Queen of Bitter Seas

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I’m Just So Tired Here

I sleep on couches,

my body curled against the dog.

I am content here.

Dreams have never made sense to me.

I’ve had recurring ones,

ones that hurt the first time

but then replayed to the point where I didn’t want to regain consciousness-

couldn’t bear to lose safe fear.

I once had a dream where the girl I loved

(who had a boyfriend)

was decapitated.

He couldn’t accept her death.

Fists pounding.

I didn’t wake up.

The Human Tongue, The Human Brain

She doesn’t know how to put words in her mouth.

They’re there, somewhere,

somewhere she doesn’t know, can touch but cannot feel-

Is it even tangible?

Maybe that’s it.

Maybe sometimes words can be colors.

Maybe children know something we don’t.

But I don’t want to make assumptions.

Of all the ancient woman,

Maybe it was better to be seen and not heard.

Maybe it was easier that way.

Fireproof

It’s been so long, too long

since I checked the fire-detector

(upstairs, down the hall, first left- no- second)

out of fear.

My wagons now circle around the blaze

of whatever I might be.

Pulling in close, too close,

be careful my weary pioneers, you might get burned.

You might lose everything.

We wouldn’t want that, would we?

Homecoming

Lila is sitting on one of two rickety plastic chairs. She’s wearing the epitome of comfort; sweatpants, a camisole, worn sneakers. Her hair is mussy, like she didn’t get a chance to brush it after sleep. She sits lolling a bit, very isolated.

The curtains are at a sort of half-mast, only open a bit past where both chairs end.

Laurel enters through the curtains, rushed. She’s dressed smart and sharp, fashionable. Tight pants, nice shoes, a leather jacket. Her hair is windswept, but obviously taken care of.

She goes to hug Lila, but stops and steps back.

LILA

What are you doing here?

LAUREL

I heard Dad was in the hospital so I drove down from school. What happened?

Lila wrings her hands.

LILA

Nothing, nothing.

A pause.

Well, not nothing, obviously.

LAUREL

Obviously.

LILA

But nothing to worry about! Just a minor accident.

LAUREL

What happened.

LILA

Dad fell. A sprained arm probably, but the doctors want to keep him over night in case he hit his head or something. Nothing big, everyone’s just overreacting. You know him, hospitals never let him out easily.

LAUREL

(surprised)

Oh.

She looks around.

How’s Mom doing?

LILA

She’s, well, she’s not here yet.

A pause. Laurel rubs her eyes, frustrated.

LAUREL

What do you mean “she’s not here”?

LILA

She isn’t here. Not in the hospital, not in the county, not the state. At least not yet, I think.

LAUREL

What? Where is she?

LILA

Route 80.

LAUREL

Why the hell is she out there?

Lila shushes Laurel, and motions for Laurel to sit down. She complies.

LILA

She went away for the weekend. They needed a little break. No big deal.

LAUREL

It’s not no big deal.

LILA

It’s no big deal. You know how they get. You know how Mom gets and you know how Dad gets.

LAUREL

They get crazy. So they’ve been fighting?

LILA

They’re fine. Everyone’s fine.

LAUREL

They’ve been fighting again.

LILA

They never stopped.

LAUREL

What about, this time?

LILA

Work.

LAUREL

Work means money. Money means school.

She gauges Lila’s reaction.

Dad’s still angry about tuition?

Pauses again.

(frustrated)

I knew this would happen. I knew this would happen when I left.

LILA

This has nothing to do with you.

LAUREL

Like hell it doesn’t!

Lila gets up, paces behind Laurel.

LILA

When they fight, it has nothing to do with you! It’s none of your business! You’re out of the picture nine months out of the year, so at this point, if anything you’re just an excuse!

Laurel sighs into her hands, sinking down. Lila chances a look out behind the curtains.

LAUREL

Is he in there?

LILA

He’s asleep.

A long pause. They look nowhere in particular, instead indulging in nervous ticks.

LAUREL

You should have called me. I told you to call me if the fighting got worse.

LILA

And said what? “Come home”?

