used to say slough like slow but more
ow, not slough like trough, or slough like slew,
but slough like snuff, like death’s voyeur.
violence or knowledge might be the throughline.
knowledge grasped through violence.
the things i’ve learned: epitome is not pronounced
like tome, but me. what’s found at the base
of the scalp is scorn. secrets are visible beneath the nails.
light is not the only directional. the body is to be
listened to. commands are avoidable.
everything you run from will find you.
what’s waiting for you outside the window
can be found behind the mirror.
if you reach inside yourself eventually you’ll find truth.
the body is tangible but the self is not.
the only thing worth repeating is
everything. last night, i watched myself open
and wished myself closed. daybreak taught me
regret. moonlight taught me consequence.
afternoon heat bled into me, taught me to resist.
water taught me imperfect reflection, taught me slake,
taught me slow. i haven’t learned anything
well enough to pause.
i learn best from the sediment glow
held in my throat. burn. smoke.
the voice of me was born in the coal forest.
the rest of me was born in absence.
i don’t know where all i’ve been,
but i know the names that each place called me.
every definition of till has homed me. land. time.
supply. i’m still learning.
fear and what makes it
it’s not that i’m afraid of dying, i’m just afraid
of what comes after. not afraid of heights, just falling.
not afraid of ghosts, just hauntings. not the dark,
just what’s in it. not what’s gone, what’s left behind.
both everything and the concept of nothingness.
never played bloody mary or ouija. hid under blankets,
not sheets. convinced myself thinking about dead people
meant they could hear you. never stopped believing,
think of them at the worst times. a ghost can be anything
that lingers longer than its welcome, i’ve always known this.
any shadow longer than the light. anything moving
while you’re asleep. anything that wakes before you do.
anything eliciting fear. etc. i’m not afraid of being alone,
just being left. i’ve ghosted and been ghosted and so it goes.
i’m not haunted by memories, just remembering.
i’m not haunted, just feel a presence. it never leaves.
not when i check the mirror and see nothing,
not when i look behind me and see nothing,
not when i lock and unlock and lock my door,
not when i test the knob, not when i check the peephole.
i watch myself weep and know i’m not the only one.
i cover the cameras because i know there are eyes behind them.
when i hear wailing it comes from inside me. when i hear whispers
it’s often my own. when i lose time i know where it goes.
when i lose myself i know who takes it.
my brother; bronzed grackle
here we are again, two sides of the mirror.
i still hear the desperation in your voice as you beg
i still wonder— here, there’s no need for wonder.
i shed my fear like an overwarm coat. i followed
the tether of your voice into the dark sea. we
were two bodies floating. i lent you a life raft
and you took it. the voice from beneath the water
was a stranger’s. muffled by lungs full of what
does not belong. brother, can you swim?
short distances, maybe. when you were young
you filled my lungs with chlorine, didn’t blink.
the coin of your eye like the moon disappears.
nothing to guide us out of the water. brother,
are you drowning? are you wading or waiting
for me to pull you out? here we are, two sides
of the mirror. you above water and me below
or me above and you below and both of us
trading water for air back and forth. brother,
i do not know how to save you. i do not know
where you’re going or how to follow. brother,
here, in this dream, i broke through my fear
like the surface, gasping for air, hands flailing
reaching for you, my shore. and you reaching
for me in the distance. both of us searching
for land. brother, have you landed? how far
must we go to find shore? i heard your voice
today and it came so close to breaking me
out of this dream i’ve been stuck in since
that night you called. brother, i’m tired
of treading water, relaying messages, replaying
the fear that led you where you are. the release
of air into what could hold it was all you needed
and hearing the shatter of your voice, i refused.
brother, forgive me. neither of us know how to
swim. neither of us have webbed feet. enter the
water only in search of what could sustain us.
brother, nothing can sustain us for long enough.
brother, the water cannot hold us, but neither
can the ground. brother, do you know what
it feels like to carry wind beneath you? brother,
you have outran everything that’s ever chased
us and still been caught. brother, does your cage
remind you of who put you there? brother, do
you blame me? brother, do you think about
that night, the water in your lungs and me
drowning in my fear? brother, have you ever
feared me? brother, have you ever seen me
in your reflection and been scared? brother, have
you ever scared yourself? brother, are you there?
A BRIEF HISTORY OF PERSONAL FREEDOM, EVASION, AND INVASION
after Abbie Kiefer
because my life is unmoored, my schedule is unknown. because my schedule is unknown, my mother has scheduled video visits with my brother during my last two workshops. because my workshops are reducing my credit debt, i have chosen them over my brother. because my brother is in prison, i must choose between him and my schedule. because i have chosen my life over my brother’s, i’m reduced to guilt. because i have never been anything but guilty, this is not uncommon. because i define guilt as emotion rather than sentence, i must acknowledge the distance between my life and my brother’s. because there is distance between our lives, my brother is in prison. because i blame myself for my brother’s imprisonment, my life is on pause. because my life is on pause, i have no requirements. because i have no requirements, my life is unmoored. because my life is unmoored, i am here, i am writing, i am performing the act known as creation. because creation comes naturally to me, it doesn’t feel like a celebratory feat. because i do not know how to celebrate my creation, i discount myself. because i discount myself, i devalue myself. because i devalue myself, i reduce my workshops to their effect on my credit debt. because my credit debt is constantly accruing, i reduce everything to its effect on my credit debt. because i get daily emails asking if i want to raise my credit limit, i am constantly thinking about my credit score. because i am constantly thinking about my credit score, i am constantly thinking about money. because money is needed to live, i reduce the concept of living to what i can afford. because i cannot afford to live, i rack up credit debt. because i want to live a life i enjoy, i ignore my credit debt. because i ignore my credit debt, i choose only credit cards with introductory no interest. because i choose cards with no interest, my debt doesn’t feel like debt. because the no interest period ends, my debt begins to feel like debt. once my debt begins to feel like debt, i begin chasing my tail trying to reduce it. because i am not a dog, i know what to do once i catch my tail. once i catch the tail of my credit debt, i clench it between my teeth, i search for a card with no interest, i open a new line of credit. i don’t know when i forgot my brother in this poem, but here at the end, i remember.
solar system inhabited
planet sickness: stark. a web of scars, a volatile
surface. a year is three days. the sun comes out once
in two years. in a lifetime, ten days of light. life
unsustainable. sleepless, sick, forsaken, lost.
planet health: transient. a habitable
surface. a year is a year, everything is
what you expect. give it time, you will
lose what you thought was permanent.
planet between sickness and health: an unbreathable
surface. fluid in the air, in the lungs. crushing weight. once,
a year consisted of two nights. now a year consists of constant
empty loss. temporary, passing, essential, trapped.
BEE LB is an array of letters, bound to impulse; a writer creating delicate connections. their portfolio can be found at twinbrights.carrd.co