4.11 / November 2009


I know a boy who called his girlfriend’s body a “crime scene.” Dad, my body is a crime scene. My body is lint and gasoline and matchstick. My body is a brush fire. It’s ticking, Dad, a slow alarm. I have rain boots. Lots of them. It isn’t raining anymore. The words are coming back, Dad. The way they fit and jump in the mouth. I want ice cream and long letters. I want to read long love letters but I don’t think he loves me. I think I’m used up. I think I’m the grit under his nails, the girl who looks good in pictures. I don’t think he loves me. I think they broke me, Dad. I think I drink too much and it’s because they broke me. I heard about two girls recently, two women crushed like cherries in a boy’s jaw. It opened me, Dad. My body is melted wax, it is ripe and stink and bent. It is a mistake. I walk like an apology. I don’t hate men, Dad, I don’t. I want a washing machine. I want someone else to do the dishes, someone to walk the dog. I have a hornet in my head, Dad. A hornet. She’s an angry bitch — she hurls herself against my skull. She stings. And stings. I know I don’t make sense, Dad. This is the problem. I’m a sick girl, a crazy wishbone. I have razors under my tongue. I’m sorry I cut you, Dad, I’m so—so sorry. I gave you a card for Father’s Day once, it said you were my hero. You are. Your laugh is a thunderclap, you love like surgery. I think they broke me, Dad. I can’t erase their faces. I want to swim, Dad. Remember when I used to hopscotch? I used to make you laugh. My feet are hot. The bottoms of my feet are scorched sand, August asphalt. My body is a slug, a mob of sticky wet rot. No one touches me anymore because I’m rot. Because my body is a spill no one wants to clean up. They cracked me open, Dad, I know you don’t want to hear about it. You don’t want to hear how they scissored me, how they gnawed me like raw meat. No one wants to hear how they made me drink lemon juice, how they kicked the dog, how they upturned the furniture, no one wants to hear how my skin turned to a dark thick of purple and black and lead. I watch the homeless a lot, Dad. I watched a man with a cup of coins and chips of skin carved out of his face. He had freckles. He needs medicine, Dad. He needs to stop the hornet. My body is a hive. I am red ants and jellyfish. A yellow sickness. My body is a used condom in an alley in Jersey City. I don’t think he loves me, Dad. My body is a fetus in biohazard tank. A Polaroid pinned to a corkboard in Brooklyn. I think I’m hurt, Dad. I think I was the tough girl for too long. My body is a wafer, a thin, soft melt on a choir boy’s tongue.

exit wound

you are an exit wound

the extra shot of tequila

the tangled knot of hair that has to be cut out

you are the cell phone ringing in a hushed theatre

pebble wedged in the sole of a boot

the bloody hangnail

you are, just this once

you are flip flops in a thunderstorm

the boy’s lost erection

a pen gone dry

you are my father’s nightmare

my mother’s mirage

you are a manic high
which is to say:
you are a bad idea

you are herpes despite the condom

you are, I know better

you are pieces of cork floating in the wine glass

you are the morning after
whose name I can’t remember
still in my bed

the hole in my rain boots

vibrator with no batteries

you are, shut up and kiss me

you are naked wearing socks

mascara bleeding down laughing cheeks

you are the wrong guy buying me a drink

you are the typo in an otherwise brilliant novel

sweetalk into unprotected sex

the married coworker

my stubbed toe

you are not new or uncommon
not brilliant or beautiful

you are a bad idea

rock star in the back seat of a taxi
burned popcorn
top shelf, at half price

you are everything I want

you are a poem I cannot write

a word I cannot translate

you are an exit wound

a name I cannot bring myself

to say aloud

unsolicited advice to adolescent girls with crooked teeth and pink hair

When your mother hits you, do not strike back. When the boys call asking
your cup size, say A, hang up. When he says you gave him blue balls, say
you’re welcome. When a girl with thick black curls who smells like bubble
gum stops you in a stairwell to ask if you’re a boy, explain that you keep
your hair short so she won’t have anything to grab when you head-butt her.
Then head-butt her. When a guidance counselor teases you for handed-down
jeans, do not turn red. When you have sex for the second time and there is no
condom, do not convince yourself that screwing between layers of underwear
will soak up the semen. When your geometry teacher posts a banner reading:
“Learn math or go home and learn how to be a Momma,” do not take your
first feminist stand by leaving the classroom. When the boy you have a crush
on is sent to detention, go home. When your mother hits you, do not strike
back. When the boy with the blue mohawk swallows your heart and opens his
wrists, hide the knives, bleach the bathtub, pour out the vodka. Every time.
When the skinhead girls jump you in a bathroom stall, swing, curse, kick, do
not turn red. When a boy you think you love delivers the first black eye, use
a screw driver, a beer bottle, your two good hands. When your father locks the
door, break the window. When a college professor writes you poetry and
whispers about your tight little ass, do not take it as a compliment, do not wait,
call the Dean, call his wife. When a boy with good manners and a thirst for
Budweiser proposes, say no. When your mother hits you, do not strike back.
When the boys tell you how good you smell, do not doubt them, do not turn
red. When your brother tells you he is gay, pretend you already know. When
the girl on the subway curses you because your tee shirt reads: “I fucked your
boyfriend,” assure her that it is not true. When your dog pees the rug, kiss her,
apologize for being late. When he refuses to stay the night because you live in
Jersey City, do not move. When he refuses to stay the night because you live
in Harlem, do not move. When he refuses to stay the night because your air
conditioner is broken, leave him. When he refuses to keep a toothbrush at your
apartment, leave him. When you find the toothbrush you keep at his apartment
hidden in the closet, leave him. Do not regret this. Do not turn red.
When your mother hits you, do not strike back.

4.11 / November 2009