The State of Things: Germany, 1942

On January 20, 1942, Reinhard Heydrich presented to Hitler “the final solution to the Jewish problem.”
As his plan of forced ghettoization of hundreds
of Jews
crumbled into a heap of dysentery and disease and depleted resources,
he led the charge in developing mass killings
watching as they modeled it after carbon monoxide poisoning in cars,
and dutiful soldiers turning the keys.

On January 20, 1942, Reinhard Heydrich presented to Hitler “the final solution to the Jewish problem,”
and opened the first Nazi death camp at Chelmno
(Treblinka, Sobibor, Belzec, Majdanek, Auschwitz-Birkenau)
packing his animals onto trains like cattle
and into chambers like sardines
and then cooking them.

The smell, they say, was other worldly
and crept each day and each night into the households of the German people.
The clouds of smoke, they say, rose high into the heavens,
(but only if you believe in that kind of thing.)
And everywhere you could see, they said, there was the evidence:
The teeth, the bones, the lampshades of skin and the cushion stuffings of hair.

But all anyone could really talk about in Germany, 1942,
was how damn quiet it was.

July Fourth and the cruelty of heartbeats (Revisited).

“Your heartbeat is mean,” he said.

“It’s too loud,” he said.

He was trying to sleep.
The smoke from the fireworks had long cleared our skies,
so he was going to sleep.

And I was going to think.

The blue lights from the TV licked the wall behind us and I looked down at his dark,
sleeping eyes,
his shiny, shiny eyes;
it was like our sadnesses were suddenly lining up against each other like
two sides of a magnet.

When we first met he found two scars on my hands
and he’d kiss them until he couldn’t breathe.
Now he’s found the scar on my heart (inflamed; ripped open; sewn again shut)
and he kisses it just the same, and then throws it in his closet.

Kid keeps me, not skeletons, in his closet.

“But it’s yours that’s cruel,” I said.
Sometimes it’s loud, like mine. Sometimes it’s loud
like the gunshots in Lexington, like the fireworks overhead tonight.
Like the tires screeching to a halt,
scarring the road in their wake.
And just when it has kept me company and sung me to sleep, it grows quiet.
It’s like my ear is pressed against nothing, like I’m burying my face against
air. And just when I’ve found my own background noise, my own steady rhythm,
it starts to beat again.


“Your heartbeat is mean,” he said.

“It’s too loud,” he said.

The blue lights from the TV licked the wall behind us and I looked down at him looking up; it was like the sadness in our eyes suddenly lined up against each other like the two sides of a magnet.

“But it’s yours that’s cruel,” I said. “Sometimes it’s loud, like mine. Sometimes it’s loud, like the gunshots at Valley Forge, like the fireworks overhead tonight. Like the tires screeching to a halt. And just when it has kept me company and sung me to sleep, it grows quiet. It’s like my ear is pressed against nothing, like I’m burying my face against air. And just when I’ve found my own background noise, my own steady rhythm, it starts beating again.”

Don’t leave don’t leave don’t leave don’t.

I love you because of the way you smile when you don’t think that I’m looking and the wrinkles near your eyes. I love you when you place my hand on top of yours, palm-to-palm, and make fun of me for how much smaller mine are and I love you when you pull me by my scarf so I can be closer to you. And I love the way you know how to navigate my body without some kind of roadmap. And I know, I know it’s all these things that sound so stupid and so cliché; I never wanted to be that kind of writer, the kind who talks about a smile or a laugh or the way a heartbeat sings me songs when I’m about to fall asleep, but before it was books or words, before it was crinkled manuscripts and dreams that were bigger than I could cup my hands around, it was you. I fell in love with you first.
So I’m going to tell them about those nights in my car. Everyone else, that is. You see it’s funny because I never really saw a car as the paramount in romantic imagery; I mean sure, I’ll give it to the Titanic, Kate Winslet’s hands gripping the fogged car windows, that maybe in those parts of my mind I’ve felt the sensuality of the moment. But now when I think of love, I find you sitting in my passenger seat, summer and its warm breezes and the way sometimes we only whisper to each other and how most of those nights you were asking me to stay. I never thought I’d let love rest there in my car seat, off seeing the world, or whatever the fuck it is you’re doing anyways.
And maybe I can tell them about that morning in your house. How I’d crawled up the stairs and I was so jumpy. Maybe it was because we were young or maybe it was because you were the first boy to look at me like he was really looking at something but my heart was beating so fast and it almost felt like the end of a movie. Your grandmother was wandering about the house whenever I was sneaking back to mine and you commented on how it was okay because she didn’t speak much English, but that doesn’t make her blind. She always smiled at me anyways.
Maybe I would tell them about the way you hold my hands. You do not work with your hands but when you press your palm against mine it is like you are laboring to repent for whatever sins we have committed. But maybe it’s not that special afterall; finger-lacing is preferable to cupping for anyone who’s in love. Maybe I would tell them that in art, Mary Magdalene is recognizable in paintings of Christ’s descent from the cross because her fingers in knots are a symbol for sex, but we’re trying to be holy here.
But I think I’m going to tell them nothing. Because in the end it is your mouth I look to when the words seem to have gone from mine and it is you who these small things in my life remind me of. It is you who I count down the days until seeing and you who pushes my hair behind my ear and who knows how to smile all of my smiles for me because sometimes I need that.
So I hope that answers your question. You asked it months ago on a couch in a basement and my heart was beating fast and you and I were sober by that point. I’m sorry I was so scared then and I’m sorry I was mad or maybe it was just moody or tired, but I couldn’t keep chasing you in and out of my love poems. You know that I love you for releasing the shame from my capacity for forgiveness and I think maybe I have my answer for you now. What do I want from you? Well I want you to stay.

