picky

i’ve never had a thick skin

never known, how to bounce off the bullets

and still not lose track of the beat

keep strumming

keep moving

and flip my hair, or i’m supposed to do

but instead i pick old animal instincts

like slivers from tender skin

instead i play sad songs on guitar

and feel like a god amongst men

’cause hard work, that i can do

and if life really is nothing but a mertiocracy, i think i can handle that

but i know it isn’t

i know nothing makes sense

i know i’ll never really know

why you said what you said

but i can still let it hit me

like a shockwave, let it squirm into my bones

you are a parasite

and a drug

and it’s all i can think about at night

and i’ve lost months on end of my life

to this slithering obsession

’cause if i could just make you happy

if i could make one person happy

there can’t be a cost-benefit equation to that, right?

so it’s worth it

it’s worth the mud on my knees

and it’s worth bloodletting treatments

to get the demon out from under my skin

worth bug bites

and cuts and scrapes and bruises

it’s worth all of it

for that look on your face

when i read my words

just. so.

and your peach tea love

washed over me in waves

left me sticky-sweet and gross

but it’s the gesture that counts, really

there’s not a lot to go around

i’m not gonna be picky

in another life

in another life

i think i’d be a singer

and i know how cheesy that sounds

but god, i’d be perfect

i’d smile wide for the camera;

step out into a sea of writhing bodies

and not fear their sharp fingernails against my skin

tired soldier, wouldn’t you love to let down your guard for just a moment?

wouldn’t you like to trust yourself

enough to take honey

and milk with your tea

and dip your strawberries in molten lava

wouldn’t you like to be holy?

play the game

roll the dice

’cause if the world’s gonna be shitty

at least i can end up on the winning side

right?

in another life,

i’d buy headphones at the store

and i would not feel guilty

and i’d see the world

i mean, see it really

yeah, i’d ruin my teeth on saltwater taffy

and fill up my phone with pictures

i would not be afraid to let you touch me

in another life, i would be sickeningly sweet

my mind smooth and clear

no cracks

no fissures

no magic tricks, a house of cards about to disappear

smile ’til my cheeks cracked the glass

of my smudged-up mirror

because this is not a teen movie

and i am not the protagonist

i see that now

but maybe i could be somebody

who doesn’t spend all her days at home

who leaves the world better than she found it

and wouldn’t that be so pretty?

a letter to my future self (because i am cheesy)

to be opened when needed

you should write the poem

and stop scrolling through your phone while you do the dishes

or trying to eat your food with one hand

you should call your friends

you should listen to the butterflies in your stomach

and stop always doing as you’re told

you should get your shit together

listen to a lullaby

and cry your eyes out as you scroll through parenting articles on your phone

take a shower and get changed out of your work clothes

you should sing yourself a song

put on some heels

and dance around your bedroom

until you fuck up your ankle, and you fall to the ground

ibut t’s okay

you don’t have to be perfect

or try to make money off every single fucking thing you like to do

you survived

that’s what matters

you made it through another day

and in case no one has said so in a while, i’m really proud of you

oh tired soldier

oh crossfire baby

oh fighter girl

you’re not a weapon

you’re not wasted potential

with room to improve

so put down the mallet

put down the blade

’cause pretty soon, you’re not even gonna remember

what it’s like to feel this way

2019

I don’t know if I’m alone in this–but I still get surprised when I glance down at the clock on my computer. You know that feeling you get in the new year, when you have to write down the date for the first time, and there are just a couple seconds where you’re like, there’s no way that’s right. It feels so clunky, and futuristic… and then you move on with your life. After a month, you get over it.

I don’t think I ever stopped doing that when 2020 rolled around.

I remember in middle school, I was writing this book series set in 2024, the year I’ll eighteen. I wrote out all my worst fears for what that year would be like as a way to process them. It was a dystopia, but the end of the world was only happening in the protagonists’ peripheral vision, as she built a life with someone she loved. And in theory it would have been awesome. But I could never figure out how to execute it, even after years of trying. I’d grown with that project, and not in a good way; everywhere I looked, all I could see was smudges of old ideas long since outgrown, that I couldn’t extricate from the narrative no matter how I tried. I can’t say I’ll never revisit the premise, ‘cause it was a pretty good one. But giving myself permission to scrap it was a very good decision. Anyway; I couldn’t fathom the idea that I would ever live to see the 2020s. I knew, logically, I’d be in the protagonists’ shoes one day, but that doesn’t mean it ever quite clicked in my brain.

