Tuesday, December 30, 2008

conversations

looking back now i guess i should have seen the signs
this was never what i had in mind
nights spent on separate sides of the bed
you'd never know we used to hold each other instead

the couch is a minefield of personal space and measured words
it's hard to avoid making a mess at every turn
but we just act like nothing is different from before
conversations becoming worn

no matter how much we talk about it
it never seems to change
i might not be strong enough to go
but i'm too strong to stay

little by little you've been looting pieces of me
i'm having trouble finding myself in the debris
it's here i falter, it's here i lose myself
stepping through ruins of what we thought we felt

we never seem to talk about it
it will never change
if one of use doesn't get out now
the neither of us can be saved


listen

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

at bed time

sometimes at night i pretend
that i am in your tiny bed, and my legs
are tangled in your blue comforter.
no matter how many times i squish
my pillow, i can never
get it to feel like your chest.
i miss the way your room seemed to defy gravity
the objects rising and falling as your breath
moved my head and your heart beat
strong against my cheek.
when sleep won't come i read your letter,
folded twice down and once across, the blue ink not even faded
because i've been keeping it hidden.
i can feel you, there, hovering over your desk,
trying to find the right words because you always think you say the wrong thing.
my fingers trace your letters and then i fold the paper
once, twice, three times.
as i close my eyes i hear your voice in my head
and feel the ghost of your hand on my chest.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

think

In the coffee shop, we
are sitting with huge mugs making miniature moons
on a medium moon table.
Underneath it your leg touches mine where
my boot meets my jeans.

My tea is too hot and anyway
you’re busy telling me about the band so I just
let it sit.
For the first time we feel normal and I’m surprised by my relief
that it was possible.
You’re leaning forward in your
seat, elbows tipping the table ever
so slightly, and hands moving.
I am listing backward, lithe and sinuous, stretching
into the space that is left.

Afterwards we walk to your car and I
wonder – can you have too much
of a good thing?
I feel full, your
hug is pregnant with what was ours and now seems
To be yours, only
I’m not quite sure why.
With my arms around you, your
breathing becomes slower, your cheekbone
presses into mine.

Easing myself from your dangerous arms, I try to be gentle.
Your hand remains on my waist, pulling me back, half
against my better judgment.
With your eyes still wide, I walk
away knowing
you can still feel my weight.

long island rail road

bought a ticket on a monday afternoon
to leave the city and come see you
on the train ride, my nerves start, proving
i don't know what i am doing

they're all excited that i stopped by
i don't have the heart to tell them i
i'm just here for you
'cause you asked me to
you asked me to

you raise your eyebrow and offer to show me around
we stand in a corner talking under the sound
i am careful not to look at you
'cause your girlfriend's watching from across the room

my sense of guilt mingles with my shame
but i forget it all when you say my name
and promise you will see me soon
i'll see you soon

i walk out the door and try not to dwell
and stand on the platform, laughing at myself
we both feel, we both know
we'll never show


listen

gelato

i am sitting on the inch-wide rail of your balcony
you are sitting in your favorite chair, looking up at me
it's late afternoon and i'm feeling restless
we've been spending our time trying to define us
i think that maybe i might need this

we walk on king street with the wind at our backs, eating gelato
i am thinking how this is something i can't hold on to
you give me your jacket to keep me from the rain, because it's pouring
and the two sides of me, oh, how they're warring
i wish you knew the way i love you
i'm finding it so hard to tell you

you're not the only one who felt something creeping in
you're not the only one who's having trouble sleeping
i'm sorry i took so long to write you this song
consider this my 'i love you'

we have been lounging, watching tv in your bedroom
all around us, my leaving looms
your hair's in your eyes as you come to kiss me
your hands on my thighs as you undress me
i know this grace will fall from us soon
but i still don't have the guts to tell you

you're not the only one who felt something creeping in
you're not the only one who's having trouble sleeping
i'm sorry i took so long to write you this song
consider this my 'i love you'


