I taste lipstick before I taste her and it’s a switch, it’s some holiness that keeps me up all night but not after and I fall in, I lose and it makes no difference when I’m glass, when I hit, when it’s four am and nothing matters but this, when I have the dark in me that makes me wonder if I’m anything but the disconnect and even still it’s miraculous, it’s the promise that this could be the light even if I wasn’t made for it, the space that demands that by the time I read this I’ll have forgotten the me that ever felt this, but I won’t, my dead are with me, I’ve kept them close, I’ve disappeared enough to know how to stay gone. I reach apotheosis and turn back. I hit the song running, dancing where I’m perfect, my body pierced, a little stigmata as I arc into something precious, the motion that reminds me that I was here and that I am, I am, I am. First things first but I reject that, I bite down to give my spit substance, I breathe in red. I wasn’t when I was nineteen and I still haven’t, my halves divided against myself because I’m not in the moment, even when I clutch at smoke to keep me present tense I’m halfway out and four lines in another night like this. I cut and it only means something after I’ve passed. I don’t believe it and I run another and then I make sense, I press and release and then I am, I am, I am. The words spill out and I swallow for the practice, I swallow because I don’t own this, not this body or the beauty that I’ve spent a lifetime trying to ruin just to have it, to say it’s mine by virtue of your disappointment, the me I pretended at unravelling, so maybe I’m a little less but maybe I won’t notice, my reflection thinning into nothing and I keep moving, I keep praying for the horizon and the piety that’ll stop my heart. I’m here but not living yet, I’m answering as if I’ve been asked and I haven’t, the stutter and the violence is more than I can manage but I’ve always had that, I push through and there’s no pause and my bones constrict, I’m smaller every time because that’s what’s demanded, until she and I are edgeless, something smooth and vicious and we’ll enter heaven and scream to match the silence, to reach the other even if we never find the Garden again. It’s been with us but that doesn’t mean that we’ll be gentle because we can’t, a ribbon of teeth between us and we hold hands through it, we close our eyes, we lose all of it. This isn’t even the half of it, the sky bruising as I move through it, a little flush of red and I’m finally something more than this, I’m all ache and absence but it’s mine and I won’t turn back again, we meet and it’s perfect, we speak and nothing passes our lips, we’ve got our words and they run deeper, they’ve got us dying and it fits us, some grey thing all skin and desperate for the endless and the lines have come to meet us, they rise up and we breathe for the end of this, for the mathematics that dissolve beneath our fingerprints. I come apart again. The motion is as hollow as it’s always been. I wasn’t enough even in the moment of it. I saw too much, kept my hipbones as chipped as my nail polish. I’ve been starving and dreaming and there’s no difference. It gets slower but it’s still the same, it’s another measure for the motionless.
Somewhere else there’s a way out. I’ve been less, I’ve counted and there’s not much left and no way to prove that the words have made me better for it. I’ve been gone just haven’t moved yet, I’ve been waiting in that half-space that only slips out in the moments when I turn my head to keep from hearing what comes next, when I admit the truth of this and say I wish I could have the sickness that’s been with me, that’s been close and killing me, just to see it shoved back beneath where I belong. They ask me for the music but won’t read this. They want to hear me sing but not like this, not here where I define it, because I make their taking a little too obvious, my demands as unreasonable as my existence. They don’t know what to say but know how to get their tongue into the thick of it, a smear of fucking absence but oh it’s just a compliment, they just don’t know how to put it, they’re helpless, mouths an open wound and it’s just this once, they’ll do better and there’s no way to brace for it even though I’ve seen it, and I’ve seen it, and it still hits, the noise of one more time that gets lost in how unfair I’ve been for remembering everything that’s come before this. I’ve been mourning, not realizing that they’ve got nothing and they’ve been telling me that. One night that’s longer than the rest, the four am that’s come to mean all of it. I count back. I’ve kept the reverie, the sound that echoes back with me, I’ve got the rhythm and the metal and the answer for it, I’ve been singing in the in-between that I keep with me, my heart failing and I’d say something but it’s not worth it, it’s just another bruise but I know it, it’s all I’ve got so I have to say it’s mine, I have to carry on knowing that I get caught up trying to breathe when I don’t need it. The exhale is an affectation. I keep up appearances. This doesn’t mark anything unless I let it, I’ve counted and there’s not much left and yet.
