the sum of its parts


My skin is made of bruises and open scrapes,

sensitive to touch and quick to burst.

Don’t look at me, don’t touch me,

I will break from the contact of your fingertips

and the scar you leave  will never heal or close,

forever open to the cold and biting air.

My nerves are telephone lines

carrying failure and apocalypse

through my ringing head.

I stuff my ears full of cotton balls,

fluffy white optimism to fight the pressure behind my eyes,

but all it does is trap the air inside me until I burst.

My bones are brittle cases of glass holding

stardust marrow and sea-salt blood.

They ache with the wideness of the universe within me,

and they creak beneath the weight of all I could be,

and I fear that one day they’ll break with all I might’ve been

and will now never be.

My hairs are tangled weeds and sparking wires,

growing through the cracked

concrete of my heavy head.

I keep them back, pull them back, tie them back,

because I need to be small, but I am not small,

I am tangled and wild and difficult,

but you don’t see the metaphor, all you think to say is,

mixed girls are pretty, can I touch your hair?

My fingers are porcelain fish hooks

with serrated nails and crooked joints,

and they hang on, hang onto the people I love,

cutting and biting into soft flesh that deserves better than me,

but I can’t let go, don’t let me go, you’re the only reason I’m still alive.

My tongue is a broken record

Shrieking binary digits

From the cracks in the dam of my teeth

and the mouth of the river of my thoughts.

I can’t speak in a crowded room lest I flood it,

lest I drown you all beneath the words I don’t say,

the self-hatred I drown in, I won’t share it with you.

The thick salt water of my depression, the thick-toothed fish of my anxieties are

swimming in my throat until I choke on tears I won’t cry.

My ribs are a gilded cage

protecting the still-beautiful corpse of

the canary who inhaled the poison in my stomach.

The vast empty sack is a wasteland now, a black hole absorbing

everything I am, a show of strength that is eating me whole

while I starve myself alive.

Solitude is my fortress, a sour face my armor,

my words are like poisoned barbs,

all a toxic filter of pride and disgust tinting my weakness

into something feral and dangerous,

an aggressive mantra of ‘go away’ and ‘fuck off.’

My jeans hang unattractively on my bony hips,

my shirts sit oddly on the slant of my crooked shoulders,

a thick wall of itching wool and sweltering polyester.

I have turned my fragile body into a work of solid art,

a photograph manipulated into ugly dissonance,

manipulations subtle and crucial to the part:

A smile that is biting and eyes that are cutting,

and a voice that hurls insults disguised as a ‘good morning.’

I have made myself a piece of ugly modern art,

and all of this is my protection, all of this is my chainmail

shielding me from the eyes of girls who would laugh and boys who would laugh

and boys who would know I am weak and grab me,

and girls who would know I am weak and grab me.

It’s a picture taken candid and revealing something horrible,

cropped and darkened and saturated and sharpened

until the edges are cutting and the colors are blinding

and it is upsetting to behold.

And this all hides the bruises, the telephone lines, the stardust marrow

and sea-salt blood, the weeds growing through concrete,

and the crooked dam of my crooked teeth.

It paints an ugly picture,

an unflattering image of an unattractive person.

It takes something unloveable and makes it unloving,

so that no one will ever look at me and judge.

When I sit alone in my room, heavy blanket on my shoulders,

music blasting in my ears,

and I too hot to think and I am too sad to move,

I know I am nothing but the sum of my parts.

I am not my cracked lips nor my aching bones

nor am I my crooked spine or my brown eyes.

I am nothing but the tattered soul that smells of brine

and dreams of cosmos,

that holds its shaking hands towards the sky to try and grab the stars,

that holds its shaking head to try and try to keep in the darkness,

and lowers its brown and tired eyes

when it looks into the mirror.


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