I. Pledge Sister
Everyone looks at me as if I’m a rainbow
drawn by a slow child. Because they can eat without
a ringing in their ears. They can ask for gravy.
They miss the point I’m always
aiming at their heads. The pills I suck are like me:
pink, fizzy, and totally legal. They turn listening to noise
into a type of eating.
Everyone wants to know about my pubic hair.
They say they’re looking for signs that I’m dying,
but what they really want is the food melting on the fork
when they finally say none for me, thanks. They worship
the pain they think I’m in. Meanwhile,
I’d eat a beetle if I thought its legs
could make my lashes longer. I’ve got all these
organs inside me and I can’t resist teasing them
to see if they’ll go away.
Everyone likes it when I finally die in the magazine article:
the cries no one heard, the love I needed massaged
into my hamburger meat. No one knows I am the flower,
the bee, the wind, the rain, the dirt: all the vectors.
No one knows how well I sleep, how well I lie in bed
not sleeping. I run and sharpen
the bones of my face. The other girls say
they don’t care if their shadows aren’t museum quality. They’re happy
just knowing they’re made out of marble. They have no respect
for the chisel I would take to the human race.
II. Spring Break
Love isn’t above starting this way:
you can drop me from a second-story window
if you pin me against it first. It doesn’t want to start this way,
and who can blame it. There’s the electric outlet and then
there’s the baby finger stuck into it. I was both.
A couple nights later, on a busy street, I recognized his walk
the way a mouse must recognize a hole it used last winter.
Sure, I wish the universe could clear its throat.
Sure, I’m sick of the source of great fire
always being the sun. A few nights ago he peeled off of me
as if he were my own skin and he didn’t want the job.
But afterwards he kissed me as if to apologize
for every brutal thing he was strong enough to have just done.
Later he walked me across town, and we ended up
in an expensive place, in the middle
of a loud song. He looked right at me
the whole time, as if I were still the one thing he would choose,
even though the damn thing couldn’t stop spinning
and was clearly broken.
III. The Essay
It is dumb to know what one has longing for.
I am moved by the orange stitching on a girl’s corduroy book bag.
I, too, wonder what I am happy about.
There is always something natural in pieces
like sand or snow. If early Western cultures
had perceived the surface of the day as wrapping around them like a shell,
I wouldn’t be here right now.
Not exactly me, not exactly here, not exactly now. The world spreads out
from how we look at one thing. I tell myself this and then I look at things for hours.
Don’t think I don’t know how stupid I sound. Please, do not think I don’t know.
IV. Fifth-Year Senior
Everything tastes like love. That’s what
makes me nervous. That and I wish I knew what I will act like
later today. I watch myself being kind sometimes
and I think, is there nothing you won’t fake?
But that’s unforgiving. A smile, a purse, an ax,
these are all things you pick up and carry.
Lately, I pick up the lightest things. I am floating and honored
to drag myself back and forth like a huge feather
across my sleeping boyfriend. He thanks me
by actually changing under my touch. He is smooth
and I worry that I barely feel him,
but doing things no one should see
seems the only good use of my time. He buys me
jewelry I never wear. I love it because it piles up, which proves
I’m alive. The boys my age cry more than the girls do.
They’re always losing games, and those are very symbolic.
My girlfriends and I can’t get off the couch anymore,
and summer is seeping in under the doors.
My friend says people are wrong about us.
It’s the ripe fruit that gets eaten. I say the truth is
I don’t work at things because then
I get them.
V. Graduation Address
I like to be at the end and look back
at the beginning and see all
the stupidity there.
I think we are young.
The posters all say so,
and though no one ever officially
joined our clubs, we designed many logos.
The beautiful, dumb girl you loved
was everyone at our lecture,
and what a strange boy we all were in the corner
with our walking stick, talking too much
about the board games back home.
Many of you were next to me at the talk where I became
hyper-aware of the creeping in my heart.
As you know, I became obsessed
with the on and off inside my chest.
Failure seems to be one half of the deal, which is why
I have occasionally climbed on top of some of you
and then left the room. But there is another way
to look at it: like you, I am a house
for a wet animal that is sneaking up
on something it is terrified by. What is that something?
The wet animal doesn’t know.
The wet animal doesn’t even have eyes.
There’s no way that wet animal isn’t brave.