listen

west fourth street

i walk down the wet, weary sidewalks of new york
cold creeps, uncovered skin cracking and clumsy
i hit campus and hunch unhaughty shoulders, hoping to heat my heart
i walk past twenty-somethings teetering on too-high heels and
smoking skinny cigarettes outside of silver center
i have a fierce, phenomenal feeling of frailty
girls get gingerbread lattes, guarding them like garrisons against gales
boys wear ray bans, running around reciting rhymes they heard on the radio
and i wonder
if this tenuous strenuous something we pretend to have
will disappear, dissolve, in defiance of my determination
i am reaching, writing, wronging you
wasting breath
burying the bereftness of being abandoned
i am afraid to falter into fortune and find
i don't know how i got there
new york never leaves me alone
it consistently insists that i should stop missing you
these streets are not sydney and i sense that i much stop
wishing they were

buildings break the blue into boxes
i let my lungs inhale the chilly air
and marvel at the maze i march through
you are not here and here is not there and that is hard
but i am making up my melancholy mind to move on
this is my way of saying the goodbye you will not admit you've already said.

rash

i haven't seen you for almost nine months, and when i think about it-
well, i don't think about it.
instead i think of six dollar thai food and
the perfect sidewalk kiss that tasted like chai tea.
when i wake from my reverie i find the lack of you exhausting.
i am drowning in - something - and you could save me, except
i don't know what i need saving from and the saddest part
is that you wouldn't.
i get this itch to write for you, to you
you are a mental mosquito bite
touching you only makes things worse
the next time i'm trying not to.
i need an anti itch: anti you.
but i can't resist, i'm making little X's in my mind:
every day i look for new words from you and every day
i am disappointed.
i have ritualized self-sabotage and now i almost can't
get through the day without it.
i keep forgetting: i can miss you and be ok
i keep forgetting: you are not what makes me happy anymore
you are a sun
burn
never knew how much you'd hurt until you no longer shone on me.

julian

i am sitting in the olive green chair
the one we always fought over
and my feet are up, visible through the window if
anyone from below cared to look.
door creeks, latch moves, and you shuffle
in
your eyes, there's something, a look
you are shaking and you sit across from me,
telling me about anna.
how she is playing joan of arc and you don't know what to do.
in this moment you are changing before my eyes.
little did we know this would shape who you become;
she changed your life by talking nonsense.
we make plans, i make plans, i resolve to get you back
what you have lost.
i promise to carry you through,
and my arm around your back becomes the way we always walk.

of a boy

last august you said 'i don't think i can do this anymore.'
i was silent until you left, then i sank to the floor.
i was trying to be everything you need, i guess i couldn't fill that void
they all asked, and i collapsed from the doings of a boy.

february. i'm coming to your city for school.
my family thinks i'm coming for you.
but i made my peace with this, i have moved on from it,
now i'm just curious to see how things will go
we said friends, but the doings of you, boy, will dictate our road

you spend two months unsure of us
two months losing my love
and when i finally called the end,
i don't think you quite believed
i could walk away from happy
but happiness is relative

may. we're sitting at a table, having a few beers
i gather my courage and i ball up my fists, and ask 'was there anyone else, here?'
you say 'yes, there was, but that's not why i ended us'
and i think: what else could it be?
we sit silent as i digest again the doings of a boy


listen

names

your name, in secret,
in places only we would think to look.
in dry erase on my wall,
in black ink on my shoes.
scratched in the dirt
beside where i'm sitting now.
all the little things say your name to me somehow.

it's in your fingerprints
and in your sweat lingering on the sheets
i've washed again and again.
in the letters written by your hand
and given me.
it's in the sun in my eyes and the wind on my cheeks,
and in my secret places,
little pieces of you sleep.

i can see it now, you're doing what you think is right.
but no matter what you call it,
it means that i'm without you tonight.

we give names to things to make them easier bear,
but the name you give this doesn't make it any more fair.
guess i'm just shocked and i don't know what to say,
'cause anything i tell you just won't hold sway.

i can see it now, you've justified this to yourself
but that only works when there's not one else involved.

your name, in secret,
i carry it around
hidden in my heart where it can't be found.


listen

monsters

the green-blue is lost
between folded, swollen lids.
the iris peers, like a child into the dark space under the bed
where all fears are manifested. where you are.
the bedsheets tangle and wrap
around the legs and hold the child in place while they look
for monsters.
the iris looks, seeing everything and nothing at the same time,
made acute and washed clear by a night of salt and saline
i will try my best, my very best, for dry cheeks
the next time you look at me.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

home

a final look, then you go
one last kiss so i know
you will come back for me
but for now, i watch you leave

cross my heart, the cross you gave
as we played tom and meg
at the top of the empire state
on valentine's day

now i would sell my soul
make a deal with the devil
to see you walk through that door
why don't you come home?

