I am not a snake,
because I have these big cracked hands,
because I cannot shed my skin so quickly.
I am not the awkward amends
in a high school yearbook.
I am not a cop’s baton
or his nightmares. I am
not the poet asking what it all means.
I am not what it all means.
I am not a snake,
because somebody didn’t write you love letters,
you wrote yourself love letters.
because no one tucked you into bed,
you kissed your fingers, pressed them to your head.
because flowers didn’t grow in your backyard,
you drew eden on the bones in your arms.
Figure I’ll die before I’ve stomped myself into dry dirt.
Figure the ocean will spit me back up
and swallow me again. Do I taste like sugar?
Like sweat, like stomach acid, empty spaces,
knives, copper, linen, song?
Figure a sunny day,
when my knees bend backward,
I will be a luggage-fit,
I am eating sand like an ostrich
sand between crooked teeth
in split lip ground in sand
in my nostrils inhale breathe in
small grains hundreds exhale.
We are shadows.
Stacking shades of grey,
Building shadows and
Mismatched scrambled jigsaw pieces and
Empty thank you cards
And “shut up” goodbyes.
There’s a thud in that hurricane room,
then small feet fast on pavement.
Small steps across the huge street.
There are slinking neighbors,
so many hands.
Quick speech, small words,
There are night lights, roses,
small feet tip-toeing shapes in the backyard sand,
leftovers for dinner, and bruises.
Not a story of the way my childhood
built me, staunch skyscraper,
braced for quake, graffiti eyes.
An architecture leaning forward,
and so much broken glass.
The man who sits across from me
on the train into the city is thin. And his old hemmed pants
repel his thin legs,
as if they don’t want to be near him.
And his thin eyes are empty,
and the corners are afraid. His thin fingers drag
along his face and his fingertips press
between his grey eyebrows, and his shoes,
oil-stained suede, shuffle nervously
on the train’s floor.
He looks like
what giving up looks like.
When the bigger men come
and spit their chewing tobacco on
our kitchen floors
and grind and mash their teeth
and speak in soft tones, make us
move close to hear their ugly jokes
There is a man who plays piano like it’s his job
It’s his job to make some money to feed his kids to maintain a socially acceptable home life slash cocaine habit
But like it’s his job
To remind everyone else that music is brutal and real love makes you sick
To keep people guessing when all they really really want is the whole world’s cheat sheet
To warm a room with his hands and to hand out chills to the few who deserve them.
This man plays piano like it’s his lover