friends on instagram

i think back on all the friends i’ve loved and lost

and i still miss them

and it’s no one’s fault

or so we say

but it feels like my fault

like if i were easier to love

a little less crazy

if there was on single thing about me

that compelled people to stay

against all odds

then i wouldn’t be here reminiscing

about people who cried with me

during the hardest nights of my life

and now — i’m checking — are we even friends on instagram?

adhd

adhd got me like

“you should take some time to write

get some thoughts down on paper”

but first i should rinse the baby’s bottle

and now i remember that i’m halfway

through an episode of Brooklynn 99

so i should finish it first

because leaving things halfway done is Bad

and now i’m browsing to see

if there are any fun rom-coms

and trying a cooking show instead of that unfinished episode

because food is relaxing

but all these shows feel so fake

so i’ll watch a movie instead

but it can’t be anything too sad

or i’ll break down crying

by now she’s awake again

so i make a bottle

and play some music in the background

and while i’m at it

might as well make a new playlist

update my instagram

and then she falls alseep so i should

watch that movie i picked out

and i’ll have a few cookies while i watch

but she’s sleeping

which means i could squeeze in an hour of sleep too

maybe

so i pause the movie before it’s even started

and all those texts i never sent

can wait for tomorrow

all the pent up feelings of this moment

will grow stale

from waiting

and by the time i write the poem

it will have lost all the flavor and charm

it was born with

she’s awake

again

i want to sleep

again

but i should check the laundry

and her diaper

i should sweep the floor

organize the pile of clothes draped over

the bed, i haven’t made

with the sheets i haven’t washed

in all 2 months i’ve been here

“remember, kate

you were going to write today?

write about goodbyes

or how you’re trying to find meaning

in small things

like movies with the kids before bed

you were going to write it all down

so you don’t lose it

because every moment is so precious

so fragile in the passing of time”

but what about the text messages

and checking instagram

again, so i pick up the phone

to reply, to respond, to reach out

and i open tiktok

and waste an hour

and munch on chocolate

change her diaper

wash my hands

wish i could wash my hair

but it’s cold and i don’t feel like boiling water

think about lunch

but decide to watch tv instead

too many choices on netflix

i try a live comedy routine

but it isn’t funny

home organiztaion but there’s too much talking

so i switch to spotify

and i want something calming

an idea in the back of my mind

whispering, but i can’t my finger on it

so i play again that same song

those 2 songs

that album

i’ve had on repeat

i should change these sheets

i need to change my socks

the room smells stale

and it’s too dark

i open a window

my chai was cold an hour ago

i’m watching tiktoks again

watching other people have organized lives

on instagram again

deleting stuff i posted because now i regret it

again

she’s hungry

she’s crying

i’m wearing yesterday’s outfit

clean the bottle

wake her up, hope she drinks the whole things this time

i’ve got emails?

it’s a rainy day

so my laundry — hung out to dry — isn’t drying

all the baby clothes are too big on her

am i doing this right?

oh, yes. Read the emails

the inbox is so full

i can’t see the bottom

delete the ones from mom

put the others in folders

write a response

in my head, not for real

because typing is so much effort

right now

i could be listening to music

while i sort emails

multi-tasking

the bedside table is a mess

there’s a textbook i need to return

to the teacher

is she cold?

does she need more blankets?

i need more water

i need to eat a real meal

not just cookies

but i can’t leave her in the room by herself

and she’s sleeping

the emails aren’t done

just halfway done

i need something to be done

shoot off a few texts

“i miss you” and it’s true

but i also can’t imagine

being with you again

how was it only last year

we sat on the same couch

and stayed up late talking

and got takeout

Indian, or the Chinese with that iced tea

how is it so late in the day

and i’ve done nothing

i listened to 2 different albums

but didn’t finish either one

but i sent 2 text messages

so maybe

i’m not losing ground?

(i am losing ground)

i should write it all down

“survivors”

“survivors,” she said

and you can see it

in the fear that never leaves his eyes

like at any moment, the arm might swing back

to knock him flat again

and if it did

i know that he would laugh

not with joy, but nervous

covering up the red bleeding thing he holds to his chest

trying not to be what he is

which is five years old

with a gap-toothed smile

and a flash of pink gums

and the wildness that never fully fades

when you hold him

even then, his body is fighting

because every day

that he is home, fed, clothed, loved

his tiny brain says he is

fighting

for his life

“survivors,” all of them are

with her hard eyes

and the tough body that falls and

jumps and

kicks

as if there is no brick wall her head cannot smash through

she doesn’t flinch in the face of pain

her eyes are steady, cold, lifeless

as she looks at it

without fear or caution

and she, like the boy, will laugh

joylessly and without his edge of fear

her laugh is like the roar of a lion

meant to instilll fear in anything

that would dare

get in her way

“survivors,” they have had to be

with small sharp teeth

and narrow beady eyes

with the look of deception so deep

you wonder if they’ve forgotten how to tell the truth

or to look into eyes of love

honestly, without shrinking from it

with small greedy hands

and clever slender fingers

a laugh that can be piercing

like joy is a candy sweet

she is surprised, delighted with the taste of it

or hollow as a dead church bell

false and uncanny

she is a conman in a tiny body

catching everything, everything

but never caught

always caught off-guard

by warmth

by arms that hold her gently

by people that don’t leave

and she said “they are all survivors”

and it’s true

even the ones who don’t have the look

the laugh

the head like a wrecking ball

the hands of a thief

even the ones that cry at sad movies

that hold your hands

without squeezing too hard

without seeming to doubt

if you will still be here tomorrow

even her

she is a survivor as much as any of them

gentle and soft and

how crazy is it, then, that she has made it this far

this seems proof enough

that under warm brown skin

and trusting eyes still kind

as if no one has ever caused her pain

there is something strong and brave beneath

my gentle survivor

she told me they were “survivors”

and i suppose…

that should be obvious

from the swagger

the deep rasp of panic

when he gets angry

and i must remember — at all costs —

that anger is a mask for pain

and fear

even though his eyes are cruel

and his actions often are too

this is what he has had to be

to stay in one piece

in a world that could shatter smaller prettier things into dust

and he is anything but

iron will, iron mind, iron skin

have i ever seen him cry?