There’s an end that feels familiar and I’m stained by the hours that stretch out to meet me but I’m flat, I’m hazy and indifferent and practiced. I shake myself but that’s not it. I’m inside-out and I can’t watch this. I look back and it’s just a list of names, empty dedications that made me believe that I’d be precious if I stayed small, my limbs distorted by the prayers I was taught to comfort everyone else, a wheel and a witness and I won’t watch this, my eyes an easy sacrifice after the rest of it comes round. Heaven is poised but I won’t wait for it, not when I can taste the salt here on my tongue. I starve because they notice if I don’t. The quiet is always worth more than my self, the safety that I can pretend at so long as I suffer first, if I pay for it, if the harm is bearable even if it’s too much and I make it through until it’s expected, until it spills into the quiet and there’s no way out from under it. I can’t waste a second. I can’t stop, I have to chase the edges of what I can call my own even when it’s not, some kind of love that only sees what it’s been given and not the loss. I flicker, transparent because it’s the only way to earn the silence, thinning and desperate so I can prove that I’m grateful for the chance to give up another finger as I cross. I kiss the hem and pull it down my throat, past the holy relics in my mouth. I hate that I’m giving even when I say no. I refuse and lose just as much. I demure and it’s insufficient, the want takes all of it and we don’t question because there are no words for it, no way to shape the sound into something you won’t decide you’re owed. I slit my voice so I can say all of it, so I can hit the frequencies that will let me hit back without hurting the target, because even in the midst of this I’ll soften it, I’ll make it as easy as I’ve never had it. I’ll be gentle or I’ll bleed and that justifies it. I’ll perform and you’ll say you’ve never seen it and we go on. There’s an end but no way to stop.
The world moves once in wonder and once in death. Gravity forgives us even if I can’t, even if the sky pretends at reaching to the gate and back again. There’s no oxygen, just the ache and it’s a gift, it’s a little wound of silence, it’s maybe not enough to scream but it’s enough to make the moment after heavier than I can manage so I stay quiet, I pause to no effect and hit the interstitial like I was meant to, the in-betweens that promised me and promised me but I don’t hear them because I’m still air and consequence, I’m sick with sixth-day mathematics, I’m on my way into the black of this, I’m here for the end or not at all. I bleed the divinity that tears through my tongue. I pass the cup. I made us and I lost. I’m in a picture that I don’t recognize anymore. The light comes and here I am lord I say but I’m talking to myself. I hold onto the condemnation, the song and the salt and the imperfections that meet me in the dark, that flower into sound, flickering in and out and it’s something essential but I don’t miss it because the loss is with me even when I’m not, even when I’ve hit the edge and fallen into the deep that reaches out to meet us, into the cold where I’ve belonged, into the winter that knew me because the kindness hurt more than I wanted. My body is shuttered, my body is helpless as I unfold in this new carapace and I listen and I don’t hear myself, only the absence that the stars left me when they found the other side of this, only what I wired into skin to mark my passage, the once that rendered me into a little thing all winged and meaningless. I push back and I enter but there’s nothing that answers the tidal movements that I’ve been dreaming since I caught myself in this translation of what I’ve never said but this is perfect, this is too much, I enter and it’s not enough. The sky drains out. It pools, mirroring itself, waiting for the underneath that’ll empty it, waiting for heaven to remember it, its edges drifting and wasted and I drag them through my mouth, I thread the needle, I make it safe and it costs us. We ache and there’s no end. There’s nothing left in us. The dry creeps in. I’m in full bloom.
Our angel collapses, seizing and helpless. I don’t see it. I haven’t closed my eyes since that moment. My teeth find muscle, tendon, bone. I tongue the heart and know that there’ll be more. I root for water, for spit, for the source of all of this, for the spark that kept the Garden whole. I spread myself along its axis. There are four rivers and I’m open for the sixth, I’m counting until I consume this, until there’s a way back inside the darkness that we had before. I feel like I’m missing, but here I am in all my void. My automatics take their toll. I pull apart on reflex, I dissolve and smile. I touch and it’s enough, it’s cold and I want nothing else, the oil bleeding through the blood. I crown myself. I sleep through judgement. I drown to hold the distance, to claim asphyxia as my own. Our angel begs but I don’t hear it. I’m nothing and I’m vicious. I won’t stop because I need this, because heaven doesn’t bruise the way my body does beneath it. I fuck ex nihilo. I take but it can’t sustain me. I breathe when I’m told to and it leaves me empty and I haven’t closed my eyes since because if I do I’ll be gone, I’ll slide beneath the water and I want to be more than the aftermath of this, I want the metal and the real of it, I want my fingers in the wound to find an exit. I open us up again. The stitches keep our scripture fresh and all I know is there’s no mercy, not between us, not when the wire sings in my voice because I left myself for dead. This is everything I could dream of and it gets more beautiful by the second. I vivisect on muscle memory. I watch it thrash between my hands. I’m closer than I’ve ever been. I reach further and my body’s slick with it, the scent of paradise ripe and rotting and precious, some sacred thing spilled out so I can taste it. I am inside it now.