LAUREL

Yeah.

LILA

Like you would have. Besides, imagine how they would have reacted.

A pause.

LAUREL

Dad would kill me if I missed class.

LILA

And Mom would’ve ran you back, and then what? They would start fighting about that.

Lila sits down.

LAUREL

I know how this all goes.

LILA

So do I. I weighed the options, to call or not to call… It would have done more harm than good. You being home does more harm than good.

LAUREL

So what now? I’m not about to leave.

LILA

You have to get back up to school though.

LAUREL

They give you time off for family emergencies.

LILA

(laughing)

Don’t act like you haven’t already used them.

LAUREL

Hey!

LILA

Shut up, you know you have.

LAUREL

You suck.

(black humor)

You know, he probably wants me to save those days for his funeral. He always says we stress him out so much, we’ll stop his heart. Well, not us, but…

LILA

The way they’ve been going, it won’t be long, I’ll tell you that much.

LAUREL

That bad?

LILA

Worse than before you left.

LAUREL

Divorce?

LILA

They would never.

LAUREL

Never say never, kiddo.

LILA

Look, I know Mom’s impulsive, especially when she’s angry, but she wouldn’t do something that rash.

LAUREL

What about Dad?

LILA

(quizzically)

Dad was never the one to bring up divorce.

LAUREL

Well, things change. And I don’t talk to Dad.

LILA

Does that mean you’ve been talking to Mom?

LAUREL

We text. Nothing major. Why do you sound so surprised?

LILA

Oh, nothing, nothing. So she didn’t tell you she went away for the weekend?

LAUREL

Honestly? She probably mentioned it. She said the weather was nice, but I assumed she meant back at home.

LILA

Nope. It’s been raining.

LAUREL

She hates the rain.

LILA

She hates it here.

LAUREL

Don’t be so melodramatic. You said it was only the weekend.

LILA

(under her breath)

And the one before that, and the one before that.

LAUREL

Jesus Christ, you promised you would call if it got worse.

LILA

You’re talking yourself in circles. What’s done is done. I didn’t call. Get over it.

LAUREL

I know. I’m just upset. I wish you’d kept the promise.

LILA

I couldn’t.

LAUREL

I know. But I just wish-

She cuts herself off. Silence. Laurel picks up, trying to be more lively.

So how have you been?

LILA

Me? I’m fine. I’ve just been a bit tired lately. You?

LAUREL

Yeah, yeah, I’m good. I bit rough from wear but I’m getting through it. Classes are brutal. Never pursue higher education.

LILA

A bit too late for that.

LAUREL

Have you gotten in anywhere?

LILA

Haven’t heard back yet.

LAUREL

Oh. Well, I’m sure you’ll get in somewhere. You’ve got better chops than me.

Lila twiddles her thumbs. A pause.

LILA

(quietly)

I haven’t changed my mind, you know.

LAUREL

Hmm?

LILA

I’m staying home. For school.

LAUREL

Is this because of Dad?

LILA

Look, I know you don’t believe everything he says, but he’s still our Dad.

LAUREL

You can’t let him push you around! You can’t let him tell you where to go to school, just because he doesn’t want to pay!

LILA

We don’t have the money, Laurel.

LAUREL

Is that what he’s saying now? This is the man who tried to get me into the University of Phoenix online college-

LILA

(cutting her off)

I’m going to a real school, Laurel. Just one that’s close. One that’ll cost less. All of the accommodations home has to offer.

LAUREL

(starts quietly)

I’m telling you, Lila, you have to get out.

Looks back behind the curtain, where Dad’s room is.

I might not show it, but I’m so much happier. Everything’s better. Everything’s lighter.

LILA

Well, not all of us have those luxuries.

LAUREL

Don’t play at that.

LILA

No, I’m serious. Not everyone gets to just blurt out how they feel and run away to a fancy little school.

LAUREL

Dad and I weren’t fighting for kicks, Lila. It was a holiday break, and he wanted me to transfer. I’m not transferring. Not for him, not for anybody.