i packed my heart in your bag
next to your Red Sox hat
and i made a promise i will keep
even if it kills me

why don't you come home?

now i woudl sell my soul
make a deal with the devil
to see you walk through that door

why don't you come home?


listen

blind

At the 96th street entrance there is a
a cab – honk! – as I cross the road.
Mist settles on my coat,
and the cold air screams down my throat
to burn my lungs.
On the bridge my boots echo
strangely through the hollows underneath. Your hand on my back
steers me over the crunching gravel path
toward the reservoir. Stretching my hands before me,
my fingers brush the iron bars of the fence.
My ring – clink – my hands wrapping around.
Your voice a waterfall of sound:
our words leave our mouths in
ghosty rivers, flowing through the air around us.
I raise my arms,
feeling your stubble under my palms.
By the belt at my waist you pull me until
we meet down the middle through our coats.

untitled one

a rush of blood and suddenly i am unburdened
anxiety is lost in relief and i
feel as though i've worried for no reason
i am not that girl and the
possibility of becoming her added to the actual situation was
enough to make me crazy
yet for all that the tiniest part of me wondered
this combination of us, would it
possess your goodness and my eyes?
it's almost unfathomable, the existence of something
coming about soley because of ourselves, our love

i hope you know

i've been thinking about the way you look from below
your head is tilted down but your eyes are raised to meet mine
your forearms on either side of my chest, holding you up
as you close the space between us

your hands tangle in my hair as you lower your face to mine
our legs are already intertwined, mine wrapping around from the outside
first on your hips, then your thighs, and the backs of your knees
now the deeper, secret parts, now we're as close as close can be

i hope you know, you're they only one here
i hope you know there could not have been another

sometime later i prop myself up and i watch as you sleep
i am memorizing everything about you, shamelessly
the curl by your eye, the heavy heat of your leg over mine
i am sure this is right

when i get back from getting up i shrug out of your shirt
you wake as the cloth hits the floor
you give a sleepy smile and pull me down into your arms
and i am home

i hope you know you're the only one here
i hope you know there could not have been another


listen

origins

i am from the hazy days of summer
where the pavement bends and the subway tracks quiver in midair
where blonde babies run through sprinklers in their backyards
an the air conditioner ticks to life, the sound like a miracle
i am from the fall, when the color of the combines blends with the green of the cornfields
where schools are ripe with the anticipation of september
and the crisp, white notebooks have scarcely been written in
from football games and school spirit, and homecoming week when everyone
drives their tractors to school.
i am from the snow of the heartland, blanketing so deeply the world it falls in
from the before-bed snacks of peanut butter sandwiches by the fire,
being wrapped in fresh-from-the-dryer towels
from fresh flannel sheets against newly-washed skin
i am from the new green leaves and reappearance of legs
from the nights when you no longer need a jacket
from evenings at the river, when the sunsets come later and milk and oreos are a secret snack
i am from alice-leone's closet, full of crinkled dresses with layers of netting
from the bewilderment of Time's Square to my 8-year-old-self
garlic and sage rolls at christmas, the glory of spring break and the
last day of school
the black nylon fabric of cap and gown, the relief of finally getting out
i am from car radios blaring hip-hop and country
in the student parking lot
where the farm boys smoke after school and show off new cowboy boots
i am from a valley in connecticut where teenagers find themselves peers with adults
and everything revolves around what you create: art and relationships
from a place where you don't fear to be yourself
and every day fills a place in you that nothing else can
from a place where you find yourself along the winding, wooded roads.
i am from the concrete jungle of manhattan
east village and upper west side
from the guggenheim and central park,
lincoln center and the bowery
from sandy's "grown-up" shoes and dancing with my feet on top of Dad's
from Mom rubbing my back before bed and Elise's teenage years
I am from the newness of everything
from a first kiss in a driveway and a last kiss in a doorway
i am from the place where covers are flung off because of feeling and
are left off from the heat of the summer night
i am from 4 am when we are still awake,
and everything i want in life is present in that moment
i am from the blue of his eyes, memorizing me without saying anything
and i am from the place where i meet myself,
and everything else falls away.

