tequila lips

twenty five platforms but he flips through bank notes
manages to find yours
sun-kissed cheeks burnt red like blush, an alarm
or maybe we were just that close to christmas
the bells didn’t sound out of place
like how blood belongs in an operating theatre
scalpel eyes kinder under the siphoned light of dusk
in dim lighting of a mexican bar
spiced corn popping beneath his tongue
uber backseat and the tequila begins to taste like a mistake

he turns off the lights and you can no longer see his eyes
just skin on skin and his teeth investing into your consent
no, no, no
dangling from your tongue but still yours
leans in to bite, over and over
push and pull like a newcomer surfer who cannot reach the shore
he finally concedes but it rubs like defeat
like margarita glass rims and a dried-up ocean, cracking

afterwards, his eyes do not look at you
your voice bubbles an olive branch into the air
fill silence that is your fault, your fault, your fault
the smoke clears and there is only one body left on the bed
he leaves and you can’t find an earring
maybe there is a butterfly in his pocket
if so, let its wings effect a nosedive, a recession so sharp
he almost wants to apologise

open up

hi, i’ll be your student dentist today

to be 18 and alone in a city that taps the back of your teeth
retracted in lime green and lemon verbena
to fall in love in turquoise blue on tipped toes
and let down a summer later, gently (?)
into plastic ridges and rubber sulci
clawing 12km up fractured metal cusps and diamond drills
open, she opens and you miss it
secrets tucked in fascial spaces spread hands shaking
to skirt an icy border without losing balance
hush, one day at a time
him and him et al.
red lip stains on red wine glasses

now we gather one last time
the mouth of a crossroad ready to swallow us whole
farewells i’ve prepared closing up my throat
roll them like marbles but keep them within reach of my tongue
afraid to let them fall because if they do then it’s real
if they do then this is goodbye and i won’t see you again
you tell me to smile because the end means we made it
and i laugh, because we’ll have a career for that

hi, i’ll be your student dentist today

it’s not your fault

the father left but someone needs to be blamed
let a small body thrive off wrongful accusations
and its only instinct will be to apologise
i keep the questions to myself
i keep the things i want to tell you to myself
until you tell me not to so i don’t
but it always ends with screaming, or crying, or both
you ask why and i say i’m sorry
i think about how you taught me to never talk to strangers
but how we probably should
in an open room on a sage couch, across from one with a notebook
maybe it’s time to talk about forgetting to turn off the hallway light again
or leaving it on purposefully
it’s hard to be sure when you’re that scared of the dark
and because you calling me selfish for wanting to be happy
hurts almost as much as it does to remember being 7 years old
when happy
was all i ever wanted for you
i promise

not everything belongs to you

to read the same book over and over
and expect a different ending
let me rewrite the story, my version
don’t worry, we still don’t end up together
but at least the season we pass through will be a little less winter
the silence not so static
and then maybe i can toast the memories
where the rain has funnelled to my cheeks
crying until the air is too bitter to breathe

to own the heart that will never stop trying
run hours to the beach just because
there is a higher chance of shooting stars here tonight
he sweeps me off my feet and i hate myself for having legs
fingers absentmindedly reaching and i am terrified of having hands
i tell my mother about the tall boy and she thinks of you
like your leaving was broken glass and i’m still swallowing
but some nights i fall asleep on the couch
dream of enough moonlight to wash me breathless

that’s how i know i made it out
that’s how i know there is still a chance to become
poetry

a long time coming

when they ask to hear the story years later i will tell it in the moment
how it was so near to the beach
if you closed your eyes and the trains were far enough
you could feel the jetty creak beneath the weight of glowing bones
a summer dusk in october
we watched the sun set for an hour
until the sky was dark enough for three-year-old words
to crawl out from our lips without the other seeing
our bodies softest when we wore the ocean
the mid-autumn moon nods you have waited long enough
so i let the waves drench an opportunity into my hair
your fingers searching until there is no skin left untouched
captured in noisy grainy footage
carried up the staircase
i say i’m ready and i think a part of you is terrified to be first
innocence stretching sterile white
a hospital hallway you navigate all too easily
how much does it takes for a heartbeat to rupture the stethoscope?
how dare the universe let it hurt so much to be whole
your mouth pressing petal skin bruised
no veins left unfound
whispering promises in a voice spun floral
pursed lips blossoming and then
broken

afterwards, i think i am thankful
for your body, your hands
your timbre in the dark
when i leave in the morning you ask if i’ve left anything
i say no
but i have
i know i have, and you do too

