quirks.when i was a child:
i loved to steal.
i would go around my neighborhood
and steal lawn ornaments.
at daycare, i would steal money
once, i stole my next door neighbor’s
when my parents confronted me,
the lie was smooth and solid:
i saw so-and-so take it.
when i was a child:
i loved to lie.
i would make up stories
to get reactions out of people.
to see if they’d believe me.
once, i convinced my friend charlotte
that i had twenty-four hours to live.
when she burst into tears,
i had to bite my tongue
to keep from laughing.
when i was a child:
i loved animals.
i would lock my dog in the closet
and in the bathroom.
a lot of my neighbors left birdcages out
during the day
so i set all of the birds free.
once, i imagined what it would be like
to kill an animal.
then, i imagined what it would be like
to run over it repeatedly
with a car
so i did it with my scooter
to a rose i found
because it was red
when i was a
for magdalenei think i’ve figured out the reason you’re sad all the time.
it has something to do with your mess of a tongue, bitten through
and scarred from the times you’ve tried to hold your words inside.
stop doing that. let them out,
they’re not worth the blood in your mouth.
neither is your parents. and i’m not going to try
and tell you that they’ll understand one day
because some moms and dads never will.
but you’re always gonna have a skyline, you’re
always gonna have something to look forward to.
believe me, the world never ends.
not even on the days you want it to.
not even on the days when you’re looking
for gods in the weirdest places, like the broken
spine of the book you’ve read thirty-four times,
the front seat of your brother’s truck, the gap growing
between your niece’s front teeth, and all the other things
you find holy.
the world doesn’t end; and for that matter, neither do you.
the only thing i learned
a deliberately puzzling paradoxyou’ve never seen a dolphin in real life,
or a bat, or a cow. your coffee is half milk,
but the way i drink my tea is sacrilegious to you.
your feet are always cold, your words always blunt.
you are not one to be poetic,
but i have a spray of freckles on my shoulders
and you tell me sometimes that it looks like
i’ve got the stars stenciled on my skin in constellations.
one looks like orion, you say, so i respond,
“the virgin’s lover,” and you say, “don’t be so judgmental,
you’re a mess of contradictions too. we all are.”
i like that line. i like how true it is, how you’re the first person
to ever tell me that i don’t have to be perfect,
or definite, or constant. how someone has finally understood that
a human being is a pile of delicately stacked miracles, a shift
of muscle under a pull of skin, a pair of lungs inhaling
a melody of ‘leave, leave, leave’ and exhaling a
plea to ‘stay, stay, stay.’ e
a litany of things better left unknownI wonder if we had a time machine, how many people
would go back in time and how many people would go forward,
and if that would say anything about us or not. I know
some people are afraid of the butterfly effect: when I was
eight, a girl named Alexis stopped me from a catching
a monarch, told me I wouldn’t like the way I looked
if I had its colors dusting my skin.
I wonder if God ever stands in front of a mirror
and realizes how amazing it is that He can see Himself
when millions of people would kill to be able to.
I wonder if vampires ever get lonely when
they’re sleeping and if they ever get
self-conscious because they can’t see themselves
in a mirror. I wonder if vampires ever ask people if they’re
pretty. I wonder if God thinks He’s pretty
or if pretty’s just a human-made concept and Moses has never
had to look God in the face and say, “People love You—
that’s all that matters.”
I wonder if you can lie in heaven. I wonder
weighted down1. I am sixteen, suddenly.
I have grown up without anyone
telling me. My car keys rest heavily in
my palm. Each new college I hear about
rests heavily on my shoulders. I am
not sure how much longer I can take this,
all this extra weight of responsibilities, of choices,
of the future I’m not sure I want to have.
My skin feels stretched across my body
in places that don’t really make sense.
I still feel too big in every bad way—I’m
afraid I always will.
2. My first boyfriend tells me he
thinks I must have bits of the
universe inside of me. I try not
to get offended: I know he means to say
that kissing me is like kissing stars,
and that I hold the secrets of creation
inside my soul, but all I can think about
is how huge the universe is.
3. He breaks up with me at night.
For hours, I lean against my truck in
the driveway and look at the sky.
Stars are cold and distant,
I realize. The universe is big
4. Someone in my philosophy class tries to tell me