you know how it is
around your birthday;
you start checking the mail
every day and throwing anything that isn’t
handwritten away.

you’re full of memory and busy:
you got piles of recycling in the corner
from the meal prep:
all empty kombucha bottles and cake mix,
Barilla pasta for when you’re just handling
you’re laying off the strong stuff:
counting your wrinkles,
counting your blessings.
counting your jelly rolls.
there are hairballs on the floor,
but you are too busy experiencing
a fit of importunity and rapping at your neighbors’ door
to curse his music and borrow sugar to
make your own icing from scratch.
peanut butter maple.
you have chosen the life of a mendicant,
and your knees always hurt.

you are waiting for your grandma to send you a check
and ignoring voicemail reminders that
her leukemia is pretty bad and
you’re rotten and taking up space
like her snaking liver spots.
you always managed not to hug me unless
mom said so, even on our birthdays.
she just bought me a new chain to carry you on.
I have a bad metal allergy so I dot my neck with
white dabs of cream before I head to my party.
I am wearing a big fancy dress: blue taffeta with a low neckline,
and I am taking out my earrings to dance with the new one
who erupts into laughter without much provocation
or prodding, the way you did.
we are twirling in front of a concrete mural
with icing lips and white teeth,
I am somewhere else completely.

dreaming of Christmas, cinnamon buns and you
choking out an
I love you
with my color by numbers.
I’m hugging an unnamed kitten
and trying to hold onto this feeling.
Color me shivering,
you are freezing
he drapes his coat over my bare shoulders.
I just woke up in your grave and you still manage
to choke out a reminder
without oxygen or a brain to suck it from.
And my phone chokes out several
beeping reminders
that the living are hunting me.
I’m hunting something too.
my heels in the dirt, his hand in mine,
smile, I say for no one.
i’m wearing nail polish labeled “kerosene” and
my gums are as sore and red
as love from the budding gingivitis,
my secret candy habit washed out
by hydrogen peroxide.
my hair is up and auburn in the sun,
but today is partly drizzle and partly
made up in my head.
Congratulations, baby, you made it.
I wrote on my own.
polaroids line the picnic table
and girls are trying to tell me secrets.
I am sharing things with the sky again.
i’ll show you all the films I like
was the first thing he said
to me before he grabbed me,
before he took me.
and you loved me more
than any other man.

We barely talk.
We watch films.
He finishes on top of his fingers
and my wrapping paper.
I pretend to be asleep
but I’m full of sugar
and thoughts like a ball of yarn
coming partially undone
and I wish the moon had a son
to hold at night to keep
her anchored halfway in the

Suddenly, I wake up in his forearm
biting through his moles
to get to you.

“grief, elongated”


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