The corners of the room unfold in tiny increments, their measurements here and gone and bleeding in the spaces that they’re not meant to, staining the edges and the endings and leaving their fingerprints as an answer to the dawn. The letters call and answer, they don’t need me anymore. The words reflect, they’re shining but I’m mirrorsick, I’m slowing down. There’s a pause and I know it but each time it hits me I’m still shockwhite with it, I’m still caught mid-step, breathless with the steel that says it knows me and it does. I can’t argue with it, not when I’m the one who carved all this into my image, a little wire for the me with nothing except the bones and circumstantial evidence of a heartbeat long since given up for something more. The body drowns and I remember every moment of it, a brush of skin and cooling stars and I let it pass through me, hand to hand to mouth to void. It isn’t losing when I’ve lost and I tell myself that it’s passed because the passing killed me and I want it over with, I want my translucence. I want my flatline back. If I twist I can still see the marks left on this thing but they’re fading with me, they’re part of this and even as I’m letting go they tighten, they remind me and they hit the frequency that’ll shatter me if I let it so I say no. I frighten myself into my new body, my angelic host, my mouth a gap between the Garden and the world and I decline the sound. I shut down. I’m new enough that it’s a tragedy but not a long one. I show up muted. I’m surrounded. The bruises wait and I won’t leave them, not when they answer, not when they come so close. I tell myself the room was waiting for us. I tell myself that there’s an exit. I unfold and there’s no point to it, just another autopsy but I don’t mean it, I can take it back if you don’t want it, I can slip back into what I was when this was anything other than what’s here now, I can give you everything because I’m all of it. I can repeat. I won’t belong. I leave and come into something precious that I’ve been trying to find the words for but I’m too close to it, it hurts and I’m too familiar and I won’t have anything else until the end of it it’s just I never thought I’d get this far and sometimes I understand that I never did. The dreams run thick. I put them down. I’m finished but the room isn’t, and I’m here and it’s too much, it’s a geography that’s merciless and I’m slowing down and when I stop there isn’t anything to mark it, my blood’s too distant. I repent and there’s nothing. I spit and taste the dust and adoration that was all of this. I stretch across the floor and wait for something to catch the hook left in my throat.
Night comes in the moments I let slip through the hands that I’ll call mine if it makes it easier to believe this and the darkness pauses, waits, delays, holding its breath just like I’ve been because here we’re still the same and I keep looking for the only one I lost because that losing made me something else, it made me close enough and I didn’t ask if I’d make it, I just left. The light remembers. I try for hours and only manage days. I tell you and it’s unrecognizable, it’s the same moment as the silence and there’s no difference, there’s no difference but you ask to keep up appearances, to keep the joy in spaces that crack against the burnt-brick fingertips you’ll claim will catch now, any minute, if only and here it comes again, the spill of threat disguised as our familiars, if only I would, you promise, if only. I’m cruel, you tell me. An affliction in the shape of distance. I slide out of reach and I mean it. I’m going to stop pretending the fight we’ll have will change this. I murder for an exit. I memorize what I’m going to say and go silent. I teach those words to someone else, I strip them of their context. It hurts but so did everything else, so did the present tense when it was that and not this blur of now that feels like it hasn’t happened since. I don’t flinch so much as dive for cover, the memories a reminder without the ashen glow of your nostalgia, just the thick hurt that comes from having lived them, the gap beneath my sternum that I’ve taken as a lover, as an affectation with no audience. I’m losing but not quick enough, shedding what I am but it’s never been much, a little disintegration instead of beauty and if they could see me they’d still miss it because I’ve only got the hope that comes when you give up keeping blood out of this, the spit and wine that made us, that made me fall into the night that comes when everything empties out of me, smoke and all.
