Thursday, July 30, 2015


All of these things that were never here
are here still.
Voices creep through the air vents,
but the words don’t really sound like words;
A whisper cuts through them all:
Don’t bring tomorrow, it says.
Don’t bring tomorrow.
I know what’s going to happen,
and I walk on the shards of glass
Ask me what poem the next night will bring
and my stomach twists in fear.
The only times I drown
are when I wade into the river

Night One

So far gone,
with more work at my wrists,
with the ghosts barely at bay,
and with vomit on my breath,
I lie down and wonder
if you would still want to kiss me

Thursday, July 16, 2015


I will only have to ask the question
instead of hearing its echo
over and over
in the cavern of your mouth.

Today is not that day
(tomorrow isn’t either),
but, for now,
you’re not allowed to want me


is a cold splash of water
to the face
and thinking,
at least I’m awake now.”

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Weaving Spider

I will continue to tell myself this story
until it starts to make sense.
How quick,
how consuming,
how sudden
it all was,
it begs to be woven into something;
but every coat I’ve made
has fallen apart.

Thursday, July 2, 2015


            Everything is nothing until you make it into something; that’s what Nina loves about baking. Flour doesn’t taste like much until combined with a few other things and then put into a very, very hot box. The next time you see it, it has completely transformed; it has become something that people will lust over and praise you for. While it’s technically the product of chemistry, Nina prefers to think of it as the closest thing humans have to magic. To her, the knowledge of how to build this food is the most sacred that we have and have passed down. Following the steps of a recipe is merely invoking it once again.
            She hears the argument rumbling down the stairs before she can make out any specific words. Her father’s voice rumbles like he’s part bulldog, and her mother is all high-pitched squealing and uncompromising wit. Nina dips the whisk into the bowl of dry ingredients sitting in front of her and begins to stir. White powder into more white powder; it looks like nothing because it still is nothing. Nina realizes she’s left her ring on when a cloud of flour puffs up. Tiny granules of it find their way into the flawed diamond. She pulls it off and drops it into her pocket.
            “I just don’t understand why you have to go today,” her mother says. “It doesn’t make sense.”
            “You’re only saying that because it wasn’t your idea,” her father says. “If it was your job to keep the school running, you wouldn’t want me to complain about it.”
            “But it’s Saturday,” her mother says. “Can’t you wait until tomorrow?”
            Nina walks the short distance to the fridge and grabs the butter. She warms it with the palms of her hands and then unwraps it and drops it into the mixing bowl. Pouring the sugar in after the butter, Nina turns on the mixer and steps back to let it do its work.
            “. . . besides, I’ll get in trouble if I leave it until tomorrow,” she hears her father say.
            “Who will know?” her mother says.
            Nina hears a familiar clapping sound and knows her father has let his hands flop to his sides in a dramatic, helpless gesture. “There are people all over that school all the time,” he says. “If something happens, chances are I won’t be the first person to know.”
            Her mother’s voice drops, and Nina doesn’t hear what she says next. Nina steps forward and turns off the mixer. She scrapes the sides of the bowl and then goes to the fridge to get the milk. While she measures it out with the other wet ingredients, she hears her parents’ conversation continue.
            “Please, John,” her mother says, “it’s Daisy’s birthday.”
            Nina doesn’t see her father roll his eyes, but she knows instinctively that he does this. He starts to respond, “I told you, I have to—“
            “Go to the school, I know,” her mother says. “But we both know that’s not where you’re going.”
            Nina whisks the wet ingredients until they begin to come together. “That’s such bullshit, and you know it,” he says. “I’ll be right back.” Nina hears the door open. She pours a third of the dry ingredients into the mixing bowl.
            “John—“ her mother says, but the door slams before she gets out the rest. Nina hears her sigh, and the silence that follows is harder to listen to than the argument. She sets the mixer on a lower setting and alternates between adding the wet and dry ingredients to the bowl.
            “Nina, love?” her mother says as she walks into the room.
            “Yeah, mom?” Nina says without looking up.
            “How is the cake coming?”
            “Good, mom,” Nina says. “I think it’ll be good.”
            She looks over to see her mother nodding.
            “Don’t worry about it,” Nina says.
            “I’m not,” her mother says. “I’m not worried about it.”
            Nina stops the mixer to add the last of the dry ingredients and fold them in. She notices that her mother’s fingers have started to rap the counter. Nina glances from the skeletal hand to her mother’s face. She never realized it before, but her mother has excellent cheekbones. Her dark brown eyes set over those carved-out features gives her a hawk-like look. Nina starts to feel sick, so she focuses on dividing the cake batter between cake pans.
            “Daisy’s going to have a good birthday, mom,” she says. “Don’t worry about that, either.”