LILA

Well, some of us have to stay to put out the fires.

Lila stands up and goes to walk around the chairs. Laurel mirrors her, slightly behind.

LAUREL

You better not be comparing me to Mom. I’m not Mom.

Tries to look at her face.

I got here before her, for chrissakes. It’s school, Lila. The important stuff.

They stand in front of each other.

LILA

Yeah, and you had to go to this magnificent dream school. You could have stayed close to home. You could have tried.

LAUREL

I couldn’t take it anymore! I spent my entire life putting out the fires, and living through them. Watching both of them spar, battle after battle, picking up the pieces. I didn’t know what a healthy relationship looked like.

(sighs)

I needed to do something for myself.

LILA

And look how happy you are! Look how much lighter you are! Look at how goddamn beautiful everything in your life is, Laurel. Don’t mind me.

LAUREL

Don’t mock me.

LILA

No!

(quieter)

I’m not mocking you. I just didn’t expect this. Any of this.

Laurel puts her hand on Lila’s arm.

LAUREL

Any of the what?

LILA

I don’t know. The lonely dinners, the empty house. And now Dad getting hurt, and you being here.

LAUREL

You shouldn’t have to be alone.

Lila shakes it off.

LILA

Well, it’s better than the alternative.

Lila goes to sit down.

LILA

(self-deprecating humor)

Sitting in a room with them is like Guantanamo-level torture.

Laurel sits.

LAUREL

What about your friends? Have they been around?

Lila sits back, closes herself off.

LILA

Too messy. They’re all going away anyways. Better to have a clean break.

LAUREL

Have you been seeing anyone?

LILA

I see people when I have to see them, and don’t when I don’t. It’s a good system.

LAUREL

So what, you’re a hermit now?

LILA

You spent High School as a hermit. You’ve always been more content alone. I guess I’m just following in my big sister’s footsteps.

LAUREL

Then follow me out of this goddamn town.

LILA

No.

A pause.

LAUREL

What, then? Are you going to stay home forever?

LILA

I don’t know, maybe. I wouldn’t be the first in our family.

LAUREL

We’re not trash. We have prime chances at better lives.

A pause.

What about the Midwest, or New England? You always said you wanted to travel.

LILA

We were kids. I have responsibilities now.

LAUREL

It’s family. They’d forgive you. They’d be happy for you.

LILA

Dad doesn’t want— This is just the easiest way, Laurel. Plain and simple. Me at home. You’ll always know where to find me. I’m not going anywhere.

LAUREL

Well what am I supposed to do? Leave you here?

LILA

I want to be here, Laurel. You have to trust that.

A pause. Laurel looks back at the curtains.

(quietly)

I should go check on Dad.

LAUREL

Tell him I’m here?

Lila nods.

LILA

Why - Why don’t you call Mom, ask her where she is?

LAUREL

On it.

Lila walks back behind the curtains. Laurel stands up, pulls out her phone, dials, and holds it up. She paces while talking.

Hey, Mom? 

MOM (OFFSTAGE)

Did you get my message?

LAUREL

Yeah, yeah

MOM (OFFSTAGE)

So? Are you on your way down?

LAUREL

Actually, I’m at the hospital with Lila and Dad, where are you?

MOM (OFFSTAGE)

Oh, I’m driving sweetie, I should be there soon

LAUREL

You’re driving? Good, good. Well, I hope I’ll see you soon

MOM (OFFSTAGE)

So what are your plans? You gonna abandon me?

LAUREL

Yeah, I think I’ll stick around for a few days, y’know? The school has days reserved for family emergencies and all so-

MOM (OFFSTAGE)

So I get my girl around!

LAUREL

Mmhmm! Definitely.

A pause. She turns back to where Dad’s room is.

LAUREL

Mom? Do you want to talk to Dad?

MOM (OFFSTAGE)

Oh, no honey, I’ll talk to him when I see him, thank you though.

LAUREL

No? Okay, I just thought… Nothing.

MOM (OFFSTAGE)

How’s your sister?

