ode to sixteen

i. i am standing by the water, and i’m six years old, the wind is pounding into my back. i lean into it, and don’t move a muscle, my cinderella jacket flapping in the wind. i still can’t remember when i let go. i’m running fast and i’m gonna get away, i’m gonna run all the way across the ocean, and i’m never coming back to this place.

ii. i am swimming in the ocean, i’m the youngest on my team. i’m working on my frontstroke but i still can’t figure out what you meant, when you told me to be nicer, try to come off less blunt. my arms burn and my legs ache. i put my head underwater, and i hold my breath. i want to stay there forever, where i can’t see the fun.

iii. in my head i’m flying, and i’m doing all i should. i’m your very favourite daughter, i suffer and i bitch and moan. i swear like a sailor, and that could use some work, and besides, i’m always alone. my arms ache and my legs are sore, but there’s money in the bank. and for that, someone is proud of me. i close my eyes and dream of kissing you. dream of sleeping for eternity.

iiii. i’m walking up the hill and there’s blood in my teeth. and my vision starts spinning, blink and you’re going to be thirty years old, stubborn and prideful and aching on your feet. i am walking up the hill, one second turns to twenty-five, sweaty and tired and bruised, and at some point, all i want to do is survive. just keep on pushing through.

iiii. except i’m holding your hand and it feels like flying, like the wind in my hair, my heart pumping in my chest. i don’t know what happens next, but i don’t want to wake up just yet.

iiiii. i want to dream like i have never felt heartbreak press against my ribs. ‘cause i’m still reeling from the knowledge that all my heroes are just as lost as i am on where to go next. i’m standing by the water and i’m running for the waves, and my jeans are soaking wet. i’m screaming at the rumbling sky. i want to be that person again.

bad dreams

i. i had a dream last week, that i was flying, but i wasn’t / not really / i was lying through my teeth and hoping no one would notice me / when i fell down on the ground with my heart between my teeth / i had a dream last week that time went back, all the way to 2019, and the history books all orbited / from my self-righteous pride / oh god, i miss those days / but only in the moonlight

ii. i had a dream i was thirty and you were gone / you were dead in some war / you were kind and you were good / you ran off to save the world and i didn’t say a word / i’m getting worked up about scenarios that don’t even exist / i’m getting pissed off with my anger and i’m unclenching my fists

iiii. ‘cause in my head, i’m reeling for things / that haven’t even happened yet / and something’s gotta go / counting out mistakes on my fingers and my thumbs / i had a dream i walked on a tightrope, shouting out words from the corner of my mouth without the slightest mind to what they mean / i dug myself a grave, six feet in the ground, and i started to weep

iiiii. but when it gets bad / when the sky lights up with hatred / when i’m stumbling ‘round the house in the middle of the night, trying to find something to cling to / someone to help me tell my left from right / i’ll listen to the old playlists, and wipe the tears off my cheeks / and remember how it felt again

iiiii. ‘cause the monsters creeping ‘round my head / always seem scarier in darknes / it’s just another rainy, starless night / it’s just another day i’ve got to grit my teeth and try to muscle through / or lie in bed for hours the next morning, staring up at the ceiling marking out the seconds on my palm / either one will do

princess of the funeral march

i cleaned out my desk today, and i almost cried

over hand-knit slippers and crumpled bits of paper

clenched fists around travel journals

relics of 2012 wound around my throat

‘cause there are things i’ll never tell you

‘til i turn seventeen, and feel the sky crumple to the touch

til i drive off, pass the test

feel the lightning crack of desperation

i just didn’t want to hurt anyone

but i’ll never shut up and stop whining

about my life and its problems

wallow in the negative, til my presence clings like mud to your skin

and you can’t stand to be around my mildew drip

so i cleaned out my desk and felt a bit

of my heart just rip out of my chest

but i don’t need a pencil from fourth grade

the grocery store receipt from the day that everything was okay

and i was good, i was doing what i was supposed to

it’s just stuff

relics and fossils for them to remember me by

i can’t take it with me but i can sure as hell leave it behind

or stay up all night

pack the weight of my memories all the way across the sea

cause what is grief if not a walk down the railroad track, whistling

as you brace for impact

and what am i

if not the princess of the funeral march

there are things i’ll never say aloud

poems crushed in my chest, too dangerous to speak

there are crutches i’ll never stop using, little stupid fucking tricks

breathe in and breathe out

sift and filter out the parts of yourself

rebuild again, and again, and again

brave face

i used to run myself weary

used to dream of all-nighters and self-loathing

to some darkly academic beat

i used to fantasize about statues built in my honour

about going down in history

i used to ruin my teeth

while i chewed up rocks to dust

and sometimes i still feel the rush

slip down my spine

want to stay up ‘til 3am and wake up at 5

’cause then i bet you’d be so proud

you’d sing me a dance and you’d destroy yourselves

to my apocalyptic glow

i used to want it with all my heart

exhaustion and glory

i used to wear a brave face like a trophy

take pride in bitterness and pain

and now i am tired from years of running empty

now i can’t help but dream of stupid things like gentle kisses

on foreheads with no motive in mind

like brownies and dumplings and secrets to keep

now i lie on my bedroom floor

trying to differentiate between depression

and just wanting to sleep

’cause i miss simple things

i can taste them on my lips

i miss peppermint tea

i miss courage and panic

burning out like matches

i don’t recognize the person

i see in the photos; her manic grin

her aching back

but i want to keep trying

i want my brave face back


i. i’m a writer / which means / i spend most of my days getting lost in my brain / and contemplating my stupidity / playing therapist to the devil on my shoulder / but i’ve never been much good / so now we sit on the sidewalk after class / with bruises on our knees / eating ice cream and talking trash / just to make ourselves feel better / just to make it go away / and when we finally grow up, i hope we never speak of it again

ii. i’ve been told that i’m meticulous / carefully organizing the train wreck in my mind / into bins and categories / you see, i come by it honestly / been like this since seven thirty / weaving strands of stories together / with chaos in my wake / doing cartwheels over awkward mistakes / and inaccuracies / i’ve been taking myself apart just like this / a heap of used parts on the floor / grease on my fingers / looking for somebody to blame

iii. but at what point does it stop being self-analysis / and start to become me just making excuses / as i start to spin around in circles / down the lines of my palms / i’m so caught up in myself, one day, i think / i’m gonna be forty and realize / how all this life has passed me by / but i’m tangled up in spreadsheets and cold / hard / facts / never liked the feeling of sugar-sweet metaphor / on my tongue / too bright and too kind and too ripped at the seams / one more and i’ll throw up / ‘cause it’s pointless / all these hours, sitting in my room / i’m so careful / and tidy / always play within the lines, always do exactly / what i’m supposed to

iiii. and when i lie in bed i don’t need to fall asleep / to play through nightmares / let me tell you the very worst / where i am nineteen and tired / don’t know how to do this anymore / you’ve grown tired of waiting / i’ve grown  sick of cherry-picking / between my lines of verse / you’ll leave me / standing on the wire / if i don’t do it first