            Her mother snaps out of her trance. “Why would you say that?” she says. “Why would I be worried?”
            Nina quickly shakes her head. “No reason.”
            “Good, good, because nothing is wrong. We’re going to have a wonderful day.”
            Nina slips the cakes pans into the oven and says nothing.
            When Nina puts on her dress for the party, she feels an exhaustion that she hasn’t experienced in a long time. Maybe not since her senior trip in high school, when her entire class went to the local amusement park. Nina, like everyone else, had insisted she was too old for the trip and was just using it as an excuse to not be in class. However, as soon as they got there, the seniors dispersed as though they had never been to such a paradise before. The day flew by in a haze of funnel cake, sunscreen, and wooden rollercoasters, and when the new adults climbed back onto the bus at the end of the day, it all felt like a dream. The final strains of their responsibility-free youth had been pushed through their pores, and everyone was left feeling spent and wondering what had just happened.
            This is the exhaustion that Nina feels now. Her feet hurt from standing all day, her shoulders are stiff from the posture of uncertainty, and her knees are about to buckle underneath her. She struggles to zip up the back of her dress by herself. It is different now, though; When she was on that bus, she had the hopefulness that is an eighteen-year-old surrounded by friends, four years of college in front of her.
            She pulls at the dress’s skirt and then exits the room she shares with her little sister. Daisy almost runs into her as soon as she crosses the threshold.
            “Careful,” Nina says, holding out her hands as if to stop her. But Daisy can’t be stopped. She pushes Nina out of the way and runs into the backyard. The doorbell rings and Nina goes to answer it.
            “Hi!” she says, hoping her enthusiasm will mask the fact that she has no idea who she is talking to.
            “Hi!” a blonde woman says back. She pushes her daughter into the house, past Nina.
            “Um, come on in,” Nina says. She smiles and tries to remember where she has seen this woman before.
            “Oh, you have a . . . lovely home,” the woman says. She glances from the rip in the couch to the worn carpet in the hallway.
            “Thank you,” Nina says. She scratches her elbow.
            “Where should I put this?” the woman says, handing Nina a beautifully-wrapped pink present.
             “Oh, I’ll take it,” Nina says. She turns and the woman lets herself into the house. Nina watches as she crosses to the back door and slides it open. Nina sets the present on the mantle over the fireplace and walks into the kitchen. She wrings her hands and puts one on the fridge. Then she hears the doorbell again.
            “Nina?” her mom yells from across the house.
            “Can you get that?”
            Nina glances at the counter. She goes to the fridge and pulls out the platter of celery and carrots. “I can’t, mom, I’m busy.”
            She hears her mother swear as she makes her way to the door. Her mother never had the patience to learn how to walk in heels, so her feet make a comforting clomping sound on the hardwood floors. Then silence falls as she prepares herself to greet the next mom.
            The door opens. “Hi, guys!” her mother says.
            “Hi, Cathy, how are you?” a startlingly deep voice responds.
            “I’m doing well, thank you,” her mother says. Nina squeezes her eyelids closed. “Come on in.” The door shuts again.
            Nina hears her mother come into the kitchen. “What are you doing?” she says.
            Nina wraps her fingers around the sides of the platter. “I’m . . .”
            “Take that out to the backyard!” her mother says. Nina grabs the plate and carries it outside. She sets it on the table and anxiously glances around the party. She doesn’t have a peer in sight. Nina feels the sweat drip down her spine and her bare legs start to itch. She pulls her heel out of her shoe and rubs it against the opposite ankle. Then she hears it: a blood-curdling scream fills the yard and Nina’s eyes latch onto the source of the noise.
            Her sister is lying on the ground, clutching her leg. Her black hair is spread out underneath her like a spider. Her enchanting green eyes are scrunched closed in pain, although she isn’t crying. Nina runs towards her.
            Daisy is screaming, not she isn’t screaming words. “Daisy, what happened?” Nina says, but she can see for herself. There is a long gash running down the middle of her sister’s leg, and Nina feels the urge to lean down and try to close it up with her hands. She looks around, but can’t find the cause of the accident.
            “What happened?” she says again. Then, “I’ll get mom.”
            Nina stands up and feels the blood rush to her head. She takes a few steps towards the house, and then stops before she reaches the back door. Here, she leans to the left and vomits the entire contents of her stomach into the bushes. Then she heads inside.
            “Mom!” Nina screams. She can hear her voice crack. “Daisy’s hurt! She needs you! Mom!”
            Her mother appears from the hallway. “What?”
            “Daisy’s hurt! She’s needs a doctor, or something! She’s bleeding!”
            “Oh my god!” Nina’s mother runs past her and into the yard where Daisy is laid out. Nina can feel the fear run though her, but her mother is surprisingly steady. She turns to one of the women present. “Call an ambulance.” The woman pulls out her phone. “Nina?”