LAUREL

Lila? She’s holding up. Do you want to talk to her?

MOM (OFFSTAGE)

No, sweetie, I’m driving, I’ll just see them when I see them.

LAUREL

No? Oh, well, okay then, I guess. I’ll see you then. I love you.

MOM (OFFSTAGE)

Love you too, sweetheart!

LAUREL

Okay, love you, bye.

Laurel hangs up and looks back again to where Dad’s room is. A pause. She sits back down. The end.

Bravery

DUSTIN is shorter than HANNAH, she is quite tall. DUSTIN has a darker complexion, and a scowling expression. HANNAH is flowing, long hair, muscular but fair lines. Anyone would seem stocky next to her.

HANNAH is wearing a light unbuttoned flannel with tight jeans and street sneakers, DUSTIN is wearing a buttoned up flannel, blue, with khaki colored pants and running shoes.

DUSTIN is standing off-center, with a streetlight and a bench behind him. He looks bored, but expectant. Someone is late. He’s getting chilly. HANNAH runs in, stops, and looks around, over her shoulder twice. She straightens up like nothing has happened, and takes on the same demeanor he has. He steps up to talk to her.

DUSTIN

Uh, excuse me, uh, are you okay?

HANNAH

(panting)

Okay? Oh, yeah, totally okay. Peachy. You?

DUSTIN

Oh, well, I’m fine, but see you were running and I just-

HANNAH

You just what?

DUSTIN

I thought something might be wrong. My apologies.

He steps back, putting distance between them. A pause. She looks back at him.

HANNAH

Look, man, I’m sorry. I just, I just need to get out of here. Can you tell me where I am? I don’t know how to get home.

DUSTIN

Oh, well, you’re on Campbell.

She gives him a dumbfounded look.

HANNAH

That doesn’t help me. What town is this?

DUSTIN

Creaton Heights?

HANNAH starts pacing.

HANNAH

Oh great! This is just perfect!

DUSTIN

Why? Is that far?

HANNAH

Too far. Too too far.
I can’t believe I ran that far.

DUSTIN

Where’d you run from?

Shoots him a look, sizing him up.

HANNAH

Cedar Hills.

DUSTIN

Are you crazy? That’s a couple miles.

HANNAH

Well? I needed to run.

DUSTIN steps closer to her.

DUSTIN

Why were you running?

HANNAH

None of your business.

DUSTIN

Were you running from something?

HANNAH

Really none of your business.

DUSTIN steps closer.

Dustin

What’s your name?

HANNAH

Hannah.

Puts out his hand.

DUSTIN

Dustin.

They shake hands.

Pleased to make your acquaintance.

He steps back. They both face forward.

So were you running from home or to home?

She looks at him, confused.

You wanted to know how to get home. Where you were running from is an obvious question.

Realization dawns.

HANNAH

That’s none of your —

DUSTIN

Yeah, I get it. But is it really that important to the plot if you don’t tell me? Would it give you away?

He judges her reaction.

If that’s so, then wouldn’t you be telling me more by not telling me?

HANNAH

I think you’re reading too far into it. I think you need to keep your pretty little mouth shut.

He grabs her wrists tightly and pulls her face to face.

DUSTIN

Where is ‘home’, Hannah?

HANNAH

Get off me, freak!

She pulls away, rubbing at her wrist.

DUSTIN

Look, I’m just trying to help.

HANNAH

Well don’t. If that’s how you help someone, don’t quit your day job.

She rubs her wrists.

HANNAH

Asshole.

HANNAH walks away a bit with her hands folded under her arms, looking around. DUSTIN steps back and sits down on the bench. He stares at her for a moment and then pats the bench expectantly.

HANNAH looks over.

No way am I sitting next to you after that stunt you pulled.

DUSTIN

Look, I’m just trying to understand your situation and you’re just not letting me.

HANNAH

Well isn’t that a funny way of looking at it.

DUSTIN

Yeah? And what would you call it?

HANNAH

(playfully)

Assault. First-degree. I could have you arrested.

DUSTIN

Could you have whatever you’re running from arrested?