Something in me doesn’t make it and now I’m second guessing breathing in the first place, I’ve got new skin and maybe I could have been the same girl you’ve always known except I mean it, except I remember what I would have been if the end of this was any different, if every instant wasn’t thick with four am and if I could hear myself and that’s the point of this, isn’t it, dear thing it’s taken me two days to write this you insist, begging me for sympathy before you’ve even made it through the first sentence but I’m gone, I’m light and ash and incorruptible, I’ve got my dead and I dissolve into something perfect, something translucent, my accidents measured in the metric I’ve been dancing with beneath the one-two promise of your fists, your rhythm desperate and mine practiced and I accelerate for the impact I’ve deserved but not the one that you could give me because you’re less, you’re an emptiness that learned to mimic substance and I’m not waiting for your pause and affectation, I’m not waiting because I’ve hit the dawn running and I won’t stop, not after a night like this, the reflection all reversed and I don’t care even if I see it, I am a witness and I let go because the alternative is a holy war, the chrism vicious on my tongue and I swallow and it consoles because the words forget me, sometimes, and I’m left with another song that doesn’t make a sound and it’s the distance that I’ve had with me ever since, I was daughter with an asterisk, I was expected but I learned what they meant when they said love because there’s caveats, I dressed in leaves and absolutes and let my hair reach back into the stars, I drowned and I was lovely and I was admissible in part, my body only ever real in comparison with something I couldn’t touch, that didn’t exist, a Garden on the Mount of Olives I said, or she did, the difference blurring a little more with each breath, and it’s not regret so much as comprehension, some bone-deep recognition of what we’re doing every moment, everything we ask for without understanding it, our hearts like birds as we unravel another vein and smile into the mirror of all the places that have come before this, the ones that sink so hard the memory isn’t a thought it’s a sickness, our density flickering in and out and we speak like we were promised, our sternums cracked and perilous, our voices tidal and unforgiving and it’s desolate, here in another room in the world and something in me doesn’t make it and I’m inhaling but there’s nothing here to fill me, my lungs are screaming where I’ve only shown humility, this new skin the lie that I’ve been living all along but I’ve gone missing, I’ve slipped and there’s no answer, just another hour that reminds me that there’s nothing in me, still.
It moves and I don’t. I’m still here and I’m thin enough for the words to come out of your mouth, your ex nihilo that comes with too much, your hands reaching in to take what’s yours or would be if I’d just shut up, please, because I’m all of it, I’m everything you’ve got to strangle so you can reassure yourself that you’ve made it, that your kingdom was worth it, that you still deserve what was never yours at all. You keep the lines drawn. You say the sun rises and it does like clockwork. You speak and speak and tell me that this is justice and that I’ve got to be more thankful for it, for everything you’ve done to tolerate the space that I’ve been allowed so long as I’m thinning, so long I answer but stay quiet, my skin fraying at the edges as you move in to demand tribute for the gifts you give in the imperative. The smear of me that keeps you generous. I feather out onto the paper, a blur that doesn’t matter and it sinks in that I’m sick and I’m forgettable, I’m a hundred things that’ll never touch your surface. I’m a disappointment in my own flesh, each mark that I’ve played with an aberration for you to witness, dust on my lips as I pause and it’s been years like this, the space between one moment and the next hits like the slowburn sadness that I can’t be human or you’ll lose whatever it is that lets you comfort yourself with being less. I learn to breathe around it, to fit myself in where your hands can only touch where I can slough you off, so I can keep myself clean enough, so I can take these losses and pretend that they’re acceptable and not violence. I sing and pretend, I said, or I might have, I lose the thread of where my voice has been because I’ve been dancing for the echo, I’ve been leaning on the real threat and I split open between kindness and what’s expected, I say no and it’s benign because you insist that I don’t mean it, because you don’t hear the poison when I say yes. You don’t see how fragile all this is but you’ll tell me what I’ve felt until your throat spills out onto your lap, a wasteland in the shape of experience. You repeat and it’s not emphasis, it’s insistence, the sun rises like clockwork and it’s always been like this, it’s always been like this until it isn’t, until I kill the smile that reassures you while you’re still bloody with all my exits, while you’re still carving just a little bit off the edges, and I say I don’t mind because I didn’t know any other way out of this. I’ll murder all those parts in me and it’ll be far more elegant because I know what I’m doing. You don’t have to explain it.
