poem: touch(love)

touch(love)

i. collarbone
if i starve, will you love me better?
i’m so hungry all of the time.
no peanut butter, no milk, no pasta
i tiptoe on the scale like a ballerina and trace my collarbone in the mirror
i’m an archaeologist digging for love, but
i only find bone.

ii. lips
i’m so lonely. i get tired of performing.
i just want to escape for a while.
alcohol loosens my limbs and limbers my lips
gives me permission to scavenge for scraps of touch(love) 
beneath the naked moon
to eat greedily from the hands that feed me.
i’m so hungry all of the time.

iii. vagina pt 1
no, i’m not going to “come for you.”
you’ve been touching me for literally three minutes
and i don’t think you know
how to do this.

iv. mouth
in the story i tell, i say he locked the car doors
but that’s not true - 
i just couldn’t say the words. 
he didn’t lock me in, didn’t hold me down, but he might as well have
because i couldn’t find my voice enough to say - 
no.
i don’t want to.
take me home.

maybe if i’d learned that men give a damn what comes out of my mouth
i’d have been more inclined to speak

v. kneecaps
i learn how to fake a good sneeze to explain my watery eyes
but sometimes the patterned grout on the bathroom floor
leaves a maroon grid on my kneecaps
and i haven’t figured out how to explain that yet

vi. cheek
when you kiss me for the first time and put your hand on my cheek
your palm feels like the pillow i can finally lay my head on
after years
of insomnia

vii. chest
my mind can’t comprehend what my body knows:
i’m having a panic attack because you’re fucking me the way
a stranger would.
the touch is there, the (love) is not.
my body remembers.
you pack your white t-shirt into your duffel bag
and the black pain that splits my chest open isn’t the pain of you leaving - 
it’s the pain of me, being alone with myself.

viii. muscle
when i finally unhook my inner self from her marionette strings
she is furious with me.
she is furious for all the times i taped her mouth,
dazed her with whiskey,
and snuck out the back door, searching for touch(love).
her voice is hoarse from all the times she called out in vain - 
that’s
not
love
.
she is skeletal
her muscles have atrophied
but she cleans house righteously.
i watch in obedient silence as she throws away
the bottles.
the scale.
she says, we have some mending to do.

ix. skin
the cashier at the Goodwill on Broadway knows me as
the crying girl who buys sweaters on Fridays.
i prepare for winter the way a grizzly would
i fall asleep dwarfed in sweaters.
it’s not quite the same as your body holding mine
but it’s just as warm
and now i can sprawl across the bed
like a starfish

x. stomach
to celebrate the New Year
we wear wool socks and stand around the kitchen table
knives in hand, we chop beets, cilantro, cabbage -
bright foods that beg to be celebrated.
my stomach howls at the full moon.
can i love food when i was taught to hate this body?
can i rebuild?

xi. vagina pt 2
i splatter my sexuality
across the canvas of this whitewashed town
like a fistful of green fingerpaint.
i come to enjoy her, 
this self who tilts her chin and volunteers
the delicate skin of her neck to her lovers in the dark. 
this self who says, 
i’m hungry.
i want.
like this.

i am wickedly unrestrained
and slowly i learn
that surrender is actionable
and opportunities for pleasure
are boundless. 

xii. body
i have been courting my body.
it’s early still, but i think
she’s starting to like me.
i’m so hungry all of the time, she whispers.
i know, i reply, 
and she nearly
jumps out
of her skin.
(she didn’t think i could hear.)
i smile devilishly, lead her to the grocery store, hand her my credit card.
buy anything you want.
i want nothing more than to spoil this woman.
i cook her colorful feasts to the tune of jazz.
i take her dancing.
sometimes i catch her peering at the marionette strings
hanging dusty in the closet.
sometimes, she cries and i can’t assuage her fears.
i don’t blame her.
it’s hard to convince someone you’ve abandoned
that you won’t leave her again.
so i’m taking things slow.
it’s early still, but i think
she’s starting to like me.