animal’s strokefists cannot permeate the small treehouse in my mind where poppa’s smell of crushed sage and honey decorate the walls with warmth. i climb the heavy branches and press my feet against the grooves in the bark until i enter the soft cushion of his smell. it whispers love and i release my broken self and gently place it on the floor. i shrink into gingerbread size and enclose myself here.
soon i hear the sound of daddy coming home from work. i tip toe rush into his arms and he swings me around like a paper doll. he ruffles my hair and calls me sunshine. animal, daddy, and i sit at a tiny table stump. we eat banana nut bread together as daddy teaches animal the boundaries of touch. animal’s docile here and wags his head back and forth in awe of daddy. he helps me clear the table and then i put him in his pink cage. i give him a treat and pat his head and he smiles up at me.
we are only a family here — in the confines of these branches, the only place i can make sure daddy takes his lithium pills. daddy doesn’t beatbeatbeat animal (and animal, in turn, doesn’t beattouch me) because he can control the jazz in his mind before it becomes too frenzied, too intense, like it is about to ooze his brain cells out of his ear. he doesn’t slip so far below the bottom that he cannot get out of bed, loses his sixth job in the past three months, and leaves animal and i to find a way to keep the bill hunters away. he is our lion daddy here and finally he protects us.
an extension of the characters in jasmine.
photo by mrtriggerfinger.
his sadness is the kind that clings, fills oceans, and causes floods in your desire to help make him whole.
i want to infuse him with love. i want to be the heat that recedes the depth of his need. i’m not the first; perhaps the number of people who have felt the same could fill a small country. when he allows it, his charm hides his infinite voids, and he makes you laugh in places that feel like they were created by him. he awakens dead tissue in your love organ.
the chambers of my heart swell for him. i wrap my body around him and try to immerse love into his pores, try to let touch be a filter for my feelings.
he is the master of his own destiny though. i cannot drift to the dreamland he goes to with tall five-eyed monsters who tell him he’s not good enough so many times that he starts to foam at the mouth and shake.
i place cold wash cloths against his temple when he’s stilled. i press my lips against his and breathe warm, giant gulps of life into the depths of his lungs. you will never drown me like the others, i whisper when his breathing still hasn’t become regular. let it out.
he hides his face in my chest and softly cries the monsters out from his soul. i love you, he says, the vibration of his words stroking the middle of my chest. there’s a brief moment before he falls back to sleep where i see a sliver of darkness, a portion of his ocean of sadness, dissipate. it closes the flood gates another inch; it keeps me swimming.
i sat beside his chair every night for as long as he would let me
his eyes stayed so still it didn’t seem like he ever blinked
the air slowly squeezed in and out of his chest like his body
was in a constant struggle with life his cheek leaned against his hand
so loosely that it seemed like his head might droop onto the mahogany table
the grooves so thick in the wood that the table could split into two
splintering slowly like the mind of a person longing for love
he would stare at the ceiling for hours his arms clenched around his body
so tightly that i think he forgot i was there watching him
he whispered her name softly his eyes racing back and forth
across the ceiling as though they were chasing after something
i stroked my hand against his cheek and he stared at me
the wild haunted glaze in his eyes disappearing behind dark chocolate walls
his lips slowly curved into a mechanical grin
like we were strangers meeting for the first time in a fantasy world
where people and pain stayed behind their assigned walls
as he ran his fingers through my hair and told me to go to bed
reader, i’m on the opposite side of your screen. can you feel me?
reach your hand through the page and stroke the nape of my neck. there’s a brief moment where you can slip your hand through the pixellated colors of your monitor and feel the wires of the machine wrap against your wrist as you get deeper and deeper into the computer and closer and closer to my neck.
reach for me and i’ll instinctively lean my head towards your fingers and feel the ripples in the ocean of our love as your hand runs up and down my skin. when your arm starts to weaken from the incredible stress involved in being in so many worlds at once, i’ll let out a soft whimper as i start to feel you pull away.
