After Richard Siken & Ocean Vuong // For J. & T.
Every morning the stones on the sternum: opening.
Every morning another chapter where the hero
is a woman slurred between forested fatigues, the flesh of her stomach
unspooling into yarn.
Who is the cannibal now?
Every morning the birds falling backwards out of the sky
like a film in reverse, the feathers collecting
in my palms like rosary beads.
How I could bless the sin out of my ribs—
Dear So-and-So: I’m sorry I never answered your calls.
Dear So-and-So: I’m sorry I answered your call
& wept like a storm drain for six years, the receiver
a canefield emptied of its plumage.
You want a better story.
Who wants to hear a story
where the subject
is an empty room, a closed door?
The mountains in Fujian, then, where some grandmother of mine
incubates herself with a prayer softened by waiting, her sons
folded beneath her sternum. Like a nun on fire,
opening towards her God, her white blouse spread across the stone pillars
like mist into the lungs. Or Victory Strikes &
procaine lifted to my grandfather’s lips
to bless himself out of the air,
burn the night sky into prophecy:
scrying for his daughter’s pallid face.
a woman in a San Francisco night, her black eyes
gleaming like Orion, rising to meet you.
Her red dress unfurling beneath your hands.
Dear So-and-So: you’ve never been to San Francisco,
& this is not a happy ending.
Dear So-and-So: there is no happy ending,
no slain dragon or high priestess or gleaming knight
waiting at the end of this sentence
to gather you against their breast, kiss you on both
of your cheeks, everyone weeping, everyone saying,
my dear So-and-So, we were just kidding,
real life is so much better than this.
Dear So-and-So, when we were in the psych ward
everyone asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up
& everyone said happy but we all meant autocannibal.
I remember all those boys with eyes that say Run, Run, Run.
Dear So-and-So, I remember the story so well.
Your lips brown & chapped like the bark of a baobab,
our palms coated with patina. How we sat in the sun
and watched birds plummet, beak-first, into the concrete,
Apollo blazing the sun through our hands.
So-and-So, they called me dogeater & Philomela,
tongue dissolving through my fingers
into Atlantic spume, all my dead friends
passing through me like a summer wind. My neck
a cardinal between their teeth.
That day someone had tried to smash the psychiatric windows
like shucking a coconut, then cut himself open & fleshed into the ground.
So-and-So, these were the first stones.
here is the day where you call my mouth aripiprazol
& tear your cousins into roots. Here is your tongue, not a tongue.
Your body unsure if it wants to become a body.
Here’s the moment you named serotonin, a torch
whittled between your lips,
your mouth an exit wound.
sit down at the table
& let me anoint you with patchouli & salts.
Won’t you come in, scorch the ward into a cathedral
of red-lipped sky.
I know, So-and-So. The world is a big place. We were all just kidding.