HANNAH looks away.

HANNAH

If I wanted to, I’m sure I could figure something out.

DUSTIN

(exasperated)

Why can’t you just tell me?

HANNAH looks back. A pause. She goes and sits down next to him.

HANNAH

(tired)

Why can’t you just be happy with what you’ve got?

DUSTIN

And what’s that? A headache from a girl who -

HANNAH

You’ve got me! For wonderful company on a Wednesday night when you would have just been standing alone for ages anyway. I was a godsend. I was something interesting. You just can’t get enough.

DUSTIN

So it’s no surprise I want more?

She scowls at him.

HANNAH

There you go again. You keep taking the fun out of it.

DUSTIN

The fun out of what?

HANNAH

The fun out of the chase.

DUSTIN

You were the one running.

HANNAH

You keep coming back to that. Interesting. Repetitive.

DUSTIN

I just want to help.

HANNAH

Yeah? Well maybe I don’t need your help! I was doing just fine, mister.

She leans her head on his shoulder.

Just needed directions.

DUSTIN

You were running for what could only be assumed as being a reason which you refuse to explain. You were running for miles.

HANNAH

Maybe I like running.

DUSTIN

You aren’t built like a runner.

HANNAH

You calling me fat?

DUSTIN

I’m calling you out. You aren’t a runner. You don’t run. Running is not on your resume. It is not in your repertoire.

HANNAH

(mocking)

Hello, ‘R’ section of the dictionary. It seems we haven’t been acquainted. Ah, repetition. Anaphora. Any other literary devices you’d like to try out?

DUSTIN

I’m just saying.

Silence. She looks at him for a beat or two, then down, then away.

HANNAH

I live in Cedar Hills.

DUSTIN

Mmhmm?

HANNAH

That’s the story. It’s a great one, isn’t it?

DUSTIN stares at her, waiting.

Okay maybe that’s not the whole story. Maybe I just needed to run.

DUSTIN

Run away?

HANNAH

Maybe, alright?!

DUSTIN

Hannah, were you running or running away.

A pause.

HANNAH

Running away.

DUSTIN

Okay. Away from what?

HANNAH

From what was there.

DUSTIN

And what was there?

HANNAH

What I was running from.

DUSTIN

Hannah.

HANNAH

Dustin.

DUSTIN

Why won’t you just talk straight?

HANNAH gets up.

HANNAH

Because maybe it’s my business, maybe it’s my personal business and that would make it none of yours!

DUSTIN gets up.

DUSTIN

But don’t you want to talk about it?

HANNAH

I don’t know! Don’t you get it? I don’t know where I am. I don’t know why I ran. I don’t know what to say or if I should say it. I’m not sure why I left and I’m not sure - why I’m talking - to you!

DUSTIN

Calm down.

HANNAH

Don’t tell me what to do! You’re not my mom!

DUSTIN

Did you run because of your mom?

HANNAH

Shut your goddamn mouth or I swear to christ —

DUSTIN steps back.

DUSTIN

That’s it, isn’t it? You ran from your mom?

He looks at her. Silence.

And there it is. You ran from your mom. Now was that so hard?

HANNAH

Stop it, I swear to god STOP IT!

DUSTIN

Why? You look healthy, well dressed. What could dear old mommy have done to hurt poor Hannah’s feelings?

HANNAH

You are over the line, man. Take a step back before I make you.

DUSTIN

Or what? You’ll run away?

HANNAH

You have no right to judge me, okay loser? You’re the one standing around putting too much effort in a girl you just met.

DUSTIN

I’m just trying to help —

HANNAH

You’re making fun of me! You’re poking fun at me for running when I should have stayed. I know I shouldn’t run away from my problems. Are you so insecure in yourself that you need to make other people feel bad just to get your rocks off? Is that it, macho man? Do you feel better now?

DUSTIN

There’s no need to be rude —

HANNAH

No, I’m just getting started.

HANNAH moves back and forth through each voice.

(mocking)

Now Hannah, please tell the class why you came running in from Cedar Hills.