            “Yeah, mom?” Nina says. The tears are starting to leak from Daisy’s eyes, and Nina looks away so she doesn’t follow suit.
            “Go get your father,” her mother says.
            “What? But, mom—“
            “Just go do it.”
            Despite everything, an awkward silence stirs between them. “At the school?” Nina says.
            Her mother looks up and into her eyes. “You know perfectly well where he is,” she says.
            Nina nods and turns to go. When she reaches the back door, Nina hears the other mother say, “An ambulance is on its way.”
            Nina isn’t sure if it makes her sadder that the bar is virtually empty. She hasn’t been here many times, but as soon as she walks in, the bartender makes eye contact with her and nods. There are a few cracked barstools that line the counter, as well as a booth that looks like it hasn’t been scrubbed down in weeks. The light is dim the way it is in bad cop movies. Nina makes her way to the end of the bar to where her father sits.
            “Dad,” she says. He doesn’t look up. “Dad,” she says again. He still doesn’t look up. She walks forward and climbs onto the barstool next to him. The bartender walks over and puts a glass of water in front of her. Then he retreats.
            Nina puts her hand on her father’s arm. “Dad,” she says, “you need to come home. Daisy’s hurt.”
            Her father looks at her, and at first his expression is horror. But as he surveys her, his lips slowly crack into a smile. “What do you mean?” he says.
            “Daisy did something at her party, and when I left she was bleeding all over the yard.”
            His smile doesn’t falter. “But Daisy’s so little. What could have happened at her birthday party?”
            Nina picks up her glass and takes a large sip. Then she says, “Dad. Listen to me. You need to come home.”
            He leans forward onto the bar and rubs his forehead with his hand. “Yeah,” he says.
            She wants to slap him. “Dad, I’m not kidding.” Still he doesn’t move from his barstool. “Dad, I’m not fucking around. You really need to come home. Now.”
            His head snaps to the right. “Don’t use that kind of language around your father,” he says.
            “I’ll use whatever kind of language I want,” she says.
            His eyes flash. “Not around me.”
            “Fine,” she says. “Then come home and punish me, or whatever. Just come home.”
            He reaches forward and strokes the sides of the pint in front of him. “I don’t think I can,” he says.
            “You can,” Nina says. “Now get up.”
            “You don’t understand,” he says. “There’s so much—“
            “I don’t care!” Nina says. “I don’t care about your life problems or your marital issues or your midlife crisis. I care that my sister is gushing blood in our backyard, and you don’t seem to give a shit.”
            Her father stares at her. His cheeks turn red.
            “So are you coming, or not?” Nina says.
            Her father says nothing. He swallows and looks down at the bar in front of him.
            Nina stands up. “I don’t have time for this. We’ll be in the ER. You’ll regret this when you sober up,” she says.
            She turns and walks towards the exit. She makes eye contact with the bartender, who nods at her. Her hands barely feel the door when she throws it open.
            Her mom texts her from the emergency room as Nina drives back home. Things are relatively under control, but she needs her as soon as possible. Can she grab Daisy’s stuffed giraffe and a few other things from the house before heading over? Nina agrees and gets to it.
            The house is eerily empty for being so colorfully decorated. The food that she and her mom set out is still in the process of being disturbed, even though no one is left to eat it. Purple streamers sag over the doorway to the kitchen, embarrassed that they are left without anyone to notice them. Nina runs to her sister’s room and grabs the stuffed animal in question. Then she collects the few other things her mom requested and heads to the kitchen. She drops everything on the counter and goes to get a bag from under the sink. Nina quickly packs it and throws it over her shoulder. Then she goes to the fridge to get a couple cold bottles of water.
            When she opens it, she freezes. There, staring back at her, is the cake she spent all day making and decorating. It mocks her with its rounded edges and garish yellow frosting. She is tempted to take a chunk of it in her hand and throw it to the floor. But no, her sister might remember it later and want it. There is no point in being wasteful; This has been a tough enough birthday as it is.
            Still, the cake feels like an unexpected weight in her stomach. She reaches forward and pushes it farther back into the fridge. Somehow, this move makes the nausea subside a little. Nina slams the fridge closed. She is out the door and back in her car in thirty seconds. It’s difficult to remember to drive slowly.
            That bright yellow cake is still in the back of her mind as Nina nears the ER, though. Learning to bake was the moment Nina realized the power at her fingertips. She has control over this magic of chemistry; she can cobble together joy by combining what doesn’t naturally exist side by side. Nina contains this old knowledge and calls it back when things are hard. Everything is nothing until you make it into something. 

Writing Myself Back Together

These lips aren’t lips,
they are made of words
just as these hands aren’t hands.
It was all sand,
with a pair of lungs in the center.
Who knew a pair of lungs
could save itself?