these days

you still wear one yellow shoelace, and one white
i remember you trying to decide
do you ever think of me when you look at your feet
as you put on your shoes in the morning
because i remember every freckle
and the way your hair falls just so

there was that scar on your side
loved to run my fingers over it late at night
i search for it on his skin
guess that i just can't win
'cause , you walked away from me
and i couldn't move that easily

seems like i see myself this way an awful lot these days
in relation to you
seems like i see you around an awful lot these days
you've moved on
you're so far gone

i was thinking what this used to be like
we were happy but you ended us
so if you promise not to be too nice
i will promise to be less obvious
you won't know i care

seems like i see myself this way an awful lot these days
seems like i see you around an awful
you've moved on
you're so far gone


listen

one more

we were standing on my porch
awkward for the first time in a long time
i looked into your eyes, those eyes
that have seen me at every time

can i have one more, you said
just one more to hold me over while you go
can i have one more, you said

you were not pleased with the choice i made
in leaving you
we both know that ending this now is less than fine
but we are, oh we are

can i have one more, you said
just one more so i can think of you sometimes
can i have one more, you said

so i kissed you in the half-light
and you held me there while i cried
this is the last time you are mine

can i have one more, i said
'cause saying goodbye turned out to be hard
can i have one more, we said


listen

thursday

They parked the car on Central Park West, and after she got out she stood waiting on the sidewalk near 70th street while he got his guitar out of the back seat. When he shut the door she looked at him over the roof of the maroon car, and without speaking they walked around it to meet at the front. The light changed; they crossed the wide avenue in the midst of conversation and alighted the curb just when the red hand stopped blinking.

When they got inside the park he seemed directionless, which made them laugh since she’d been following him. They made their way to the reservoir, but it seemed too public. Something about the combination of them begged for privacy and quiet. She led the way to an empty spot on the lawn and asked, “Here?” even though he had already set his backpack down and was pulling the guitar out of its black nylon case. He offered her the floppy fabric to sit on, saying “I don’t want you to get your shorts dirty.” She smiled half at him and half to herself and sat down on the case’s widest part, stretching her legs out in front of her and crossing them at the ankles.

His fingers pressed and plucked the strings, and she wondered what he would play for her. Had he written about her? His songs were always running through her mind. Even now as he played something classical all she could hear were the songs they’d sung for their students so many times that summer. She leaned back, dirt and sand and gravel imbedding themselves in her palms and making it into a topographical map of the afternoon. His hands moved along the fretboard with precision and he looked past her as he played, his mind in another place. She took the opportunity to watch him unabashedly and only looked away when he glanced up at her tentatively.

He stopped playing and just held the guitar, and they sat enjoying the warm, quiet day. A conversation started somehow and they spoke softly, telling each other about their families. It felt strange to her, this getting-to-know-you talk. She felt like he already knew her. After all, they’d stolen brief moments together every day this summer, and she’d played her songs for him when she hadn’t even played them for her mom. All of the basics seemed irrelevant; she’d sung for him what she couldn’t say outright to anyone, and where she was from and how she grew up just didn’t seem to matter. She made light of how scarily Republican her mother was and told stories about friends from home, how they were all having kids or getting married and she wasn’t even out of college yet. He replied that all of his friends from school had gotten married right after they got their degrees and they laughed about how different they were from everyone they’d grown up with. After a little while he set the guitar down and focused on her. She thought how hard it must be for him to keep his hands still.

“I think it’s going to rain.” As soon as he spoke he stood, and she stood too, awkward and unsure of what to do. “We should probably cover the guitar, but then you won’t have anywhere to sit.” She reached for her bag, pulled out her bright purple umbrella, and opened it, setting it down to cover as much of the guitar as possible. She grinned up at him as he exclaimed at such a great idea, and as she sat back down she scooted over to that he could sit next to her on the guitar case. He sat facing the opposite way, his left shoulder touching hers. She leaned into him a little. She almost wasn’t sure she had moved, and then she felt him slowly pressing back.

“What are we doing?” She knew immediately that his question wasn’t about the plan for the rest of the afternoon. She picked up a dried leaf and started to rip it, then remembered how she’d scolded kids for doing that and threw it to the side. She felt the muscles in his arm move as he turned to look at her. She tucked her hair behind her ear and it fell back against her cheek. She left it there: she was blushing.

“I don’t know.”

He was quiet. She sat picking up pieces of grass to keep her hands busy, widening the bald patches of dirt. She didn’t look up, even when he spoke again.