To Say Thanks.

To Say Thanks
2011. That first year it was all desperation, us getting caught up in our foolish ways. It was a thanksgiving with not much to be thankful for and the first time you’d ever seen me angry. Silence, I’ve come to find, is tangible—it bends and it moves, it was stretching across mile markers on unlit roads until last night. And it’s awkward. Oh, it is awkward. Don’t worry. Things get louder tomorrow. There’s a boy in my car and we’re dodging the cops and Ringo Starr is singing about his Yellow Submarine. The sunrise is bleeding into the morning dew, and his fingers are bleeding, too. Maybe that’s just me spitting words that bite again. I’m yelling, fog pressing its way up the car’s windows the way he was pressed against her. And her. Oh yeah. And her. Our sweaty little hands are grasped tight: Grace. Don’t ask me to absolve your sins.
2012. I’ve been saving room in my belly for this holiday all week, but still, I don’t think I can eat the turkey this year. It’s just that I’m too full– full of sad, full of awkward, or just too full of him, really. Resentment plagues me, jealousy has me gagged, and everyone’s pity glues my feet to the floor. When he sits down I can’t get up. When he smiles I look down—that used to be mine. I am red, having found out about her on Facebook. It was humiliating and everyone’s eyes are settled on me, trying to spot the difference. Is her hair different? New earrings? No, guys. My heart just isn’t whole anymore. Silence is drowned with the fog in my ears and the way I ration my breath when he’s around. Here I am hands shaking, not talking so he can’t hear my voice crumbling; steady now. And bitter. Always so bitter, he says. When I drive him home he’ll roll down the window, let it all burn. He is the mundane and the small talk, the elegant formalities that seem so foreign when I’m with him; deep-boned laughter those days we first met. It was the first thing I noticed about you, your laugh; how like this sadness it made me feel full. He asks me about classes next semester and coughs (laughs). “Whole lotta art and history there?”
“Yeah, it’s casual, just my major.” Listen to me when I speak.
“Oh, that’s cute.”
2013. It’s over a month until Thanksgiving, but all the same feelings are here. The feelings where we fall the Hell apart. This year I’m not silent (awkward and nervous). My breath is heaving, hot red rage, syncopated and staying in time with yours. Don’t touch me. I just don’t think I’ve ever been this angry with you. And I never thought I’d be so stupid. Did you tell her? Did you tell her about that night before you left me? Our hearts were beating so hard and you tried to kiss me and I put my hand against your chest to push you away. Does she know about that? And does she know how tight you held me? How your arms melted into mine and you counted all of my ribs just to know that I was real, to know that I was real and sparking to life in your arms? My mouth was so dry when I looped back round your house. Get out of my car. No. Here’s the part where you wanted to talk, regrets and your biggest what if, they shine like the stars through the windows. “You’re in a car with a beautiful boy… And you feel like you’ve done something terrible, like robbed a liquor store, or swallowed pills, or shoveled yourself a grave in the dirt, and you’re tired.” Richard Siken said that, and amen. Wasn’t this the greatest love story we were writing? But no. Its horror and I should’ve known to never open that door to us again.
I’m thankful for liars and for leavers because now we’re self-sufficient. I’m thankful for boys in my car, because they teach us how to drive away as fast as we can. I’m thankful for the miles, because now I don’t have to see his face for another month. And I’m thankful for that infinitesimal moment of complete clarity, because now I know that I’m way too awesome to be lied to again.

Published 2014 Thoreau’s Rooster

A note to say that I’m sorry.

I’ve been calling on Forgiveness to pay me a visit all weekend
things I do when my hands are shaking
and my face is red
and I am just.
So so angry with you.
Maybe Forgiveness is just afraid.
That maybe you’ll come a kickin’
and a screamin’ on back to me
a place we both know you’re not really supposed to be right now.

