one-hundred-fifty-five.

how do you become confident in a name?
one you were assigned at birth?
how do you allow it to roll off your tongue.
without the fear of how others
will automatically perceive you?

tell me.
i don’t know what that’s like.

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one-hundred-forty-six.

definitions seem static.
they’re published in stocky books,
collecting dust at the back of my shelf.
but what defines someone as
rich, beautiful, strong on paper
is not equivalent to anecdotes,
lived experiences
or personal identification.
definitions are meant to be applied
not literalized.

one-hundred-forty-five.

“on which nights are you restless,
tuned into every toc of the clock
and every scratch of the cat?”

well, on the nights my eyes are closed,
but i can see through the lids
and listen to every crack and creek.
well, on the nights when i can feel
the draft from the vent
like waves from the sea.
well, on the nights when i am laying,
but my brain is moving
on its own two feet.

one-hundred-forty-three.

i thought i wouldn’t get through you.
i was stuck at the start, in a pool of hot
tub water, stuck to one of those water jets.
you were attacking me —
or was i letting other people do that?

my friends said, “your eyes are dark,”
and, “i’ve never seen you this low.”
i was drowning in that pool of hot water,
i was stuck there,
dreading the air free from my bed.

i learned: i have to be strategic
about what i give myself to.
i love so hard and so deep that
when i’m forced to give something up,
i crack more than a broken joint.

i learned: i define, “career,”
and my job doesn’t define me.

i learned: i can still do good and do well,
without being hollowed in hell,
surrounded by people who won’t lift me up,
who will tell me i’m failing, only because
it will guarantee them the raise
and me: the same job with bad pay.

i learned: you’re just a year and you aren’t forever,
but with lessons
and hurdles
and journeys uncovered.

one-hundred-forty-one.

“does ‘corporate’ just mean a place
where people talk about their juice cleanses
and the number of times they almost ate a donut?”
it sounds like it,
so i will sit here redefining the word,
informing my colleagues that i ate a donut on sunday,
filled with hazelnut cream.

one-hundred-forty.

once, a boy told our classmates we had done things we hadn’t
because i broke up with him.
he said i was good with my tongue;
though my tongue had never touched him
or his greasy braces.
we “dated” for a few weeks; i don’t count it.
when his lies didn’t catch on as fast as they could’ve,
he started telling people things that were really true:
“she has hairy arms. really hairy arms.”
someone pushed up the left arm of my green fleece uniform sweater
and said, “woah, he’s right.”
i waxed my arms for a long time,
naired them and scarred them,
got grounded for making the house smell like chemicals;
never wore t-shirts, either.
do you see what happens when we automatically
give boys more power?

one-hundred-thirty-eight.

we’re like what happens when
you take the odds and ends
out of the fridge,
because your stomach is growling
and you need food.
you whip something up,
tossing in spices and oils
alongside unparalleled ingredients.
the combination doesn’t historically belong,
nor has it been seen in any cookbook
or instagram branded #foodporn.
but we’ve invented something that works,
better than any written recipe
could have ever suggested.
spicy, but sweet,
spontaneously savoury,
mild when we need to be.

one-hundred-thirty-four.

ninety-nine per cent wearing a scowl and fitted dress pants.
elbows crushed, close quarters.
a belly aching with hunger,
dreams of quiet, antsy to be home.
hoping for dim lights, a candle.
then, there is that one per cent,
seeking locked eye contact;
once secured, a soft smile.

riding the rocket with the one in the red pants.

one-hundred-thirty-three.

empty:
a slow drip from a mug on its side,
resting slightly over the edge of a table,
warm tea soaked up into a scratchy carpet;
nothing left to consume,
like a store after a sale,
tussled t-shirts and mismatched socks;
a headache pounding above my right eye,
my teeth aching from grinding their bones,
my whole body is exhausted;
repeating the words that burned,
my eyes retracing invisible scars,
a heavy tongue, a heavy breath:
awake.