don’t tell me this story

unless it has a happy ending
i have heard how it goes
summer romances wilting under the heat
voice signals lost along the distance
a shiny new toy has-been discarded
there is no way to miss broken into whole
and i think you know this
it’s not hard to hear a heart that pedals your name
there is not enough time for us
even when it is all i have to give to you
here is where the time signature shifts
i lose count of the beats and fall out of step
outstretched fingers not enough to make contact
and i think you want space, i think you want space
i beg but you say it out loud anyway
and then it is real and i want to go back to sleep where
in dreams someone hands me a phone
and your voice is already waiting
in dreams someone hands me a sledgehammer
to break down the walls
and there is enough room for me to stay

sensitive souls

turn off the lights so darkness may smudge
your silhouette outlined against the sycamore and
i may not have to feel how vividly you leave
hoping the universe can forgive
the twelfth time i got it wrong

how i crashed into the echo of a changed mind
listening to ringback tones bleed out
silent phones and empty mailboxes
awaiting hardcover books sun-faded
music scores played yellow

go easy on this abandoned cactus heart
too grating for berceuse hands
empty it into the air your voice used to wrap around
wound it back into my chest and ask her to try again
how badly i didn’t want it to be like this

i smile and then cry about it afterwards
plead to forget the night you spoke about fragility
reprised with slow voices and hushed hands
spinning vulnerability so lyrical
i wanted to give you all my softness

letting me read to you all the
scriptures of a hopeful heart
praying it wouldn’t ricochet an epitaph
then finding myself on the synagogue floor, hating
that you proved me right

like fish to water

tonight is feeling vulnerable and
i don’t want you to be two years away
wearing moonlight and lying in cotton sheets
the hues of your voice threading
a softness i wish i could be hugged by
i speak and speak but there are
not enough words
to build a hand to hold

so play a key to unlock the pianos and
write a fantasia so red
they’ll see spilt wine scrawled on bold walls
splashed over shower thoughts and 3am giggles
speech soaked to start the same and silenced
only when you kiss me light-bodied
a nocturne so blue
we’re drawn to a beach where it is dark
you’ve picked me up and i’ve let you pay
the shore stretching on for seconds
consecutive thirds and perfect fifths

i think i am ready to leave
the candle light flicker and melt
into the magma once more
we can cross borders instead of minds, fall
off the grid into vibrant monochrome and return
to the city we hold beneath our tongues
chase sixteen subway lines to an alley so foreign
so late, i almost mistake it for a dream

but then there is your voice, glowing scarlet
settling onto my cheekbones and it is so real
say one day you will let me win and
finally tell me everything
wrap stars around the syllables of my name, then
memorise a constellation into my eyes
that i am your horoscope, and vice versa
like fish to water

building a home

first, tell me about missing home
my fingers aching to graze piano keys
so instead, they find ways to keep busy, like
taking hot baths, soaked into rose petals
brushing every strand of hair, and lacing it back
wrapping around elixirs of tea and
finding melodies in all the jasmine and apricot notes

and then, about finding home,
dusty bookstores, my fingertips kissing these spines
that still hold, even after bleeding all these words
being opened and read, over and over
and i think, i must have had a life here once
the way i still let them in, even after all this
somehow still standing, still verbose

then finally, about building a home
gathering the memories that blaze
melt them into wax, and pour them into glass jars
light them in the early dawn
flickers percolating the shadows before the sun can
i let the liquid run through my veins, to the tips of my fingers
carry it with me everywhere i go

and so, like this, i am always home

remember me like this

and finally, we allow ourselves to be seen in plain sight
spread our gossamer souls flat on the table
the fatigue i’ve hauled around for so long has finally alighted
our fingers close around something soft
we deserve this, after all the enamel we’ve drilled

i think about everything this girl has left behind
how sometimes my mind still plays your name like a staccato note
but it’s different now, it doesn’t hurt anymore
to not think about you, and i’ve still no idea how to love
but damn at least i haven’t stopped trying

and oh, how the years have passed, our ages in tow
leaving greener days behind, and
growing closer to something that may resemble adulthood
but god, the way we hold the world in our palms
in moments like these, will never change

whatever our expiry date is, we are far from it tonight
we blow out the candles but they relight again and again
i laugh until it fills up my entire body, and then some
until it is all i can taste in my mouth and every word
i speak is laced with something iridescent

so i curl up somewhere nondescript
listen to the oscillating voices around thread in and out
wrap myself in the tapestry of all our stories
coax out the writer who has hid in the wings all this time
and weave us all a happy ending

hey 21, when you think back
please always remember me like this