And I wanted to call you to tell you I’m sorry.
I’m sorry I was angry,
I’m sorry I wanted you to say you were sorry,
I’m sorry I believed every lie that you told.
But mostly, I wanted to say sorry
For the red wine I spilled on your shirt;
That messy way I get when you pour the drinks
And it has been months. Please forgive me.
What else could you have expected from a blustering web of emotions,
someone so volatile as me?

Hey Forgiveness, I saved you a place
At the table. Maybe
You were too busy looking at the leaves.
The leaves are red. And he broke up with her weeks ago.
I’m sorry I believed every lie that you told.
Hey Forgiveness, come sit with me
There’s an empty seat
And I’m afraid of him.
Hey Forgiveness, give me the words to say.

I don’t know
I’m sorry
I wish I could tell you
How to make this better.
Forgiveness, show me the stars I can make
How the fireworks are mine now.
Show him regrets
And apologies
And show him how to beg like I do. Show him how to make it the same again.
Show him how to miss and long and draw lines on maps
Or something like that.
I’m sorry
I wish I could tell you
How to make this better.

The note that I found in the craters of the moon (or) that way you looked at me that night.

I noticed last night those cracks in your spine. I like to think they’d always been covered up
faded band shirts and flannels, so I couldn’t see them, like maybe if they were hiding it was okay that I never found them.
It’s just that last night I saw them, bare and glowing red,
and I’m thinking it wasn’t the first time. How’d I never notice?
But his hands were always covering my eyes.

I know on my hands those cracks will sear with heat,
but I want to lay like a child across your sidewalk back
and run my fingers softly through them, collect dirt beneath my fingernails, sift out old cigarettes
and all of those broken bottles.
I want to plant seeds to daisies and watch them bloom in the fissures.
I want to paint a mural in sidewalk chalk along your back, write you love notes on your shoulder blades. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry for those, and for him, and for this. I’m sorry for my smile and my broken heart.
I’m sorry I’ve never before pressed the lines in my palms against the lines in your rib cage to see how they match up
but if you’d let me I’ll try to reach in there. If you’d let me.”

This is my first scribbled note for you, and I like to think it’s been waiting in the shaking fingers of the angels or in moon dust somewhere.

This is my first scribbled note for you, and I will fold it a million times, and I will tuck it neatly into the notches of your spine. So beautiful.

“…you’re a train and I’m a trainstation

and when I try to guess your trajectory I end up telling my own story.”—Richard Siken

You are a train. I am a trainstation. It is two AM and you lay sleeping in my sheets, and I am surprised that years ago I never predicted how formidable this trap would be once we shared state lines. You’ve held my hand loosely these days and I’ve held harder ‘till you could see the whites of my knuckles, like how my father used to have me hold one of his fingers, grasping it with shaking strength crossing speckled snow parking lots to the ski lodge. You read my diary months ago, and when I was waiting for you to be angry you pressed your lips hard against mine and I felt the wrinkled corners of your smile, reminding me of that laugh that always made me feel full. Don’t worry. I love you. It’s okay. But you cut the crusts off your sandwiches, and I wait in vain for the day that all of me will be good enough for you.

You are a train. I am a trainstation. It is two AM and you lay sleeping in my sheets, and I wonder again where your mind is, about your stops on your trip back to the north, how you were fracturing heart strings, and if you did this on purpose when you thumb tacked me straight on walls and told me to be perfect. And told me to be strong. It’s strange to think of all the ways someone can influence your life—an effort to please them, I think, is the most common. Like when you dated the girl who took pictures of wounds, how I wanted to be the one healing them. Or when you dated that blond, how I more than ever wanted to dwell inside of my books. Or all those times you were dating me. When you were dating me, and said that I was perfect, that I was good, that I always pushed you. Except for when I wasn’t good enough. Except for when you, again, were walking away. Too scared? Too bored? I never knew where you were going, but I knew where I was. I knew it because I was healing wounds, and I was writing it down in books.

You are a train. I am a trainstation. It is two AM and you lay sleeping in my sheets, and I am surprised that I let you crawl in there. But patient me and fickle you, I can’t help from waiting for my A-train, my Red Line, while you walk along rusty train tracks kicking up dirt with careless steps. I touch you and I am elbow-deep in diamonds, not quite breaking everything in my grasp, but ruining it nonetheless. I watch the sun rising yellow, pink, on my walls—“I guess it’s just that broken heart of yours,” you’d say—and see your shadows pressing in within in it, frankensteined and different each morning. You bite your lip in your dream, and I wonder how I am stuck in this nightmare again.