“There’s a reason you and I have gravitated toward each other. I just don’t know if what we’re doing is ok.”

She’d thought the same thing as she was on her way to meet him earlier that afternoon, wondering on the subway if she was feeling excitement or guilt. She took a breath, then another. “I think it is. I think that… this is something that allows us to be honest about our lives, about the people in them. He and I don’t really talk like this and it’s nice to have that with you.”

“But I feel like we’re sneaking around. Do you tell him about me?”

“He knows we hang out. I’m not going to lie to him.” She turned now to look at him, her eyebrows raised in earnest, her blue eyes finding his and then looking at her hands. “I think that we’re both trying to figure out our lives, and this is something that helps us do that because we can be open with each other.”

He didn’t say anything, and she looked at him without him seeing. He leaned into her a little more, the heat of his shoulder traveling through her chest and arm, pinking her skin with extra blood. She rubbed at it absently, feeling the hair on her arm stand up.

“I just don’t know what to do.” This time he looked at her when he spoke, and she knew he was fighting with himself not to touch her more than he already was.

“Yeah.”

They sat, carefully realizing they’d just admitted that each of them was a possible wrench in the other’s plans. She moved her legs, bringing her knees up to hug them and crossing her ankles. As her left thumb and middle finger met around her right wrist, she noticed that he was sitting the same way. She tried not to think about it.

Her phone chirped from inside her bag and she pulled it out. She responded quickly to the text from her boyfriend, then slipped the phone back into its pocket. She clasped her wrist again and turned to look at him.

“Are you going to stay with him?” He asked the question like her answer made a difference. She struggled not to ask him the same thing. “I don’t know.” She pulled her knees closer to her chest and looked beyond them to the runners and bikers on the road. They were quiet for a long time and she knew he was going back and forth between enjoying the feel of her skin and wondering if he should even be there.

“I just think…” She struggled to find the words to say to remind him that she needed him. She started to speak again, then stopped. After a few breaths her own words came back to haunt her and she spoke the truth. “I mean, I don’t play for people. Ever. And I can for you, and it feels good to be known that way. I need that.”

He sighed, and turned his head to rest his chin on his shoulder, looking at her. His dark brown hair looked soft and she resisted the urge to reach her hand up and touch it. She started breaking a twig instead. “So maybe that’s what this should be, then. Friends who play music.” She hated to hear the words come out of his mouth, but at the same time knew it was the only thing to do. They placed too many rules on themselves to be anything else.

“Yeah.” As she agreed she knew that from then on that the music would only ever be about them. She was already making a mental playlist of songs that made her think of him, songs she wanted him to hear her singing. He looked away from her, out across the lawn, then up at the patches of sky between the trees they sat underneath.

“It’s going to rain soon. We should get going.” He stood and brushed his pants with his hands, even though he hadn’t been sitting on dirt. She looked up, conscious that at that moment her eyes were open wide and her hair was falling perfectly and she looked beautiful. She reached out her hand and he covered it with his to pull her up, his eyes traveling the length of her lithe body. She mimicked his brushing, though she knew there was nothing there. In silence she started to close her umbrella as he put his guitar away, wondering how to prolong goodbye. They started walking down the hill, and as he laughed at her joke he reached for her and pulled her into a hug.

They were like a puzzle. She fit under his arm and he fit against her thighs and she could not let go. She felt the pulse in his neck racing with the one in hers and took deeper breaths, feeling his chest rise and fall against hers. She could not let go.

He pulled her tighter one last time and then let go; she followed suit. They walked slowly, looking for a way out of the park but doing everything possible to avoid actually seeing an exit. They reached a wooden bridge and when she turned to look at him he took her hand and pulled her in again, this time twisting his fingers in hers before he let go and placed them on her back. She felt the breeze blowing a few strands of her hair, and he breathed deeply. She thought they would probably stand there forever with her lips grazing the stubble on his cheek just beyond his mouth until he said “We probably shouldn’t do this.” His grip loosened imperceptibly.

“Maybe not for this long.” Her reply forced disengagement, and her body parted from his with muted cries that she could have sworn were audible. She turned, took a step. He took a step to match, and they walked out of the labyrinth of gravel paths to the car.

