you’re trapped in a glass box in the middle of a square,
and you watch them but they don’t watch you.
it is air conditioned in the glass box and
summer is in full swing outside,
but the others seem to ignore the heat
as they curl in on each other with teeth-baring smiles
and hands clawed together.
you know they’re talking even if you can’t hear the sounds;
the glass box is practically vibrating with the outside motions:
a band swaying to the beat of their music,
lovers laughing open-mouthed,
fountain shooting jets of water amidst tumbling children.
you’re wearing a lovely purple dress but suddenly you feel naked.
the air conditioning seems too cold.
you open your mouth and can’t hear your own voice
so you start thumping your fists against the glass.
when the cracks start to appear the world outside slows down
and people start to crane their necks to watch you.
their eyes are louder than the words they speak,
maybe because it has grown silent. the box vibrates only
with the thump, thump of your fists
and the thump, thump of your heart.
crack, crack of the glass
and the crack, crack of your knuckles,
beating bloody and hard until there is a rain.
you are showered in glistening shards and you think
this is the brightest moment in your life.
people watch, necks bent out of proportion
but your stomach lurches as they giggle and point at you like a zoo creature:
“she’s never done that before!”
all your novelty is shaken away like the last pieces of glass in your hair
you are utterly alone,
in a box you can’t break out of.
I feel really sad and alone
hey, would you like to go on a date tomorrow?
yes? okay, please hold
(insert elevator music)
sorry, I had to call back one of my friends.
he and I just arranged plans,
so I’m not sure when we can hang out
but I’ll pencil in a reminder to call you back
when I figure things out?
is that okay? yes? okay.
thank you for calling! bye-bye.
settling here, like seeds scattered
reaching out with blind stubby roots:
new backyard, new home.
home, like wood and drought—
no, like ivy crisscrossing across stone.
the seasons sharp like ice
where they once blended
the way the lake dribbles into the sky.
your voice distorted over two thousand miles.
crackling like nerve pain,
hollow like absence,
tense like urgent care waiting rooms.
I, bulldozer, an ant on a mountain
trying to consume the world.
let me taste, let me taste;
but there is only rubble here in
my new home.
I am not soft anymore like you remember.
this graduating class started
with ink on paper—names and numbers,
crossed out on roll sheets and replaced with nicknames
that we called our own.
like the life we breathed into CPR dummies,
each teacher has breathed a little something into us—
a love of langues etrangères, a taste of exploracíon,
carbon monoxide from that one really disastrous lab—
and spun horizons out of fishnets for us to cast into the ocean.
so now it’s time for us to be cast off into our futures,
free to pursue journeys both inward and out
into the galaxies of outer space or the worlds within our own biology.
we’ll discover more names to go with more faces,
juggle internships—business cards—taxes?
no matter what, it’s a chance for us to take in a breath of fresh air—
or really polluted air depending on where we end up—
and use what makes us tick
to keep the world ticking along with us.
and though we will stumble, “sometimes hit a Tree
Directly in the Forehead,”
remember—IT’S JUST A FLESH WOUND.
we’ve got mentors who have catalyzed our fears and doubts
into inspiration and confidence,
and friendships forged through trial and error
whose bonds can withstand the pressure of time and the heat of distance.
we started with names and numbers,
but what we’ll end up with is ours to reach for.
my world is a Styrofoam cup
and I am a snail tentatively poking
my eyes into the sun-blasted sky,
still delighted to find fresh grass.
you tread over pebbles and weeds
in your scuffed brown sneakers,
each leg racing the other down pavement
wind laughing through your hair.
when you pick me up and smile
it’s like dawn after a frostbitten night.
I scurry out of my shell as best as
a snail can to kiss your fingertips.
but I’m just a snail and your world spins
in dizzying orbits around you. to keep up,
you keep running, and sunset falls with
your back black against the sun-blasted sky.
I am soft-spoken until I want to scream my love for you
from mountaintops and ravines,
until everything around me echoes with
the force that has brought these shaking limbs closer to you.
disapproval rumbles from the summer sky,
blindingly bright and achingly dry.
I wet my lips, breeding only hoarse whispers
that leave my throat and die before they reach my own ears.
there are hairline cracks around my mouth and eyes
from swallowing that again and again;
secrets that beg to dribble out, rivulets of rushing water
drowning out the words this world could never let me say.
my world, in a peanut shell. soft and wet
like new birth;
I am fragile like I promised I would never be.
you have small bones
like I imagine birds would
and when I grind my hips into yours
I am terrified of breaking you in two.
when you kiss me good-bye,
it is my thighs that are bruised.
I try to take the inconvenience from your life.
I have never been anything but a burden—
a mouth too much to feed, a baby shrieking until 6 a.m.
when my father could finally catch two hours’ sleep
before dashing off to work.
so, silently, I untangle myself from you
and I cry when I hear more apologies but I accept them
because your bones were made for flight
and mine were made for shattering.
I hated you for bringing the bird home
and setting it free in the living room.
its panic was in all of us
but you had the audacity to find it amusing.
relationships are hard:
loving and being loved
don’t solve anything.
love just magnifies everything
ups are higher, downs are lower.
so you’re bored of the lake
but can you handle the ocean?