The Algorithm is a Cold Mirror

I wish I could write the season that cancels you
invoke the onslaught of a single color recurring over
surfaces and souls, even of things that have no souls,
until the secrets that were named after you and
the points of the past where I conjured the parts of you
that fell into place when you materialized at my side
that music-drunken night become indecipherable,
like a dead language.

I have been locked out the of the vault of my own mind,
all I hear are weak paraphrases of my most outspoken demons,
watered down convictions, the passwords and keys I am missing
appearing as the vague shapes of the hurts I cannot bring
myself to touch a second time after the first contact.

I wish I could make the search bars stop predicting you,
I wish the stories I am privy to did not reflect my own
behavior. I wish the picture painted by my browsing history
were more than a laundry list of my weaknesses.

I wish I could wake up and fumigate the old narrative,
watch the festering critters of my unhealthy tendencies
scamper and jump off the edges of the screen as fast as
their six legs could carry them, without succumbing
to the lie that I would miss them, and resist the urge
to gather them back.

All the Festering Unpretty Truths

He is wrong for you. Write it anyway.
It was a mistake from the start.
Write it anyway.
Loving him is stupid and has nothing for you
but heartbreak and questions with
no answers. Write it anyway.

Write it like it costs you nothing,
like the sleepless nights don’t encroach
on your mornings,
like you don’t hear the bottom
of the precipice calling your name
write it like the words are fleeing
the burning building that is your mind
trying to stay alive
trying to preserve what
meaning they are able to salvage
write it like there should be
no shred of softness left unturned,
like the past is purging its soul
of metaphors it no longer has use for

and I am not talking about
Hallmark Channel reruns about finding
a shining grace among the wreckage,
or all the pain being forged
into strength like emotional chainmail
that would become your beauty’s
greatest asset someday

you are a poet, not a purveyor of bullshit

do not write to save yourself

write the ugly and give it a hundred names
talk about the hurt that turns the moon
into a throatful of spit
talk about the street that reeks
of quick fixes and losing gambles
and empty alcohol bottles
that you keep romanticizing
in your endless walks,
hoping to run into him

write about the infected needle
that your dreams about him have become

write about the remembering that
yields nothing but dissonance and decay
and the winter cold that so penetrates
there is not one muscle in your body
that hasn’t been raped by the awareness
that you have settled for so, so, so
much less than you are worth.

Drunken Texts to a Psychic

Lie to me, fortune-teller.
Here, I’ll even tell you what to say:
say he’s coming back,
say he’ll be in my life again.
Make it good, though,
bring out your Tarot deck
and chakra balancing crystals,
name-drop my ancestors
and wield your jargon, say
all those hurtful words we exchanged
were the workings of Mercury in retrograde
and everything will right itself
if we stop flailing against the current
and just wait. Go ahead and
cold-read me, gather a bouquet of cues
from my past and my governing stars
but only enough to convince me
when you say his love is real
and not all is lost,


because I am falling apart
and drowning in the debris
and see no end in sight
to this ache that comes in waves
and stabs my sleep with nine-inch nails
and makes my waking days suffocate
on this sky the color of wasted time
and makes me question every little
thing I’ve ever been sure of
and creates this debilitating,
patternless noise that repeats,
repeats, repeats

like what even is peace?

I just want relief
even if it’s temporary
even if it’s founded on nothing
even if it can’t be trusted

look into my heart
and see what I am no longer
capable of surviving
and tell me the lie
that lets me breathe

make my hands useful again
make my mind belong to me again
make the concrete of these pavements
stop boiling, the city a raging
cauldron of all my bad judgments

tell me he is returning

I’m not here to ask you about the future
it wouldn’t help me if you were truthful
and told me what I
already knew, already fear
just give me something I would
actually want to believe in

Moth, Meet Flame

I can’t leave him alone
he is my drug, my last song syndrome,
my zahir
he speaks my name and I open
like a hibiscus in midsummer
and in his absence I prowl that prison
like an arsonist looking for matches
the hours of the day that lead to him
are covered with my handprints

my self-control constantly gaslights me
playing the small odds like maybe
this is the data that breaks the stereotype
like maybe there’s more to us
than a quid pro quo
more to this than the id seeking its own
more to this story than one that
ends in destruction
like maybe there’s a redemption somewhere

because his broken is so attractive to my broken
I’m a connoisseuse
and his jaded tastes so good
because everything about his hunger
sings to the part of me that knows
way more than I can carry
and the voices of his passion
are drawing me out of safety
like an addictive sky
with colors that defy expression
this illicit awareness that requires hiding
not because it is taboo
but because there are enough eyes
between him and me to give it justice

nobody else needs to know

my diamond in the rough
your edges feel so good in my hands
so close to wounding me
and that danger is everything now
just one wrong stroke away from drawing blood
just the way nature sculpted you
with your traumas and blemishes
so deep under the surface
remnants of the coal that didn’t harden
as perfectly as the rest
I see it all
I see you
doesn’t take away from your brilliance
that so blinds me
I’m so blind

thrusting towards that threshold
of intoxication and incoherence

this isn’t sustainable
and a calamity is inevitable
but you know that last two seconds
of exhilaration just before
you crash and burn?
that’s what loving you feels like.