She pulled the hot black handle and got inside, setting her bag carefully on the floor. He went to the back to put the guitar in the trunk and answered a call from his girlfriend, probably asking him to pick up her kids since he had the car. When she could no longer hear the indecipherable murmur of his voice she looked up, and he was standing at his door looking at her before he opened it and got in. His phone rang where it was sitting on his lap and she tried not to look. She absently watched herself twist her silver ring around her finger, and when he asked, “Are you ready?” she nodded halfheartedly.

He turned the key and she watched the sinew and muscles of his arm flex and move. He put his hand on the gear stick, only inches from her skin, and she looked out the window instead of touching him. The radio was broken, and the silence stretched until they had crossed town. They spoke, her marveling at the strangeness of being in a car in the city, him about his plans for his visit to his parents. He asked her had she packed for hers yet, and she said no. She hated packing; it was like asking her to predict the future. She would rather they were both staying home for the next two weeks without anyone knowing, but knew that was an impossibility.

He parked across the street from her apartment and she wrapped her fingers around the tan handles of her bag before she looked at him. She thought maybe she would need something to hold onto.

“So, it’s going to be fine.” She hitched her shoulders up, not sure if she wanted him to believe her or not. It wasn’t, and she knew it, but she wanted him to think she could handle it. She looked him straight in the eyes for maybe the third time all afternoon and told him to have a good trip.

“I will. Go pack. And have a fun week with your crazy family,” he teased. She raised one eyebrow and shot back, “Oh I will.” He laughed and her face softened into a sad smile. She looked down at her knees and noticed she’d missed a spot shaving that morning. When she glanced up he was looking at the place where her neck met her shoulder.

“Well, I’ll see you later.” He turned in his seat and hugged her, his arm straight across her throat and almost choking her. She could feel the closeness of his chest, but the seatbelt held him back and they could only press their shoulders and arms together. Maybe the car was trying to tell them something. She heard the first rain drops hit the windshield, magnified.

She squeezed once, twice, and slipped her arm from around his neck and down to pick up her bag. Her fingers accidentally grazed his ribs as she did so and she felt him take in a sharp, silent breath. She pulled the leather straps to her shoulder, left arm crossing her chest. “Well, have fun at home.”

They hugged again and this time when they parted she felt his handprint on her back like a firebrand. Her spine turned warm and liquid and her tensed muscles relaxed, drawing her shoulder blades in towards the place he had touched. Her shirt caressed his handprint as she readied herself. She looked at him and smiled, then pulled the handle to the car door. As it opened she said his name, and he looked from where she had been sitting to where she was now standing. Her gold necklace swung gently a few inches out from her chest, and she saw his eyes watch it for a moment before moving to her face.

“Bye,” he murmured, and smiled. She could feel him wanting to reach out to her but knew that one of them had to end it or they’d be saying goodbye for the rest of the evening. She shut the car door and lightly rested her fingertips on the place where the window slipped into the rubber and metal sleeve. When he waved she turned and walked across the street, the storm almost upon her and whipping her hair around her face so that she could hardly see. She heard the car start and thought about his hands. She looked back as he swiveled to place his hand on the back of the passenger headrest and look out the back window, and pulled her bag higher onto her shoulder. The wheels of the car started to turn, and she opened the door to her building just as the storm broke.

murramurang

The door closes behind me and the rubber bottoms of my sandals slap down the worn wooden steps, the noise piercing the almost-light quiet of the campground at 5:32 a.m. As my right foot touches the sand below the bottom step the wind blows and an involuntary shiver runs through me. It’s fucking freezing out here.

Back up the steps. I slide open the glass storm door and walk through the living room, the light from the bathroom slithering through the crack at the bottom of the door. Chris is peeing. I hear her wash her hands, and suddenly feel the urge. All night curled up in a ball to keep away the cold puts pressure on a girl’s bladder. I lean against the creamy-ocher counter, fingering the knots in my hair as I wait my turn.

Chris pulls open the door and I cringe in anticipation of squeaking hinges, but there is only the swisshhh-pop of the door sliding into place. Her hair is piled in a medusa knot on top of her head, dark chocolate tendrils tumbling out as she steps forward into the kitchen. She wipes mascara from under her eyes and I hear Josh stirring in his bed through the doorway I’m standing next to. Poor bastard didn’t bring any warm clothes.