maybe somewhere beneath it all

i can hardly imagine, but how beautiful?

there is a boy who dances with eyes closed

and a real smile on his lips

“survivors” is a hard word

for a hard world

and she is not a survivor by choice

she had no say in what was done to her

and so small, she goes on living

because there is no other way

she laughs that laugh

that makes you want to weep

because God made such perfect things

and He watches as they are broken

her shoes are too big

and her dress falls off one shoulder

like a little Mary Magdalene

how strange to think she will carry all

the shame, the burden, the guilt

and he will carry none at all

that she must be protected

because it happened once it can happen again

it will happen again

she is a glass thing — once broken, prone to breaking easily

and yet

she smiles at me

some of our kids, these “survivors”

wear the title on their skin

and for some, maybe, it would be a sign of weakness

but not for him

the scars that ripple their way

across forearms powerful enough

to flip someone easily onto their back

and he’s fifteen

i call him my baby

“you’re my favorite,” i whisper to him

and he doesn’t answer

but he remembers

i think he must remember it all

he has learned to wear them, these scars

with the same ease

as basketball shoes and skinny jeans

with the same ease that he disappears

he wear hand-me-down letter jackets

that make me wish he could play american football

because he’d be a star

my boy

they are survivors

she was right

the poem could go on and on

more eyes that have no light

more smiles that echo sadness into mind

more babies who have lived lifetimes

more hands grown hard but

somehow

gentle in mine still

survivor

it doesn’t mean you are bad

because bad things happened to you

but oh, beautiful ones

i cry for the things that have been lost

but i stand in awe of

the glorious thing you are now

glass under their feet, pt. 2

i was pushing her on the swing

my feet bare in the thick dust

her eyes bright

a crooked piece of glass

catching the sunlight

as it lay on the ground

under our feet

she soars higher

an unspeakable pain grows

inside me, my own private hell

i will leave this place

i could choose to run

to look way

and never return

but i can’t outrun pain

it is swift and light

drifting along behind me

lighting on my shoulders

wherever i rest

i wonder was it really

the thing Pandora let out of the box or

did she drop it

break it

leave it shattered on the ground

for the rest of us to clean up

Pandora’s box was made of glass

and it looks a lot like pain

my only wish

she’s so perfect —

i hate her

why?

you ask

the answer is hot on my tongue

easy to access

and small and bitter as a pill of selfishness:

i can never be her

…i want to be

but that isn’t my destiny

perfect was written right out of the twists of my dna

God said “not her”

when he looked at me

i don’t have that shiny hair

that swishes, golden, when i look at you

i don’t know how to wear her practiced smile

oozing confidence and magazine cover comfort

with all eyes on her

the perfect white teeth, the way her hands

are used to doing makeup

flawlessly, without excessive effort

i will never be the perfect girl

in a dress, with clear skin, glowing

never have the car, the iPhone, the boyfriend

let’s face it, the money from your parents

that made you the glittering thing you are

never

i only wish…

i could stop wishing

that someday

i could be

to dust

there is a fine layer of dust

coating everything

when i wake up

the keys of my laptop

the sketch on my table

my open journal pages —

i have to brush them clean before writing

or else i can feel the grit

under my fingers, beneath the pen —

there are traces of it on my bedcovers

it coats my lungs

the inside of my throat

as if a reminder that already

i am dust

and to dust i shall return

miss me?

it hurts

it hurts because i’m insecure

because i believe

without the faintest shiny oilspot of doubt

that you don’t miss me when i’m not there

i don’t matter as much,

you are happy

without me

wouldn’t notice,

if i stopped talking

(to you, to anyone, to everyone)

altogether

american baby

“American baby,” they laugh

i think, because we know it’s not true

he is not mine

the way i want him to be

he may reach for me

smile in the morning

when he first sees me

and we can joke

about this one learning

to like my food

or speak my language

because it’s the one that i speak to him

it is in that language i sing lullabies

that have drifted you into dreaming

but i’m American, baby

and maybe you don’t belong either

maybe you’ll never know what “home” means

and i wish i wasn’t going

without you

but with me wouldn’t be home either

“American baby,” we smile

and all pretend

that i’m not leaving

that you can stay

in my arms, forever

busy fingers

i love these simple

repetitive

tasks

busy fingers

mind free to roam

and soar

on every

fleeting current

methodically taking out cornrows

hours of toothpicking my way through thick curly hair

shelling peas

the sun hot on the back of my neck

weaving yarn into a tiny basket

bring the thread forward

bring the thread

forward, forward, forward

unwind and cut and loop

hands busy, mind free

and i think

in these moments

i could be ordinary

mundane happinesses

and i don’t need to be unforgettable

i don’t have to be immortal

maybe i live this small beautiful life

because this is all i’m

truly certain

i’m good at

small things

unbraiding hair

shelling peas

weaving a basket

fingers busy

mind free to fly

to roam

writing all the stories

i might never write for real

because maybe i love the mundane too much

even though part of me shrivels at the thought

to be anything more

than ordinary

and happy to be