LONELINESS LOOKS LIKE MY FAVORITE LOVER
i am trying to live a softer life but march still hangs heavy around my neck,
like an old halo that has forgotten i am still living.
it is sad. you took the light and left a leash.
now i am always hungry,
begging tomorrow for just one more chance with yesterday.
i’m here by the skin of my teeth. i’m here because once,
when i tried to get out of the pool, loneliness dragged me back in
and i’ve been holding my breath ever since.
party’s over. it ended before we arrived.
we spent too long sitting in your car describing each other’s faces in the dark,
as if we both already knew what was coming.
my mistake. i thought if we were quiet enough the night would leave us alone.
instead, the fog took what it always does and suddenly
we were left with unrecognizable limbs, teeth cut by want.
being left behind is a lingering consequence.
my only regret is not disappearing first.
EXISTENTIALISM HANDS ME MY DIPLOMA
& just like that, i’ve forgotten all that i’m good at / the quiet fear suddenly blinking and kicking after living in a cave of gold stars / test scores carved onto the wall / 4.0 Gone Point Average and valedictorian of temporary victories / now / i say i’m a director but don’t even know the direction of my own life / someone hand me a heartbeat sheet before the end credits roll / before i lose my mouth to a stranger’s hands without memorizing a script first / pressure makes diamonds but what if i want to be more soft than sparkling / trust me / i never did this for treasure / glass eyes wrapped in hunger / just wanted to weave wonder onscreen / spark the same feeling i’m still writing love letters to even when my mailbox stays empty / test question: how do i become lighter than all the water crashing in me? / buoy instead of body? / oh / there they go again / the stranger’s hands / so desperate for the pearl of my teeth i go silent before the kidnapping / long-term / i fear i’m walking on a tightrope with luck / (and everyone is watching to see if i fall) / so i’m frantically building a guesthouse in every story i pray lives longer than me / if not for me / then for all my loves both new and lost / look / these stained glass windows / flowers that never die / each month on the calendar named after a different joy / tulips, wishbone, bubblegum / coffee so strong that even when the world ends i know we’ll make it to the other side / let me get your coat / i promise it’s safe here / even when it’s storming / even when the stranger with the serpent tongue is knocking at the door / says he’s new to the neighborhood / just wants to be friends / and all he’s asking for / is your name
WHEN JACQ FROM SOULCYCLE SAYS “DO NO HARM BUT TAKE NO SHIT,”
i’m still sweating rivers but know right then and there
i would cross an ocean if she yelled to do so in her headset.
YOU DON’T NEED TO FORCE PEOPLE TO SEE YOUR POWER!
she shouts, and i pedal faster while flume blasts through the speakers.
TAKE ME TO THE PROMISED LAND JACQ, i want to yell.
you incredibly toned woman, SHOW ME THE PATH!
when you stop going to church,
anyone who makes you feel good enough becomes their own kind of god.
so when jacq points at her chest and calls out to TAP INTO THIS, you listen.
among the sea of white women and flashing lights,
i dig inside for whatever hasn’t been hallowed out by the year.
there isn’t much, in all honesty, but sometimes it’s just about the reach.
in the aftermath of a hard summer, i think about the softness of daily gifts:
jared saving me after i calmly set a sausage link on fire
lauren and i realizing the “daisy jones & the six” tv adaption is actually kind of bad
durga chew-bose & heartstoppers & blue fin wine galore
out of all the saltwater that has left my body the last few months,
this is the only kind i’d welcome again.
02/28/23 notes from when i crashed my best friend’s asian american lit class
1) words for family in asian languages do not hold the same weight as they do in the english language.
instead, they are nuanced & indicate one or more of the following: care, place, respect.
- when madison calls me her older sister, i am just a body born of the same blood that just so
happened to arrive before her.
- but when she calls me “jie,” i am 10 and making sure she doesn’t drown in claire’s swimming
pool when she claims wearing floaties are not cool. “jie,” and i am driving us to school in the
year we coexisted in silence. “jie,” and i claim responsibility for wherever her breath falls.
2) stories are not supposed to be a simple run-through-the-meadow.
they’re supposed to take you to some place so when you go through hard times you don’t feel as alone
- at least there is always a girl singing by my side throughout all the heartbreak.
niki for when the world ended. sza for when it ran again. if not all the songs,
then the poems my heart crawled into in order to make it through the night.
- when i’m crying, i want olivia gatwood to hold my hand.
3) “i like where this is going because you are all afraid.”
translation – discussions are productive when participants bridge fear with observation.
- throw me in dialogue about the future and i’ll win every argument.
let me show what i learned in speech & debate, how to run a cost-benefit analysis
of all my current loves and their associated risks.
- once, i told my poetry coach i was nervous. he said “good. it means you care.”