“You want tea?” Chris is rummaging around in the cupboard, looking for mugs. “Yeah, I just gotta go to the bathroom. Anyone else coming?” I turn to face her when I reach the door, my hand on the frame. “I don’t know. Didn’t you ask them last night?” She finds the egg shell-white mugs and the sink hisses as she fills the electric kettle with overly chlorinated water. “Nah, but I bet they’re still up. They were still out there when I came in to call Liam at 2:00.”

I slip the door closed and stand in front of the mirror. Fuck that. It’s way too early.

I open the door, the red ON light from the kettle coming at me like a laser through the dim grey glow of the cabin. Chris is in the bedroom putting on more clothes. I put tea bags into the mugs she’s set out and let the water keep boiling; we’re not ready to go outside yet. My hands and hips rest on the green arm of the couch, waiting.

“Here.” She tosses me a blanket. “You’re gonna freeze.” I wrap it around my shoulders and nod gratefully. “Yeah, I went out while you were in the bathroom. I thought this country was supposed to be too hot for its own good.” “So much for that.” Chris takes the kettle off the stand and pours the steaming liquid into the mugs. She hands me one, handle first so I don’t burn my fingers.

“Ready?” I raise my eyebrows and start toward the door, blanket dragging on the creaking tile floor. Chris walks through as I slide it open for her, her bare feet skipping lightly. She’s at the bottom when I remember: I promised Josh I’d wake him. I hitch my blanket higher and trudge back up the steps. He’s curled up in his bed like a cocoon, the pale blue of the covers barely registering in the half-light. I touch his arm through the cotton as his sleepy, still-drunk eyes turn to look at me. “Come on buddy, gotta get up if you don’t wanna miss it.” “Shit. Why is it so fucking cold? It’s fucking Australia. Isn’t there like an ozone problem or something?” Josh fumbles to put his numb feet into his sandals and rewraps the blanket around himself as I gesture to the counter. “There’s tea if you want it. See you out there.”

Slap slap, my sandals hit the steps for the third time and at the bottom I leave them next to the wall of the cabin. I start out towards the path, my feet crushing the top layer of pine needles, sending up the smell of Liam’s cologne. The scent stings my nostrils like a jellyfish, traveling into my lungs and lashing their boundaries, leaving angry red welts. At the opening in the tree line the needles under my toes disappear. Fuck, even the sand is cold.

Chris is sitting on the beach, her blanket wrapped around her and her feet buried in the sand. She’s resting her mug on her left knee and hugging the other to her with her arms. “Whose fucking idea was this?” I sit down heavily and the last word gets pushed out in a hiss. Chris doesn’t even look at me. “Yours.”

She holds my mug wordlessly as I rearrange my blanket, trying to find the least cold of all possible colds I could be at the moment. When I find the position that will allow me to raise my mug to my lips without sacrificing warmth, I take my tea from her and sit sipping it, burning my tongue.

I hear sifting sand and Josh comes stumbling through the trees onto the beach, his blanket wrapped around his head like he’s the Virgin Mary if she was gay and male and not a virgin at all. “Sit down, Mary, show’s gonna start.” Josh stays standing to my right, one big column of pale blue. The water folds over itself 20 feet ahead of me, rushing further and further away until another crest breaks to take its place. I wonder are there jellyfish in there. Men of War.

Chris puts her mug in front of her, deftly sneaking her arm in and out of the cloth wrapped around her shoulders. The tea is gone. “Want more?” She shakes her head no. “Don’t wanna miss anything.” I drink the dregs of mine and set it next to hers. “Same here.” I can just make out the island, black and curious-looking against the periwinkle sky. It’s too far to swim to but it doesn’t matter; I hate swimming in the ocean.

“Holy shit.” Josh points across the water. The sun is crisp and clear and yellow, still only a sliver but as I watch it rise it turns white and makes the clouds behind it an unreal shade of orangey-pink. The light hits the water in a thin stripe the same color as the sun itself, but the rest of it is a shimmering silver-blue-lilac. The water moves stealthily towards me up the beach, retreating each time only to come closer the next. Shhhhhhh.

Next to me Chris is motionless. I wonder if she’s trying to figure out how this is going to go, our being away from home for four months. She gave me the excuse to come back to Sydney that I’ve been looking for since I came to visit Liam last June for our anniversary. My family thought I wanted to come here to fix things with him when really there was nothing left to fix after August. I just wanted to get the fuck out of there and covered it with wanting to look out for Chris while she was on the other side of the world. Not like the fam is around ever but still- even the weekly phone calls about classes and you’re-a-big-city-girl-now gets boring when life as you know it has been pulled out from under your feet. It’s not my fault this happens to be where he lives. I just love it here.

