A couple weeks in, we play Two truth and a Lie. I tell you I have a tiny mermaid tattoo somewhere under my clothes, but then, by now, you’ve seen everything. Two truths later, I am drunk on Jameson and static. A delicious sort of panic set in at the tip of my spine. I tell you I can do card tricks, produce a quarter from behind your ear, and it’s nearly the truth, but it’s a deception I can’t work anymore. A rope I can’t untie. If the hand moves faster than the eye, than the heart, I’ve been stacking the odds in favor of bad weather, of grease fires and electrical surges. The urge to fuck near strangers in the stairwell to my apartment. The truth is that I love this part. The one where I stand in water holding a live wire, waiting for something to spark.
One of the benefits of dating lots of people is that you start to catalogue and identify with accuracy. File this one under “absent mother.” Another under “subtext: monsters.” If the chief sign of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, call me crazy. Call me “bird hitting the window erratically.” Call me “door that is here then gone then here again.” I meet you, and I choke on feathers and the shape of an animal I cannot name. A color I imagined but never believed was real. But again I am falling too far into metaphor, fumbling awkwardly at the doorway to a house too fragile to inhabit. I feel out the dark with only my fingertips. I don’t dare call it “home.”
Because the body is made up equally of water and stardust, it’s the weekend and I am trying to make a cake out of words. Out of tiny miniature farm animals and the tablecloths I never use. Am hunting the volcano to thrown anything and everything into. And sometimes it works—a hiss and a sizzle and the whole thing gone up in flames. Or worse, the whole damn thing useless and pretty as a mechanical horse, the gears rusting in the rain. They say it gets easier with every word, with every repetition. How we fall in love with the silence before each sequence, as if the next will be entirely new.
It’s summer, and on the news, men continue to do horrible things to women. I am writing poems and eating cherries til my lips stain. Afflicted with the kind of lonely that hollows out the lungs. Makes the body hospitable to ghosts and paper boats floating the surface of some still pond. My hand is another girl’s hand. My heart is another girl’s blind panic. Her father the kind with too many sons and not enough daughters. Another girl’s name on my t-shirt, bloody beside the tracks. Another girl’s broken clarinet in a storm drain. How all of this fills a space we did not know existed, much less that it was large enough for a drowning. And worse, that I could make a harbor here, take my slice of cake and spread out a blanket beneath it. What is, in fact, the weight of love? Heavier than a heart? Heavier than the hand? By now I should be waving goodbye. But my palm catches the wind like a sail.
A little over a year before we meet, I get high for the first time at a party in Seattle. I can’t tell if I’m feeling anything or if it’s the red wine or lack of sleep, but a poet convinces me to let her read my cards. Tells me I’d be capable of great things if only I didn’t hold back. I’m not sure if that means I should smoke more weed or have more sex or write more serious things, but it seems like a moment I could take a wire brush to and make it shine. No less impressive than the night you pulled me out into a thunderstorm to kiss me next to an iron fence on my block. The atmosphere cracking and zinging. How warm your hands felt against my throat. How that night a tether broke somewhere beneath my ribs and set everything flapping in the wind.
A writer and visual artist, Kristy Bowen is the author of six books of poetry, including the recent salvage (Black Lawrence Press, 2016) and major characters in minor films (Sundress Publications, 2015), as well as a number of chapbook, zine, and artists book projects. Her work has appeared most recently in Paper Darts, Handsome, and Midway Journal. Bowen holds an MFA in Poetry from Columbia College and an MA in Literature from DePaul University. She lives in Chicago, where she runs dancing girl press & studio and spends much of her time writing, making papery things, and editing a chapbook series devoted to women authors.