and in the wreckage


Birmingham, Alabama
United States


by shelby nesbitt


  1. in the year of the goat, i wake up one morning with lead ankles, curled deep in sobs and blankets. i rise without my sterling silver, into withering flora, jungle smoke. i love you like a burden, the gurgle in your throat after destroying a bottle of cinnamon whiskey. this is a laundry list of what you gave me for christmas that year: the simmer of a stick of incense burnt down to just the butt, pads on my feet worn black walking in your yard when it's too cold for these shorts, makeshift ouija boards and the cap off a bottle of mexican coke for the planchette. eyes in the underbrush and i know, in my own den, i won't wander drunk into an unfamiliar kitchen, won't cry into the opened door of the fridge with hands on my back.

  2. you lead me to the bathroom and kiss my knuckles before i punch them bloody on the painted bricks, all snake teeth and cloven hooves. i don't know yet that in three years, i'll show you my blood in a pretty picture frame, under a new name, and demand you pay the damages -- but i let you laugh into our kisses, eyes wide open. so many little glittery fish have bitten me by now, with the dullest teeth, the pettiest grievances that i'll laugh at, but you starved me, and a new girl will sit in her bed with no sleep at the sunrise and she will scrawl pages and pages of pain for you. all of the research i have done on the wreckage, all of the charts and figures can't paint an unconventional picture of how we devoured ourselves.

  3. you can cry where i can see, but your cheeks will stay dry and nobody will ever want to hear about any of it. a train derailed is no concern to the people left un-concussed, intact and warm in their linens miles away, but the reality is that everyone has been here. everyone has taken a dip in this stagnant water and been bitten by the mosquitoes. but what is left, the cracks in the sky, the peeling nail polish,  is a second skin that doesn't always suction perfectly to its hosts, shows itself in different dastardly displays of puppetry, 50-cent picture shows on popular streetways. you will pass through every season the same as the next soul, but the leaves will always fall in different patches, and houses destroyed by the typhoons will see their properties usurped by new construction.

  4. i will conclude, when i fall into my final autumn, that nothing was ever as bad as it seemed. but i still crumble in the corners of crowded rooms, laughing at the cyclical nature of it all, watching you through my mirror and hating everything you love. the high heels i wear in my senior pictures, my mother's paranoid eyes, my sixteenth birthday. i cannot write anymore about how much it hurts, because it really doesn't. it's not all pain. it's the confusion that comes when a polluted nostalgia ends up making me miss it, the crow's feet in the corners of my eyes when i remember how you made my ribs hurt with the hilarity of what we could be, the years i gained with the words left on our tongues minutes after the wreck.

  5. this is a laundry list of what i am left trying to prevent from spilling through my fingers: punching you in the jaw so hard i heard it crack, keeping the nights awake with fake memories, icicle lights through the den windows as grungy music crackles through the receiver. the hardness and maturity that comes with finally telling myself the sweet parts still ferment in some corner of my head, next to some cowering fifteen-year-old with a tiny voice, crying for some alchemy to set it right. i will plant myself with a new name, new chemistry. desert flowers will bloom. i have eroded enough to the point of forgetting your voice, and these vestigial volumes of history will turn to dust. maybe you will finally dissolve.

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