But here we are. It’s 2021, and I feel like I was celebrating New Year’s Eve last week; the memory fresh and bright, and ridiculously optimistic. I know it’s been more than a year since that night, but I don’t even care, because in my mind, I am playing Monopoly with my friends and counting down ’til midnight. I am happy, and scared, and alive, the whole world spread out before me. I wonder, sometimes, what might have happened for me, should the pandemic not have happened. Would I be a happier person in the long term? Would I have been more or less successful? Sometimes, I wonder. Even though that kind of reasoning feels really self-centred and pointless, like my hypothetical success was the real loss here, which it most definitely was not. So then, I do my best to shut down that train of thought.

But every time I see that fucking date on my phone, I can’t help but feel like I should be doing more than I am. I should be some kind of international success by now, I should be preparing to publish my first novel, I should be raking in views by the thousands. At the very least, I should have a concrete plan for my future. But I don’t.

I feel like as soon as lockdown happened, I went into survival mode. I doubt I’m alone in that. Honestly, as it goes, I was really lucky; three months of isolation and that was it. But those three months were some of the worst in my life. It’s been a long time since I’ve plummeted into depression that deep, if ever. It took all my energy not to fall apart–and I went into denial. I told myself things I knew were lies, and drilled them into my head–that this was going to last forever, that my friends were good as dead. I know that sounds counterproductive, but I needed to grieve, and it’s pretty hard to grieve someone who’s technically a twenty minute drive away. I needed to rush through the stages, all the way to acceptance, and go on with my life as best I could. It was the only thing that was holding me together.

I never got closure on that year. There was no end-of-year assembly, no milestone to cross in this new, strange world turned upside down. In my mind, I am fourteen, and about to graduate ninth grade–planning to do another open mic, or maybe put on my own event that summer. I’ve just done WE Day, and I’m so proud of myself. I think everything is going to be better now.

But in reality, I’m going into grade eleven next year, which means I’m pretty close to being done with high school. And I have a job. And everyone is asking me what I want to do with my life, and I don’t know how to answer. And sometimes, I feel like I may as well be a grown-up already. But other days, I feel like I was born yesterday. I have so much to learn, so many different interests and skills to develop, and the idea of being an adult in a couple of years makes me want to hide under the covers and never come out. I’m gonna be learning to drive pretty soon! And then I’m gonna move out, maybe I’ll get a job or start a business (side note: something I’ve been considering a lot of late), and I’ll share an apartment with a friend or something, and… I can’t even fathom past that. Wow.

Ever since the New Year’s Eve of 2020, it feels like time is slipping through my fingers like sand onto the floor, and there’s nothing I can do to stop it. I feel faded, like a cheap knockoff of who I used to be. Is this just how my life is gonna be now?

Oh god, am I about to become one of those people who peaked in high school? I really hope not. That’s gonna be my goal now, I think. Do not peak in ninth grade. Like, I did some cool shit that year, but oh dear lord, if anyone catches me bragging about that when I’m a fully grown adult, please pull me aside and very lovingly tell me to get a life.

Lots of love,

Lorna

bed sore

she’s been sitting here for days, don’t you know? she’s been waiting on the future to carry her away. with its bleach-scented smile, and its spandex cape. but no matter how long she’s waited, it never really came.

as her skin turned decrepit, and paper-thin, and the bubble bust years ago. so she now watches from the window, as the sky goes cold, and laughs a little ’cause it’s funny, if you think about it.

how we whisper horror stories under the covers at night; mine ourselves like coal, burn hope for fuel and go up in smoke, just like that. she comes up with solutions in her mind, sharp and misshapen, and scraps them on sight.

maybe she’s in shock. maybe she’s dying slowly, because to this day she can’t bring herself to step outside in fear, that the grass won’t be greener on the other side; that utopia tastes better before you feel its gnawing kiss. but i don’t mind.

’cause i can only write poetry with half-closed eyes. like it’s a last resort. my mottled, fading words dying of bed sores and bruises. they fester, and they rot, yeah they’re gonna eating me alive, but what am i supposed to do?

because the only people left now are me and you.