(Normal Voice)

Well sir, I was just in my room when what do I hear? A commotion downstairs? So I go down and I hear my mother screaming her head off about the dogs.

They hadn’t been fed or they hadn’t been bathed or we hadn’t carved them by hand out of porcelain. My dad was getting a goddamn tongue-lashing, so I tried to stay out of the way. But through her own chaotic ramblings she seemed to have heard me goddamn tip-toeing it back up the stairs.

(Psychiatrist Voice)

Then what happened, Hannah?

(Normal Voice)

Well, she called me down and started a new round in on me. Now, I’m used to it. Every kid knows their parent’s screaming more than anybody. But I was done. I’d had enough.

(Heartbroken Voice)

But why’d you do it, Hannah?

DUSTIN looks at her in horror.

Oh, don’t look at me like that. I didn’t kill her. I thought about it, maybe, but that’s off the record. I just gave her a piece of my mind and sprang.

DUSTIN

You sprang all the way to Creaton Heights.

HANNAH

I miscalculated. Big-whoop.

DUSTIN

You know most people would have stopped after a couple of blocks.

HANNAH sits back down on the bench, leaning her head back. Eyes closed.

HANNAH

You don’t know my mother angry.

DUSTIN sits next to her.

DUSTIN

Well are you planning on going home?

HANNAH gives him a look.

HANNAH

Well of course I am! I just thought I’d hide out for awhile. Take a nap. Re-evaluate some major life decisions. Come up with an apology and practice a couple times. Maybe get an iguana. I have the night to myself! She probably won’t come looking for me here.

HANNAH yawns and settles into the bench, leaning on DUSTIN’s shoulder, who looks a bit ill.

Too far.

A pause.

DUSTIN

Um, Hannah, are you planning on sleeping here?

HANNAH

I don’t really have plans, per say, if you hadn’t already noticed.

DUSTIN

Well, I was just going to point out that you can’t.

HANNAH

And why not?

DUSTIN

Well, for one, it’s cold out. Two, you shouldn’t be alone at night. And —

HANNAH

(sleepily)

I won’t be alone?

DUSTIN

Hannah, I have to —

HANNAH

You have to what?

DUSTIN

I have to go.

HANNAH sits up, a bit more self-aware.

HANNAH

And where are you going, mister? Off on a fancy date with some particularly smoking chick you picked up feeling particularly lucky after you won a game o’ marbles?

DUSTIN

(scowling)

No, but it’s nearly midnight.

HANNAH

Ah, zero o’clock. The big reset.

HANNAH yawns.

Oh oh oh.
Well, go on then!

DUSTIN looks at her concernedly.

DUSTIN

Well I can’t leave you, now can I?

HANNAH

You can do whatever you want, big-shot. I’m just a fair maiden at the side of the road.

DUSTIN

Then what am I?

HANNAH

A commoner.

A pause.

Waiting at the side of the road.

DUSTIN

So I’m waiting but you’re not?

HANNAH

Nope! I have absolutely everything under control. Don’t need nobody.

DUSTIN

But you still shouldn’t be left alone.

HANNAH

Why?

DUSTIN

Because- Because - -

HANNAH

Why? Being a fair maiden doesn’t mean I can’t take care of myself. How misogynist.

DUSTIN

(mocking)

Being a fair maiden doesn’t mean I can’t take care of myself.
You can’t twist any pop culture reference you want to fit you frick fracking fancy!

HANNAH

FRICK FRACK YOU. How ‘bout that?

DUSTIN

You’re incorrigible! How anyone on the entire planet has ever gotten a word in edgewise with you is beyond me. Do you know what a conversation is? It’s a back and forth. It’s a give and take. You work for nothing, expect people to just accept you and everything you do without question and just- you just- you just exist!

Silence.

HANNAH

You’ve been talking.

DUSTIN

But you haven’t been listening.

HANNAH

Neither have you. I am in a fragile state. You are no help.

DUSTIN

I don’t know you? I know your name. I don’t make a habit of comforting girls I know nothing about.

