Notes on Starvation
I always thought this poem would be about an ex,
or the child I still wish for sometimes.
Then I realized it was about you
and my bones stopped.
When I told you I had learned not to trust the village,
you cried with me. Held my tears in soft hands
and mixed honey into my tea.
Honey that outlasted us.
The first time I got into college, you shredded confetti and built me
a tissue paper wall. The best we could afford became best.
When the white coats gave me every letter,
when my face was only waterfall
soaking Philadelphia soil,
I burst through that wall.
I still dance in your
I catch myself rewriting over and over and over,
trying to call back our syllable love.
As if by weaving the right spaces
between the right letters
into the right phrases,
I can be right, too.
As if there is a net
I can stitch from rightness
that will capture our hurt,
deaf screaming-scared animal
now made concrete and able to rest.
As if I could convince you to love me
even when there is no crisis. No medal of honour.
I didn’t come home for Christmas this year.
Instead, I turned 25. Lit a stove in New York and saw three dish towels catch fire.
Quartered a body. When I come home to him now, he washes off the slaughter.
They tell me I am becoming a doctor and I look for the lesson I missed. Starvation,
teaching me to become without you.
During the third month of silence, I started our autopsy.
Pathologies came quickly. You – tired of playing reassurance chicken.
Me – waiting for you to confirm old wounds. Death by uncontrollable history ischemia.
How much blood does my own blood get to spill? Brother, I think my IV’s run clear.
I was always jealous of how you carried your home with you.
How you never quite needed cinderblocks of me. If you had wanted,
I would have built you the Empire State. Lined the walls with hair and scar tissue,
mixed a foundation of backbone and jade. But you have never wanted. No, you were
just passing through. And instead of walking with you, I stayed alone in the dark.
Building you golden statues.