The eyes are the window to the soul, but what if you don’t believe in the soul? At least an open wound can be a window to the body, a cutaway that lets you observe its workings. Here, the bullet in the chamber. Here, the cog in the machine. Here, the pieces that wore away and were never replaced.
Do you envy me, Jenner? Have you ever seen a heart like mine, Forssmann? These wounds produced wonders, but now they are healing, pink and puckered as baby flesh (but perhaps there is something wondrous in that as well.)
With apologies to Sylvia Plath
I don’t know when I came alive again
Like the first two times
It was sudden, frightening
Bloodshot eyes blinking against pitiless light
I wish I could say I saw God
I wish I could say I came alive
Baptized by Brother Bartholin
Sanctified by Saint Skene
But I was born again as a rusting machine
No blank slate baby
But a beast with a function preordained
Meaning baked into the mechanism
Symbols in the skin
I am no phoenix bursting forth into flame
But a corpse clawing its way out of a grave
(If there is a fire here
It is only because someone somewhere lit a candle for me)
(If there is a fire here
It is only the smoldering core of a world I consumed
An ember in my belly, a spark in a tomb)
But even the dead can walk, and so I do
I rise with grunts and groans, aches and moans
I rise with sweat and steam, snarls and hisses
I rise in an anxious chorus and refrain
(The notes come pouring from me like blood)
(I am leaking song)
This third life may be new, but memories endure
Even if nothing else does
And even the dead can want
(Born of black magic, I want ritual)
(Born of symbolism, I want gesture)
(There is faith in the ritual)
(There is love in the gesture)
In lip meeting lip
In hands entwined
In fingers tracing patterns on skin
In pulled hair and sighs
I love you, like God
It was my last thought before I died
But I have been buried so long
And now I’ve come alive
I have joked about suicide with the
Tastelessness of an overcooked steak, charred
Like a body burnt in the wreck of a
Car (the logical end result of nights
Spent drinking and a brain that backfires and
Bristles in the presence of speed limits)
Had I died, the real killer would not have
Been the bullet but the decisions that
Put me in the path of the gun, the sheer
Hubris that has often found me waltzing
‘Round a battlefield wearing a target
(I have kissed the lips of cliffs, flirted with
Fire, run cars red, toasted to broken glass)
But if I have let my laugh echo down
The cavernous depths of a barrel, I
Am grateful no monster emerged therewith
There are mountains unconquered, stories to
Tell, women to love. My work is not yet
One night, my roommate walked in on me,
Knife in hand, cutting away
(I had a sliver of glass in my skin,
And it was easier to cut to the bone
Than to live with the sting)
The other day, I dropped a lead weight
On my foot, and as soon as I convinced myself
It wasn’t broken, I went back to work
(At four in the morning, when the ache
Had grown too great, I drilled through
A toe to relieve the pressure from the bruise)
(Which is all to say,
There is so much I have excised
From my life,
So much I have cut away for making me weak,
So little I hold onto after the first time it hurts me)
(Which is all to say,
For me to keep you so close to my heart,
I must want you more than I want my own blood)
This is how I haunt myself: with creaking floorboards and rustling curtains in a house gone silent; with lights flickering in broken windows against a moonless sky; with laughter and sobbing and anger and joy in a space that has not known the warmth of life in years.
This is how I haunt myself: with superstition and ritual, asking cold entrails in an empty room if a ghost still loves me.
I love you as a child, for though I have grown as large as the world, I remain a pup nestled in the crook of your arm.
I love you as the man you saw when you set your hands to clay and baked me in the kiln of your vision.
I love you for the future I could see in your skin, the shadows of your eyes, the shape of your lips, the warmth of your body.
I love you for the memories you hold, the folds and curves of your brain that make facts from the rumors of my existence.
I love you for the way you love another, and so doing, glow with a guiding green light for the lost souls of the Earth.
I love you because I can imagine the kisses I would lay upon your cheek, and though I would never dare, I can see so clearly the home they would find there.
I love you.
It was always two minutes to midnight
In our world, this green valley turned metal.
The promises broke like glass, bright and sharp,
Each point of light another jagged edge.
Leopard print and sequins aren’t Tyrian,
But in your hands, they are greater than gold
(The shame was never in going naked,
Only in blindly insisting you weren’t.)
“No gods, no masters, every man a king.”
We preached our creed with every breath we took,
Every night spent beating back entropy.
The world was ending, but we were dancing.
With pen and ink, blood and bone, I proclaim
The coronation of King No Future.