Beautiful Trigger

You are the name of my insomnia
the face of the hunger I keep choosing

I can’t eat
I can’t sleep
I’m too old for this shit

you are the longing ravaging
my nights like your hands
ravaged my person

and wanting you is so, so
motherfucking clichéd
and passé

and I wish this were
something as simple as
excising a malignant growth
from my flesh with a scalpel
something I could do alone
in secret
clean up the blood afterward
pretend it never happened

but you are both the blade
and the blunt edge of the knife
and there is no cut deep enough
to extract you from me

and time, my old friend
so slow and so tricky and elusive
you are both the urgency and the waiting
with you I’m always just
a closed door away from missing
something amazing,

now all my doors are open
but you won’t cross the threshold

my hands are not fast enough
to write me into a safe place
while I continue this downward spiral
I’m wasting my time
I’m wasting my time
you’re wasting my time
please take all of my time
please give me all of your time
please give me all of you

or some of you

or anything at all

give me something before
I disappear

I have barely caught glimpses
of your darkness
it is dark enough here
but, but
your light was so tantalizing
like an insatiable fixation
choking me with passionate fingers
lighthouse and a rocky harbor
all the mad, mad decisions

you took the light away

I can’t eat
I can’t sleep

The Journey is Not Linear and Destiny is a Sham

The last time I wanted something this badly,
I didn’t know better.

You could fill up a room
with the opacity of that longing
all the noise gets pushed to the corners
voices in crevices, inconsequential
every step feels like a boss fight,
the final battle:
shed all of your blood!
spend all of your money!
alienate all of your friends!

prayers become blinders
you’d think a divine will was leading you
just because your own will
can’t possibly be that strong

your earnestness becomes a chant
this has no choice but to happen
this has no choice but to happen
this has no choice but to happen

for why else does it matter so much

there is no reason
there is no other possible ending

until it ends

and the word in fact was not made flesh
the promise didn’t cross the threshold
and there was no final act
of things falling into place
with a satisfying click
no violin music throbbing at the end of the pier
no passionate kiss for the rolling credits

just a faraway silence
and the thunder of innocence breaking open
and your eyes finally adjusting to the light,
to the blast of cold realization
that some questions will never
find answers

the world didn’t end?
how does that even make sense?
that’s some supreme level B.S.

and you should carry on, somehow
with indelible proof that chaos is king
tattooed on your left wrist.

The last time I wanted something this badly
it never occurred to me to feel fear.

The fear is everything now.

Denouement Deferred

It’s the same ache:
thread burns,
needle scratch on vinyl,
greeting me from the place that
is always the last I’ve been
no matter how far I get,
same depth, same Koch snowflake
edges, same syntax, the scenes
unfolding from another angle,
another pair of eyes,
another assembly of motives,
how maybe somebody thought
they were saving someone from
a fall that was irreversible,
unsurvivable, but all it
looks like, away from the edge,
viewed from the checkout counter
of a whole other life as a
consequence of choices made,
was their intentions had
cauterized a wound where there
might otherwise have grown wings.
A few words on a second floor
corridor leaning on the railings
with the coffee gone cold
and prying open the future,
where I had felt lost even before
the maze grew impenetrable hedges.
I had so much faith in my
remaining where I always heard
you speak, where you put
the gold in me through the fire
and it always came out pure,
where you sometimes left for
semesters on end but always
returned, and I said I would be
like you and call these walls
home, but someone maybe thought
a rescue was in order because
no one could love that fire
and have it be enough, and
in my vanity I thought it was
all about me and what I brought
to the table until it all went
wrong, slowly, like a spiral,
and the door had been bolted long
before I spied the white lie
among the pride of my pages.
So I stayed in that room trying
to spin straw into gold, or wasn’t
that the official story? I called
the king names and gave away
everything that wasn’t mine
to promise.

Sometimes the ache still finds me
and how it could have gone
differently, and it feels like
all the gold in me you left
unmined, beating next to my heart.