i can’t make my own ripples or contain enough love to fill a puddle of water. i’m not really an animal; i can’t sustain myself. i belong in the plant kingdom. i’m mostly broken. i could break and scatter the rest of myself into a small patch of soil and become something beautiful that you could keep in your sunroom and water each day. i would learn to grow tall, leaning towards the direction of your voice. i could live for you.
when we’re once again on opposite sides of the computer screen and you don’t know what to say to me because of course i can’t be your plant and you really are tired of my sad poems weighing you down, i’ll type “don’t worry. this is fiction.” you can breathe a big sigh of relief as you turn off your computer and decide on what you’re going to make yourself for dinner, completely unaware that without you, i am darkness.
this poem is inspired by this painting by rick mobbs.
hold your breath and kiss me until joy travels through every orifice of your body.
. ……… . …… ………………………………. .
imagine us together forever. tuck yourself under the shade of the chocolate tree in our imagination, carve our initials s and e into the trunk with strawberry juice, and lay with me against the blue soil until dawn.
i stroke you over and over until the whip lashes tattooed into your brown skin shimmer like golden stars. you become so warm that you relearn how to feel and tears of happiness stream down your face as my laugh, slow crescendo of love tickles your cheek. i see the anatomy of a rainbow in your eyes.
just before nightfall, you point into the distance. tremors overcome our bodies as we see us in a future dreamland — young, happy, and free with our daughter by our side. we wake during the night surrounded by the remnants of her singsongy voice; she soothes us back to sleep.
. ……… . …… ………………………………. .
when morning comes and master finds us, we repeat “we dwell in the house of the lord” again and again. we are not afraid because we know that i am the sun and you are the earth. our story is without end.
readwritepoem prompt: start a poem with the line when I watch you
when i watch you, you grimace and stick your tongue out. you give me the middle finger. you pull your collar up around your mouth. you stare back, determined to win this contest. you turn your face slightly to the right so i can only see your profile. you slowly lower your bra strap. you reach your hand down my sweat pants. you kiss the corner of my lips, watching me until the closeness blurs me from you.
“what do you see?” you ask. you point to the chicken pox scar on your forehead, which i kiss; your curly hair, which i stroke; the slightly forward way your shoulders arch, which i envelop.
“i see you, leaving and returning to me. shy, brave, sad, joyful little flashes of you; i love them all,” i say.
you blush, and turn off the light.
“now what do you see?”
“you happy. i can hear your smile.” i trace the curves of your lips in the dark with my fingers, and hold you close until you pull away.
“you scared to be happy for too long.”
I love him. He smells like jasmine. Jasmine — that’s what I call him and he lets me; he smiles. I’m the only one he lets, even though all the other girls try. He said it’s okay if we never do that. I told animal thinking it might shame him, but he only touched me more. I’m quiet, and I don’t cry.
Right before animal hits me, I surround myself with jasmine. I see myself in a field of flowers, the petals tickling my cheeks, the smell reaching all the way into the very bottom tip of my lungs and propelling coughs thick with jasmine if I take too much in at once. It’s as beautiful coming in as coming out – a slow inhale and exhale, don’t cough, don’t cough, don’t lose any of it, whose entire duration I treasure. Jasmine loves me.
Get off of me, you animal, I say. Jasmine makes me strong. I lose all thoughts, all reason, and my mind clears of everything but hate. It makes me push animal into the wall, again and again. It makes me kick and scream and bite him, blood slipping down my throat. I bit off a large portion of the skin right under animal’s collarbone when I was eleven. I hid in the woods, but he found me and he — I didn’t cry. I don’t cry. If you don’t cry, if you’re quiet, people love you. They learn to love you even though your hair is kinky type 4b and will never have defined curls. More like a sponge, animal tells me. A dirty sponge. I’m beautiful, you ugly fuck, I say, to myself, not to animal. I’m quiet, and I don’t cry.
p.s. part two of this story is here