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“you’ve really been through the wars,
haven’t you, darling?”
you ask, as your thumb grazes the bruise
on my cheek, and then the split
in my lip
i had spat out blood in your bathroom sink
a little while earlier and you’d gotten me water
you tilt my head up and i look anywhere but your eyes
like i don’t want this to be a confessional,
not right now
i think maybe i drowned a little and it’s still in my lungs
i can feel it in the back of my throat
like it might just crawl out of me
ocean salt and so much plastic
i think this would be easier if you didn’t care, don’t you?
i know you’re staring and you’re waiting for an answer
(let me tell you, i’m waiting for one too)
there’s nothing beautiful about this and i’m sorry
there’s supposed to be a certain prettiness to broken pieces
like when we were kids and we’d find bits of pottery in churned up fields, you know?
now it’s 3am and i’m here because that’s where you are
and i know that’s not a good enough reason
i’m sorry, baby, i really am
i taste of metal and i breathe you in
you’re the only real thing at the end of this world
i’m thinking about all the people i haven’t been tonight
so when i kiss you, it’s nothing personal
it’s just a careful annihilation
and your hand’s in my hair,
and you hold on
because i suppose one of us has to.

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i think about war poets a lot
in the midst of everything –
the worst of worst times
men took the time to write
and i think, goddamn
isn’t that what we’ve always done?
littered with shrapnel and stepping over spent shells
don’t we return back to the one unerring need to tell?
spill it out until there’s nothing left but ashes
this is inside my head, is it inside yours too?
do you see it how i see it?
when there is nothing else we can do but speak
and pray for understanding when there’s nothing else left to pray for
and he died two years after writing this, they say
or he died three weeks before the end of the war
okay, i don’t know how to cope with that
nearlys and almosts and the cost of it all
creating beauty when the ground was sodden with blood and the air was rich with smoke
the fact that the phrase ‘war poet’ is beautiful even standing by itself
we are children, aren’t we? all of us?
and we’re screaming because we don’t know what else to do except that it hurts
it hurts to scream but it hurts more to stop
i think about war poets a lot
would you have liked me before my war
or do you only like the shape of me because of it?
am i a bomb site you like to visit?
is this a battle is this a battle is this a battle
so yeah, i think about war poets a lot

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I was reading, and a character said “you think you don’t deserve to be told that you’re good”, and I thought, oh. And this was a story that I’d been struggling to read, because it was hitting every sore spot and rubbing at every bruise with bony knuckles, and I was just trying to get through it. Catharsis, right? We read tragedy because we want to take the big breath in at the end with the characters and finally come up for air. My friend, she told me, read this, it’s the best, it’s the best there is. And damn, yeah, but –


I think I stood on stage and then the crowd applauded and I was surprised. I don’t know what to do with that.


I think, sometimes, I exist to write it all down. Sometimes I dress it up and let other voices say it, sometimes I let metaphors talk around it, sometimes I take a knife to my stomach and spill my guts and whatever happens, happens.


Applause.


I always thought it was weird, right, that when people find out they’re dying, they don’t immediately reach for a pen and paper and start scribbling down everything they’ve ever learnt, everything they know, and everything they want to know. I don’t understand why they don’t have that urge. It’s bone deep in me, baby, and it always has been. I think it’s weird that my dad hasn’t picked up his guitar for a year when it’s defined his whole life. I can’t imagine not being achingly passionate about something, even when you hate it.


Applause.


Six AM, migraine, and typing away on my phone, each key tap vibrating against the mattress, and I’m telling another story. These are the best ones, the ones people call poetic, because they’re borne of hurt and because they’re blunt and Hemingway-esque and people say ‘write more of this!’.


Applause.


I’m trying, darling, to wrap this world in a bow and give it to you. You know how they cut Osiris up into pieces and scattered him across Egypt? I think about that, and how maybe that’s what I’m doing to myself. Here’s a piece of me, here’s another piece, keep digging and you might find all of me, and if you put me back together, then well, you might just found a whole new kingdom.


I’m tired, you’re tired, the whole world’s tired and running on fumes. I can’t string a sentence together. But goddammit, I need to leave something beautiful behind. Dust away the sand and bone, love, and remember me. Even as I stand on the stage in front of you, remember me.


Applause.