"We die to each other daily. What we know of other people is only our memory of the moments during which we knew them. And they have changed since then. To pretend that they and we are the same is a useful and convenient social convention which must sometimes be broken. We must also remember that at every meeting we are meeting a stranger.”
-The Cocktail Party, T.S. Eliot
give me grit and grace,
and calluses on my hands.
give me crow’s feet and
hands like rice paper.
give me moody skyscapes
and scratches from thorns.
but keep that empty heart,
and those dull days.
I don’t want those anymore.
empty art museums are the purest vessels for a self.
I find myself (and leave myself)
in these gothic corridors, these lightened halls.
echoing slumberously, better than the oldest of cathedrals,
paintings resting on the wall, laconic in afternoon sunshine.
I become tired in a unique way after hours spent in galleries.
my blood moves sluggishly, my heart slows,
until I find I’ve died a little.
that small cessation of self leaves behind a husk of my mind.
the next time I visit the louvre,
I’ll find an old shadow of mine, lingering in the north hall.
sometimes the walls of my veins tire
of containing the blood within
and they stretch and bend
like willows on a western prairie
or white cotton on a clothesline
I don’t think
that I can ever
when morning sunlight shines through your skin,
your hands take on the color and feel of warm summer peaches,
glowing and sweet.
you taste like summer wines and rose water and dust.
I am so lost in you.
I am so lost.
even as the first buds bloom,
and may ripens like a summer moon,
I feel the creep of snow coming.
junes do fade (this I know)
and july flees like the hunted (too soon)
the girl I loved would take to cutting roses
and freezing them,
so they hung suspended,
in jars, in our freezer, in ice.
then, late in the winter,
when the day sleeps for long hours in darkness
and our skin is white and thin,
she holds up these jars to the kitchen light and says
"can you believe that summer was ever real?"
she shuts the flowers away again and murmurs,
"I’m sure I dreamt the sun."
the word lethal slips into my ears,
like a knife between ribs.
the roots of the word trace back to Lethe
and the underworld and forgetfulness.
sip the waters and lose yourself.
to forget is deadly,
even the words know this.
there are these creeping, white fingertips
pressing at my windowpanes,
scratching at my windowsill.
pale wrist, exposed to the sunlight,
glowing like new snow.
these fingers prompt me, gently
"let us in."
I move away and shut the curtains,
set the locks and sleep for days
so that I can ignore the creaking of the frames.
there is something essentially brittle about my mind,
something ridged and crystalline and fine,
like dehydrated coral or a sea urchin’s spines.
I am afraid to feel to strongly,
and I fear I don’t feel enough.
I can’t stop thinking about stupid things I said,
and they play in my head like the roar of surf.
when you see that look in my eyes,
you press your mouth against my salty skin and whisper
"come back, come back to me."
you have to understand that my heart is a sandcastle,
and you are the rising tide.
goddamn but these waves are strong and
I am not resilient, my shape will not hold.
you have to know that I am afraid of fear itself,
as well as the tendrils of fright that sling into me
like monsoons and riptides
allow my neuroticism and my anxiety
and I will show you a mind that no one knows,
a forgotten cove in a sea of mentality.
the gentle-hearted have minds like simple shells.
rough and worn exterior,
but internally they hold a mother of pearl world.
wherever persephone stepped,
flowers would spring up,
like hungry children, reaching for the sun.
darling, I’m not that girl.
you’ll never find solace in my footprints,
or grace in my path.
I can’t tell you how many nights
I wished I was eurydice or ariadne or hero
or anyone but who I am.
no one will follow me to the underworld,
look for my light in the darkness of a bay
or follow my thread through a maze.
darling, I’m not that girl
(no matter how I wish to be)
I haven’t been able to breathe for several days
and I keep reaching deeper and deeper into my lungs,
desperate to find some oxygen for my starving self.
but I can’t find any at all to give.
instead I find a choking loneliness and chill.
I am afraid that I might be drowning
and that I’ll never stop
language is one long metaphor,
where we use analogy and comparison,
to dance around our meaning,
like fire flies in the dark.
what tries to unite us,
what tries to bring communion,
separates us by fathoms instead.
it is so hard
(so fucking hard)
to say anything and have it be both
true and clear
half moon heart,
you wax and wane,
like the hungriest of tides,
swell again, grow sweet and ripe.
these crescent sketched,
silver skinned slivers
are not enough to sustain me
here on this starving shore
I’ve been thinking a lot about the subjectivity of perception and how that ultimately isolates us from one another. Like, no matter how well you “know” someone, no matter how long you spend with them and how much you talk, it’s impossible to know every small thing about them. And these small things then go on to impact the way we view the world in a larger way. Ultimately, we all miss something in the way we think other people see the world and we are all isolated by our individual perception of the world. So I guess, the poem was talking about that. I used the electrons and the empty atoms as images to convey that. The physical world, that we take to be real and perceptible and absolute is actually alien to us and not as solid and constant as we think. I think that, similarly, we all put a lot of faith into this idea that you can know someone and understand them. But in actuality, people are just as unreachable as atoms. But no one wants to look at the world that way.
you’ve never actually touched anything,
each electron will push against what it comes close to,
leaving a tissue thin veil between you and what is not you.
most of an atom is empty space,
an empty airplane hanger or a hollow cathedral,
everything echoing even as it looks whole.
if it’s true then, that we live in a vacant universe,
one we can perceive but never reach,
why do we continue to believe that it is possible
for us to really know someone?