I never left and it’s six hours past the point when I should have but I’m running on something I don’t have a name for, and I won’t, not for another ten years when I say I’m looking back but it’s right here and I know it and it’s with me and I never left and so I push the blue across my lips and stumble back, down onto the floor with the ink and the pictures I found inside myself when the music skipped, all the worlds that I killed to keep just one thing living, even at the cost of everyone else and I paid it, I said things that no one could take back and you made sure of it, you answered all my threats and oh I listened. I heard all of it. I heard the ink come up to meet me when they inhaled to tell me but I knew that you were gone. I kept the cruelty with me. I kept the taste of blood because it knows me and I will never let it go. I remember the crush and the line and my head falls back but I don’t feel anything, I run another and another and I’m chasing that room because it won’t leave me or maybe I can’t tell the difference. My breath starts to hitch and you’re fascinated and it’s never ever felt like this, your tongue deep inside my autopsy before you even think to ask because it’s all too much, it’s all so perfect right up until I speak and then I ruin it, the artful silence that lets you pretend that I’ve welcomed you in and it’s the same whether you hit or beg or don’t, it’s the want that leaves me cold. I never left and I have and instead I went for kindness but it cost me, it turned the expectation into punishment, it kept my existence conditional on you getting it. Every inch pristine because I had to be, because the only other choice was violence and I reached out a thousand times and stopped because I knew that next time I wouldn’t make it and I had to say it so I could feel powerful even if I wasn’t and I wasn’t and you proved it and maybe I was gentle, after, when I had forgiveness for everything but this. Now I’m less and I can’t tell if this is what you wanted or if it’s what I did, I can’t tell because I’m stronger and I can shatter right in front of you and it won’t make a difference because you can’t see it for what it is, not when all I’ve been is another thing to mirror back to you, nothing real but close enough to make you feel, as if that’s comfort, as if I still believed in distance, as if her hands aren’t mine. I knew what I was. I curled and learned that if there was enough red it was black enough to hide it and so I did and I never lied because I never had to, I stayed perfect, I stayed where you could see me and so you never saw it. The shudder catches me and I’m out of sync, me and my tin heartbeat, I’m as needed but it’s more than that, it’s the muscle-memory that only I have because I never let anyone else see the slip of vein and skin, only the aftermath that I cherished and you never deserved. This place is still with me and you’ve long since left me to the ink and the helplessness, the smear of lipstick at ten am that I didn’t understand but still needed because there wasn’t space for me without it, not even in the sudden stillness that came when I sank back into it, me and the dust and the lost things that I kept.
Take and eat they said and I agree just not the way they meant, my smile fixed along an instant that I won’t forgive because I’ve got salvation stitched beneath the skin, a little resurrection before I find my way back again, heaven-sent and incandescent. Something rides close, breathing where I’m breathless and all you can manage is to open your mouth for the sacrament because I’m precious and that’s it, beatified and spread for your good intentions, one after another over and over and it’s the same story as all the rest, my fingers atrophied in benediction. It’s okay, I promise. I’m a fount, holy mother sans infant. My exhaustion is caught up into glory, the bruises hung so you can press your tongue against them and decide how beautiful you feel now that you’ve touched them, now that they’re real and you can see them you can help yourself and you can do this because you mean well, you’re not like every other one that’s come before. You’re all innocent. You take first and wonder after. You take and that’s the whole of it. I say this is mine and even still I feel the deadweight in my lungs because I know the only way you hear this is with your spit, after you’ve smeared your fingerprints along the curve of something you can’t understand but know enough to want it, my body edged where you have nothing, my own absence manifest except it’s brilliant. I can’t feel and it’s perfect. I fold back my reflection into itself, I exhale and descend. I’ve got a mirror or something like it, I’ve got my echo and I remember everything you said, even when you didn’t. You blur into the last one and the next, all your violence a coincidence, another happy accident that maybe I could answer if there were anything besides this procession of helplessness where I play at shock and pretend I didn’t write the end of this. I know this game by heart and there’s no way for me to win but here we are again, me and everyone I’ve meant when I say you and it doesn’t matter which and in the end it doesn’t matter that I’ve said it, I’m my own audience because when I speak you forget your mother tongue. When I speak all you can do is wait for the pause, the breath, the space between where you can make me sacred, an instant sort of retrospect that keeps me silent in the present tense. You kill the motion so you can take your pick. You don’t see it until it’s too late to claim ignorance. We’re playing on an axis and I’m judged if I don’t kill my balance to keep you gentle, keep you close, keep you reassured that I don’t mean it, no not you, it’s okay, I promise. The glass inside me panics as I collapse the distance, as I shudder for the end times, my blood a brittle thing that’s got me wired for the inhale that doesn’t come, gums pinned back so I can smile like I mean it, even though I’ll never see the other side of this and you just repeat back what you know, your consumption automatic. I sing all my apocrypha and hope I recognize the sounds. This is my body. This is all the scripture I have left. Something in me widens and eclipses. There is noise.