HANNAH moves away from him.

HANNAH

I’m sorry to have wasted your time. Shoo.

DUSTIN

What?

HANNAH

I said “Shoo”. Skedaddle. Spring.

She pulls her legs up onto the bench and nudges him with her toe.

(softly)

Goodnight and Goodbye.

He stands up, looks at her. She inches down the bench until she’s laying on her back, curling a bit, looking at him.

DUSTIN

You know you don’t make sense, right?

She looks away.

HANNAH

That’s what my mom tells me.

DUSTIN

You really gonna do this? Sleep here all night?

HANNAH

I’m okay. I’m really okay. Don’t worry about little old me.

He looks around. He walks a few feet away, turns, and sits down.

Go home.

DUSTIN

You go home.

HANNAH

Ha ha. So funny. The wit on you, I swear. It’ll be the death of me.

DUSTIN

Don’t be rude.

Silence.

HANNAH

Why are you being nice to me?

DUSTIN

Because your name is Hannah and you are currently fragile. People make mistakes. This might end up being one, but who gives? Everyone does dumb stuff.

HANNAH

(quietly)

Like run from fights.

DUSTIN

Like run from fights.

HANNAH

You’re not so bad.

She motions to him.

C’mere.

She sits up and pats the bench.

C’mere pretty boy. I’ll let you keep me safe.

He comes and sits next to her.

DUSTIN

(chuckles)

You’re weird.

She pulls his arm over her shoulder and leans in.

HANNAH

God, just “shhhh” already.

The end.

because some things you can’t forget

I remember New Year’s Eve vividly growing up

mostly because it never seemed to end.

My parents worked jobs that meant more time spent

away

than at home,

so I was close with my Nana.

I remember asking what hour it was,

mushing my face into couch cushions thinking

this slight pain will pass the time.

Anything will pass the time.

My Nana was born on February 28th, 1928.

She’s my father’s mother.

My mom’s mom died a decade earlier

to the day of 

my birth

from a cancer of which I don’t know.

Everyone in my family dies of cancer,

so they’re pretty hard to keep track of.

Names are easy to forget when they died

before you were a thought.

She’s the only one to live through her cancer,

my Nana.

But doctor’s took her leg

and a few toes

which left her alone with her thoughts, 

arguably the poison which has left her on the edge of

senility.

Now,

I watch her die slowly

in front of soap operas and the Food Network.

I don’t know which is worse -

actively knowing someone is already gone,

or being surprised by the loss.

I don’t think about them enough -

these ancestors that left me

to be greater than they were.

I’ve seen pictures,

I know my mother looked exactly like her mother

and I can only imagine the pain

of looking in the mirror 

and seeing someone you’ve lost.

Of being startled by ghosts in every passing reflection.

My grandfather,

my father’s father,

had a sister who died during my childhood.

She was the daughter of my aunt,

because my great-grandmother died

when my grandfather was a child,

so my great-grandfather married her sister 

and they had Teresa.

They named her after her sister,

his wife.

She lost her hearing young

due to the fact penicillin hadn’t been discovered,

and as a toddler she taught me basic sign language.

That’s how I learned 

“I Love You”

for the first time

in a second language.

She lived with my Nana,

where I spent all of my time

(coloring on the floor in front of TVs bigger than I was)

and I was there when they took her away

on a stretcher.

I saw the ambulance drive away.

I don’t think they took me to her funeral, 

but the fact remains that I

remember her. 

I remember my Nana making grilled cheese

back when I liked grilled cheese

before I stopped eating it

because she couldn’t make it anymore.

I understand loss

better than I’m expected to.

I have a better memory 

than I ever wished for.

Improbable

My mother is a lobster, my father a bear

My sister a nymph 

and my brother is a warrior.

I can tell you what I believe but

it doesn’t really matter.

My mother has claws, giant and throbbing

she thrashes underwater,

soaks in the sun. 

She curls eggs under her tail

uses antennae to find her way-

She will not be caught in your net.

My father sleeps through winter.

