the bullet makes the metal a pearl.
a tap on the back.
quiet and still/all at once.
breathing for the ghost.
thatwasnotveryravenofyou gave me another opportunity to create blackout poetry in the form of a physical record. What makes this record so fun and special is that this is her actual initial draft of the poem, given to me out of her notebook of poems. Her original edits are in here, along with some adaptations I had to make due to the differences in this physical piece and a few edits she made to the version posted on HitRECord. Oh the joys of the collaborative process in person.
I walked away scarred.
I don’t know how else to describe it. This person, this man, this fucking stranger scarred me in a matter of 4 seconds. I saw it all. The mornings in bed, the scar to the right of his hip, the smile that brushes his lips as he watches me step out of the shower. I felt it too - the rush of excitement at the sound of his key in the door, even after years of hearing it and waffles instead of flowers on our anniversary. 4 seconds & I’m ruined. There’s a ringing in my ears as dark eyes, dark enough to take me whole, look at me again. It’s the third time we’ve seen him this month.
Hands around my calf slam me back into the now. I reach down instinctively, still holding his eyes and feel Clay slip naturally around my hip and nuzzle into my neck. Our eyes continue to hold as I notice the moisture on my neck and panic rises within me. Clay’s mouth is moving but it’s as though he’s miles away. Slowly his voice comes back to me, tears pouring & the guilt of forgotten motherhood overwhelms me. I pull him close, stroking the back of his neck as his hiccups rock throughout both of our bodies.
It’s always the same; I wake up, drenched in sweat, biting back screams as tears make their way across my face. Ben pulls me in, wrapping himself completely around me, whispering calming nonsense, and I fight back the bile rising in my throat as he kisses the back of my neck.
I make my way to the bathroom as the shaking subsides to my hands. Cold water mingles with sweat as I try to wash the day away. As I wash my hands I can’t help but think that I’ve got to try a new detergent - I hate how rough these towels have become. As I fold the hand towel I glance at my reflection & there I am. Or, some aspect of who I am - remnants of the dream. Different haircut, scar aligned to the left cheekbone and I'm thinner - hell, that’s not too hard these days. We make eye contact as my reflected being presses her hand against the other side. I shake my head, trying to clear my brain of the remaining dream and return my gaze to the mirror. But there I am - this other being. I place my hands on the granite countertop, pressing my weight into it. This is real, this physical thing. But then I feel the shaking - the fucking shaking - happening again. I slowly raise my eyes to a screaming face - my screaming face. Hands slamming against the mirror as my other self slams into the mirror. It will pass, it always does. Even as the thought passes my brain, I’m distracted by the damn shaking. Again I make eye contact to my crying self, slamming her tiny fists against the glass and screaming something I’ve never been able to make out. Over and over again, this version of me yells the same thing. I can see my frustration with my own self, and all I can think is, “Welcome to my everyday life, dear.”
But, for whatever reason, I find myself intrigued this evening. I focus on this reflected self, or whatever I am, and focus on my mouth. The brain is a fascinating thing. Everything we see and hear is uniquely our own, passing through our own biases, perceptions, memories and preferences before we actually process what stands before us. One must focus in order to see things as they are, or as much as we are able, that is, to see things “as they are.” And so here I am, pressing my weight into the bathroom counter, staring at the remnants of a dream and hoping to get some answers. Ridiculous, that’s what I am.
This is my hell. This is the price I pay for what I’ve done. Happiness is relevant, or so I’ve heard, and maybe happiness if overrated. But every night I find myself in this other self - this woman I don’t know, and have never known, but somehow here I am. And Ben’s not there…this stranger is here, but he’s my stranger. He is mine, and for whatever reason I am his. We live in a city, a city I’ve never been to. There is no Clay, but I try not to think about that. We tried, once. I don’t like to talk about it, but when he asks, I try. Whenever I have a moment, I try to catch my reflection, or rather my reality. Because the truth is, this place, this time, it’s not mine. It belongs to someone else, some other version of me. But I never see it. I just see this altered version of me - different hair, thin and with my cheekbone scar. The scar he brushes his lips against when I’m sad - a reminder of something, I believe, but I have yet to place it. Every night is a different day in this life, this other version of life, yet it always ends the same. I always wake up.
“You’re still crying, love,” I whisper to my other self, and in that moment the shaking stops. Eye to eye, we find ourselves, broken woman to stolen woman. I may scream from the weight of the silence. This is different; this isn’t how this usually goes. My reflected self leans into me, nose almost against the other side, and her lips form one word: “Run.”
This is different. This is wrong. I’m stirred awake by the monotone beeping & that’s when the nausea hits.
I saw him 14 months later. This stranger, my stranger. I remember the first time he asked about the cheekbone, and I referred to it as “the price of freedom.” He’s left it alone since that day, knowing it to be a part of me which I’m unlikely to ever share. I flinched the first time he ran a hand along my cheek. I still do, sometimes. He kisses the scar on bad days, his way of acknowledgement and respect without intrusion. Those are the days when I hear a little boy crying. Those are the bad days.
There’s a song, some Broadway show, which has the line “If I cannot fly, let me sing.” People think that rebellion is freedom and freedom is worth fighting for. But the fight can get you killed, or worse. There are things worse than death in this world, trust me on that. Humans are terrible creatures with creative means and pain is not relevant. I don’t want the wings or the song, I just want my future. Whatever it is, it has to be better than this. Some argue for change and to allow wings to take flight. And it’s true, I think, that some things weren’t meant to be tamed.
i remember saying
slamming against continually ribbed lines
broken wing or broken rib
whispers, screams, broken walls
girl or bird or legs or wings
to carry the cage
cracked ribs & bleeding eyes.