4) killing a child to win sympathy in a story is the easy route out. a killing has to be earned.
- in my friendships that have died, i’m either holding the knife or the one buried under.
whichever the case, i have no regrets about this afterlife. when i disappear,
let it be for the good of the story and nothing else.
(question for next class: how do i make sure i am not just a plot device in someone else’s arc?
if i consider a different narrative for myself, does this one still ring true?)
USED TO BE A STUDENT ATHLETE NOW I’M A POST-GRAD WITH A BLANK JERSEY
and when summer races by / i regret being the last leg / all ego and no training here i am / palms sweaty / blood heavy / thinking i could outrun longing in baggy Levi’s and no warm up / didn’t think time would stretch / didn’t think i’d move this slow / despite 10 years of playing soccer / back then / when i was stuck / i’d pass the ball back for someone to send it further forward / tried to adopt this analogy into my own life / but lately when i turn
around / no one is there / don’t even know what i want to send forward / the almost-love from oregon? / a dream that may be someone else’s? / it seems like a cruel joke / you think you’ve learned the rules of life but then you wake up one day / and the field switches up on you / turns into an arena / best friends once in the stands now lost in the dust / your “what-if’s” always out of bounds on the court / we’ve played this game for eons / yet
God is a different kind of ref for everyone / and i’m tired of questioning whether or not He is on my side / someone says / you judge your growth by the amount of people you leave behind / but i fear i’ll meet no one better / boys will break defense with me but then walk off right before the final shot / say we have the same goals then find another match / when moving on becomes a daily practice / off-season seems more desirable than crossing the finish line /
i used to play for points / now i play for peace / forget a gold medal / it’s a win as long as i have a hand to hold on the way home / as long as there’s someone who wants to wear my name on their back / if there’s any glory / let it be be won without another fall / let me pay the price with something other than my heart / let it look like a love that never leaves / even when everyone else does / and the air is still / and the only breath we hear / is our own
QUIET ON SET
i never dream the same dream twice. those with nightmares call this a blessing, but even so
i’d like to be reminded of what my monsters look like. so far i’ve just been guessing –
calling everything too good to be true a catastrophe in hiding. chase the feeling, they said.
so i listened. but now i can’t stop running even when the bad guy’s been killed perfectly on the
first take and the director’s called for lunch. here i am in the bathroom, panting from the
rushing stardom of it all. funny, how this is the set of my life and yet someone else is still
making the calls of when i get to go on break. so i’m facetime with my mom, asking her all
the questions i know she doesn’t have the answers to. am i the bad guy? holding myself back?
she tells me i’m the star, but i don’t remember auditioning for the feeling of being constantly watched.
but maybe we’re both wrong. maybe i’m just the PA trying to navigate where this
story is headed without spilling coffee all over my ghosts. i chased the feeling, but now
my feet are bleeding and i’ve got no body to come home to except the one i left with. i chased
the feeling, but forgot to double-knot my heartstrings and now i’m falling behind in this race
for recognition. great. now there’s blood on the floor. and everyone’s asking for more,
saying the story will look more realistic this way but i don’t even know what i’m fighting for.
so now i’m crying in the dressing room, naming every set piece in an attempt to prove
i’ve contributed to the luck of my own life. here are the bodies i’ve renamed hope,
here is the work i’ve renamed god and prayed it’ll make a church out of me. a vessel to praise,
myth to call holy, i’ve been so busy scouting a sanctuary for other stories i’ve forgotten
what the hymn of my own heartbeat sounds like. now, i’m waiting for someone that isn’t me to
yell cut! to tell me where i was before this chaos started. waiting for someone to strike the set
and hoping i’ve prepared enough so the lights are the only things fading to black.
I KEEP CRYING ABOUT THE SAME THINGS THEY JUST WEAR DIFFERENT FACES NOW
it took a while, but i finally cracked the code.
you can only be at so many places at once so at some point, stillness is the only option.
see? don’t you feel better? a thin slice of time, carved just for the birthday girl.
i guess so. as long as i can get back to the noise as fast as blowing out a candle.
sorry. can we switch the subject? too much silence and i won’t know how to crawl out of it again.
now, i know better than to wait for the lightyear. dyed my hair 10 times and
still she’s dreaming of other planets, so i walk the orbit with other hands holding the rim.
somehow, i feel safer going slower this way.
somehow, the world is only as big as your heart feels.
so i’m expanding mine by holding as many names i can under my tongue,
waiting for them to turn into pearls.
yours is taking forever.
so again, i double-knot my shoes for the long run.
loving someone is breaking a wishbone and hoping they get the larger piece.
(praying you’re somehow still in the dream, whatever it may be.)
i’m used to falling short, but it’s okay.
i’m learning other games on the playground.