His heart beat slows, 

he counts what he has collected

making sure he has enough - 

his storage is full.

His growl stuns those he encounters

and they fight him

but he fights back harder.

They don’t know his strength. 

They don’t know his power.

My sister sings through nature -

combing her hair on bristling materials, through her fingers,

she finds herself where no one looks.

You walk through forests with your eyes glued shut,

she’ll guide you through your foolishness.

My brother has an axe that could

bring nations to their knees.

A cry that holds no mercy.

He knows how to break apart a body in twelve different ways.

He has learned the art of war.

He has learned what it is for.

I am a dragon.

I have spikes running down my spine,

scales dripping off my skin 

warning of my loyalty.

I will protect the princess,

I will burn the rest -

you are not my keeper.

We all have a choice between seeing the world 

as it is, or learning how to find

the one we need.

Natation

It always started with this concept of underwater;

this feeling of not-quite-drowning,

this feeling of not-quite-floating.

I used to swim everyday.

I rushed in the morning to get there as the titanium scraped across the concrete

miraculous gates to somewhere else-

a way into instead of a way out of.

I stayed until sunset, until what could be categorized as ending but not quite over.

I could hold my breath for the longest,

could feel every square inch of my body against the compound

Hydrogen, Oxygen, Hydrogen, Me

I always won whatever race I swam in.

I wasn’t anything but myself underwater.

Holding my breath was no longer a weakness,

Hiding between bonded molecules wasn’t like behind inched open doors

You can’t hear the yelling underwater.

My parents had three kids in four years.

My parents weren’t pleased by the repercussions of having three kids in four years.

My parents weren’t pleased with each other due to the repercussions of having three kids in four years.

But you can’t hear the fighting underwater.

I’ve heard the reason we pile blankets and comforters over ourselves is to recreate a womb.

We want that warmth, that compression.

I keep windows open during snowstorms so I can rationalize this weight of living,

this pursuit of pressure.

My parents don’t see what I see,

you don’t wear goggles in the ocean - the constant thrashing could leave you blind.

But I can feel every square inch of my body frozen inside a block of ice when they open their mouths.

I see their hearts beating outside of their bodies, swimming towards something that’s not-quite-each-other 

trying to tell the other something,

but their ears must be so clogged because no one can listen.

This might be categorized as ending but not quite over.

My mother loves the sun. She loves the heat.

I love the cold rush of purity. 

I love the cool dryness of the shade 

and the feeling of boiling droplets off my skin in the white-hot-heat.

I love not seeing what’s in front of me while I pull myself forward into my own current.

I love how underwater, everything’s muted, everything has nothing to fear.

I want to rationalize holding my breath.

I want something other than fear to pull me under.

I want to be submerged outside of myself.

Desert

There is something beautiful coming towards you and it won’t stop but you want it to.

This is the line in the sand,

the decision that enough is enough and 

I can only take so much.

There is something beautiful coming towards you

And nothing is changing

…except for this metaphysical character

That you put a face on

Not me

I didn’t tell you who to love

Stop whispering I can’t hear you

I can’t hear you

I can’t hear you

I can’t see you

You’re gone.

There is something beautiful 

but you won’t tell me what it is,

Won’t tell me if it’s real

Can’t describe it

It’s just there.

There is something

Under my skin

Telling me

You

Don’t

Understand.

There!

there it is!

Right there!

Can’t you see? It’s beautiful!

It’s running, no, sprinting!

No! It’s boundless and somehow weightless all at the same time - 

It isn’t stopping!

It’s going to hit you!

Move! Move!

Can’t you hear me?

It’s a metaphorical freight train and you’re a soon-to-be dead man - 

I won’t watch you die,

Not in these arms of mine,

Just move!

Kingdom

And there is nothing more than this -

This laughter like sunlight,

This crown of thunder and thorns and flowers and steel

These hands - so many hands

all clasped in another with the unspoken promise

of never letting go.

I once read a story

where the main character fell out of love

And it felt like the sequel to a life I didn’t want to read-

The problem was,

I ended up writing it.