my eyes and
dream of opening them again to you,
bathed in soft early morning light,
eyes crinkled around the edges in a way,
which can only serve to make my heart
swell like your favorite songs.
the scariest thing about falling in love
is realizing that you are no longer
your own person like before,
now your heart is also someone else’s,
and they can walk away with it
whenever they please.
there are bruises on my inner thigh
the exact same shape as your teeth,
and your clothes mingle with mine
on the dusty hardwood floor.
i wake up in the morning and wonder
if i even notice the sun anymore,
or if instead you’re the center of
the universe now.
you sing my favorite song out of habit
now as you work, and in the shower
there is enough shampoo for two people.
now i forget it’s your car clock and not mine
set 10 minutes fast because you’re always
5 minutes too late.
the light from my stereo hits your face
and i see my favorite half-smile,
hoping someday i can express the
happiness it gives me.
the truth is this:
you got what you wanted,
and i took what i deserved—
we were just lucky enough
it ended up being each other.
i think maybe love is a game
i was just never equip to play;
never had the heart or brains
to know when to cut my losses
and just run.
i’ve watched you from across
the room, heavy lidded eyes
and blinding smile pointed at me—
maybe i should have known then.
i think i lost you when i told you
no matter what, i would be there;
i watched your eyes rim with tears,
and i should’ve known then.
i’ll always want to kiss the sad girl,
with stars in her eyes and pain
in her smile, so when happiness
took you, i knew—
it’s not me you want.
and i guess the truth is this:
i only cry when no one else
and my eyes avoid eye contact
out of reflex.
i watch you walk away and
i constantly wonder when it
will be for good,
and my palms sweat so much
that i can’t hold onto anything
too tightly for fear of it slipping
i swallow pills at night to forget,
and i drink coffee in the morning
just for the taste.
i love you because you loved me
i say things i don’t mean and
i can’t ever take them back.
and i’m afraid of loving anyone for
more than ten minutes,
because i can’t honestly believe
anyone could love me even
i’m greedy and selfish and ambitious,
and i feed off people needing me.
so please, please say you need me.