face full of kisses

i am still wearing the sequin dress
from new years eve somehow
it has not wrinkled. i am still fish scales

& metal. the skin on my legs peels
like a sticker but my palms are as firm
and tight as persimmon skins. i prefer

to be fruit with a pit. berries are too
soft. i cannot afford to turn mush in the heat.
i tell you i might need some Real Help

this time. Real Help is above my pay grade.
this fear spreads like strawberries.
how else do things end up the way they end

up? i look wrapped in aluminum foil.
i tell myself once, it looked sexy.
once your back arched a question

& your pockets were always full
of quarters. there is lipstick beneath
my eyes no i can’t wipe this off, this

face full of kisses. some things do not come off
with soap and water. it is how i know
i have been in one place too long.

there is an art to living
longer than you can afford.
your body flaps like a drying dish

towel pulled tight by thin line. you say
you are grateful, that i am good
at doing what ever it is we are doing.

i have never been good at staying
put. i was made a wheel. or maybe
a wing.



i can’t tell what this is about, this want
for running. yesterday it was seven.
today, ten miles. my knees look like
tomatoes, squishy with the swell.
i have never been able to run that far.
walking down stairs takes twice
as long and both hands on the rails,
a full body endeavor. it started when
i stopped being so sad all the time.
or maybe i’m not so sad all the time
because of this. this self care
is indistinguishable from trying to hurt
just enough—it is harder to feel anything
much when the body is so tired.
the options: joints like vegetables
left too long in the sun & a touch
of seratonin. or body intact, unswollen & too
little want to leave the shower. once
i spent four hours behind the curtain
and only left because my heart beat
felt wrong from all the heat. no towel.
the water made a river to my bed.
the mold started slowly, sheets wet
for days it was like sleeping
inside a dewey corn husk it almost felt good
but not quite. nothing ever quite
felt good. now i am hair damp after
a normal length shower, legs
covered in bags of ice. a roommate finds me,
asks why do you do that to yourself. it is hard
to be honest the only real thing
to say is that it makes the bad thing
into something different. the last winter
storm knocks hard on the front door.
the roommate answers it, walks out
onto the porch in just his boxers. it’s hard
to see him, even so close. he leaves
the porch, down the street with no shoes.
the snow looks like pillows swinging
at his body. i imagine it doesn’t feel
quite so soft. maybe it is the good
kind of hurt. 

west wash

never have i had a schedule like this: one that feels
do-this-every-day-til-you-die. the same 1.1 miles
to work, sometimes puddles sometimes ice.
i pass a section 8 apartment building and try
to say good morning to everyone who will look
me in the eye. maybe it is polite habit maybe
i am just trying to help. i pass the buildings between
nine and nine fifteen. the cast is often the same:
woman with daughter holding her backpack strap
in her hand, dragging the tired old bag behind her.
middle aged man walking ridiculous puff of a dog,
its screeches audible through headphones.
i smile at him too but hate that thing, a sorry excuse
for a pet. the man who looks barely older than me
with a face full of potholes. his lips look indented
where the cigarette sits. he paces while he smokes,
as if walking the same six sections of sidewalk
might counteract the tar and carcinogens. i take
an extra long step to avoid an uncapped needle.
i am wearing boots with soles as thick as a steak
but you can never be too careful. i say good morning
as i pass and he breathes out heavy, lungfuls of
smoke catch in my hair and i know the lady
who sits next to me at work will notice the smell.
i wonder if he will do this every day now. if i will say
good morning and he will douse me in cigarette stink.
another addition to the list of rituals that come
with this sort of living. lady-who-sits-beside-me will think
i’ve taken up smoking. perhaps i will take up smoking.
the only reason not to smoke is so people won’t think
you smoke—it can look unbearably cool. cigarettes
are unfair this way. if you already look like the bassist
for some up and coming, cigs can only make
you cooler. but if you are standing outside
section 8 housing with skin like a bad backroad,
the smoke smells terrible and nicotine nails
peel like old wall paper. it is not a life
i would choose. luckily it is not a choosing game.
maybe some morning i will step on the needle instead.