Josh rewraps his blanket. “I’m going back to sleep. I’ll meetcha back here when it’s warmer.” He turns and walks towards the cabin, and now I can see that his blanket is white, not blue. His feet sink unsteadily into the sand and I wonder if I look like that, a slipping stumbling mass of poly-cotton blend.

“Ready to go in?” Chris is standing; I didn’t even notice her get up. “Nah I’m gonna stay. Don’t hog the covers.” She bends down to hug me, sand falling out of her blanket and into my hair and clothes. “Wipe your feet off when you come in, I don’t want sand in the bed.” “Yes ma’am,” I say, and give her a wave.

The sun’s above the water now and I can’t feel the cold. Maybe it’s the tea, or maybe I finally just got numb. Either way I lift my toes and watch the sand fall down the twin slopes of bones in my feet. I bury them again and feel it now, the cold rushing up my calves. I’d call but my phone’s in the cabin and Liam’s probably asleep anyway. We used to watch the sunrise out my window when he visited, making plans for after graduation- marriage, a green card, kids. I wonder would he remember that if he could see this one.

I pull my blanket tighter and shut my eyes. Light turns the inside of them red-pink-orange-purple and I can still see the waves rolling towards me; they’re fucking relentless. I open my eyes and stand up, my joints stiff with cold and having been in the same position for an hour. My feet and legs go pins and needles as I walk across the sand toward the pine-covered path. I duck under the limbs of the trees and recross the carpet of dark green, picking my sandals up by the straps before climbing the steps. I slide open the door and set my mug on the table. Sand rains out of my clothing and I can’t help feeling sorry for whoever is going to sweep the floor tomorrow while I’m lying on the beach getting a tan.

Chris is asleep, her knees drawn close to her chest and a pillow in between them. Her hair has come loose and lies fanned across the pillow like tentacles, lying in wait. It’s colder in here than it was outside. No heater. Everything in the room is illuminated by the sections of light that sift through the blinds, and as I climb into bed they slip across my body, dissecting it. Chris wakes up just enough to tell me not to steal the covers, as if I could the way they’re wrapped around her tighter than a straightjacket. My sunburn from yesterday flares as I lay on my side staring at the wall, trying to avoid thinking about anything but the white paint. Chris rolls over and puts a hand on my shoulder. “Go to sleep. You’ll see him in a couple of days.” My “Yeah” floats into the lightening room and I wonder if I even want to. She knows I don’t know. She answers my phone sometimes when Liam calls so I don’t have to make a choice.

I check my phone, 6:47. Damnit. No messages. Chris is asleep so I gently pull a corner of the comforter over myself and close my eyes. Nothing like a best friend to remind you that even the most beautiful sunrise on a trip halfway across the world can only make you forget for a moment. Bitch.

pockets

I keep thinking about your hands, they meet
In your pockets; they clench far from my view
As we sit on a stoop on sixteenth street
The traffic lights illuminating you
The cold requires hats to keep us warm
And coats that mean we are not skin to skin
In doing nothing we are true to form
We barely get the chance to just begin
Admitting we like it when our legs touch
In Union Square the crowds obscure our need
The platform stops goodbyes that are too much
The Q train takes you farther now from me
We walk each week to keep it all at bay
And slowly, slowly, it begins to weigh…

across the room

Your silhouette pierces the aperture between
my hips, tingling; a middle school frenzy caught on film
by my skin, twisting through my abdomen and
projecting in reverse out of my eyes. I watch you with
her, your hand on her back instead of mine. From
across the room you look at me as if to say
I’m sorry it is not you. After
our subdued hellos, I am unfocused; my body becomes eager
to shed at least a little of its politeness. We
don’t touch, she
might see. I hide inside the flannel of my shirt,
pretending it is your hands. Sometimes I think they
know, that they can see your influence the same way
a black light picks up traces of semen
and blood. The business of bases – my
only pieces of you are the fingerprints you’ve left
on the knees of my jeans. We are captured,
developed by the sparks floating from us
when we touch.
Sometimes I think I prefer the dark.