playing at death

it was like this: i hear five-year old footsteps
and drape myself off the edge of the bed
eyes rolled like white marbles for his discovery.
he walks into the room. first he says kiyoko
i know you are ok get up ‘yoko helloooo
then he says kiyoko? you okay?
and pokes me in the cheek. it is hard
not to laugh but that would ruin it, this joke
we are sharing. his voice rises
and i can hear the crying building
in his throat. ‘yoko stop it get up. please.
get up. it is amazing how young
children recognize death. it is just the two of us
in this big house and he can’t reach the phone.
i am still holding my breath. it hurts
but it is worth it. this is not a joke
this is about power, about being older
and smarter and able to be so still.
he is crying now, really crying
the kind that only little kids do. it takes
their whole bodies working at the grief.
suddenly it’s over, the thrill of the whole thing;
it’s just the two of us in this big house
and i ruined it. i unroll my eyes and get up,
hugging his boy shoulders saying sorry
i’m sorry i don’t know why i did that but i know
i’ll do it again and he isn’t mad.
he’s just happy that i am okay
and that is the worst part.


here is the situation: we are drunk walking
the dog, one a.m., vilas avenue.
neither quite naked, hot
from drinking and dancing and being near
each other. being young is funny that way:
it never takes much. stop at the intersection
to kiss and a middle aged couple catches
up to us. man says: we used to do that
when we were young. chuckles. the woman
is suddenly close—her face floats in
like a lantern. her hands are on my shoulders.
she tries to pull my gaze into focus.
are you okay. what are you guys doing out here.
do you live close by. do you need anything.
i don’t know why this is happening. of course
i am okay. i live at the green house on the corner.
i don’t think i need anything – i guess a pizza
sounds good but—
she looks hard at my boyfriend, peels away
his skin with her eyes. now i see.
the woman’s fingers take to my shirt buttons
i am all done up in a second. i want to tell her
this is a love you don’t worry for i have never
been safer. we are just being kids.
the man says: let’s stop bothering these two.
grabs her arm. she shakes her head but
leaves us, my buttons done tight to my throat.

(toward the light)

we have finally outdone ourselves.
when eye to eye i can tell
we both know it. it is better
just to hold hands. the mescaline stands
up inside me, paces like a caged animal.
it rubs its wrists together
i am rubbing my wrists together, now massaging
my eyes for the light show. there is nowhere
else to look. i laugh for minutes because
i bought this, these neurons firing
into each other,  crying and snotting
and unbridled awe using money grandma sent
for valentines day. she doesn’t even like me
having a drink with dinner. i can’t think
of a better way to use up
this celebration of love. i heard recently
that mostly rich kids do drugs heavy
anymore because it’s all too expensive.
it’s good to have grandmas
with underused checkbooks,
good to afford both dinner and psychedelics.
sad this is another bought pleasure but
it is a bad time to be sad. we know
we are through the thick of it
when we can look at each other again
and like it. ten hours in we lay on the limbs
of a bur oak like big cats, talking
about other times we were high
while hikers walk the ridge beneath us.
i want to grow into this tree:
a resting spot, a way to get closer
to sky.

(ongoing edits) – combination of two poems

i know i allow the wallowing to continue. i don’t know
how to shake it. yesterday i bought tea advertised as a “tension tamer”
and another that claimed “mood boosting effects.” both were terrible
without sugar but sugar makes me anxious. i drank them both thick
with honey and found myself fingers wrapped around the dog’s ears
like you’d yank a ponytail. i am not normally like this. it is the first day
of the season of snowmelt and i am walking home from a job
i don’t quite hate. there are people on the sidewalks again, their jackets
unbuttoned, hands without gloves. i just saw a person’s ears outside
for the first time in months. one of the many delights of spring.
the last light is touching the tops of houses and i have been walking
a long time. the key is don’t stop nobody gets away by being the fastest
they do it by stayingin motion. a man’s coat touches my arm as we pass
and instead of saying sorry i almost tell him i think i need help. how
do you say it’s the season we remember this city doesn’t suck, but i think
winter and i grew too close this year. it is only a feeling. maybe things
are going too well and i just need to be taken down
a notch. maybe my brain is forgetting to make the right stuff. a friend
tells me if my life was really as great as i say it is i wouldn’t feel
so shitty all the time. you are feeling how you are feeling for some reason,
she says. i want to smack her. my feet are soaked and i don’t have
the patience for this.
everything is wet even my face but the salt streaks
are not explained by this puddle season. if anyone asks, i will blame
the trees dripping their melt. it feels good to pretend someone might ask.
this is all so self indulgent, this drinking tea ’til sloshy, finding reasons
to punish the dog, staying sad. this staying at all.