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Flamingos, Also Why I Can’t Breathe

gauzed-up hearts still beat beneath band-aids

if i bottled this hesitancy the breaths we take before

would the neon pink break the glass

snapping into stars and

a quick escape into the galaxies

don’t slip like sand between

the same fingers you put in your mouth

 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art – Decorative Arts – 1/22/2016

 

Whenever I go to an art museum, I inevitably find myself in the decorative arts section. The excess in the richest of Rococo, Baroque rooms; the dark wood of medieval furniture; the lush tapestries; the stately splendor of Neoclassical decoration. These are the things that make me wish I could go back in time and feel the upholstery of that chair, the silk of this curtain, against my own skin. To be able to call it mine. I wonder if it’s this wishful thinking that excites me most about art.

 

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More Than Electricity

“Tell me your life story,” you said

On the side of the lamppost-lined street

I had the hood of my old Hollister coat up

The one I didn’t care about getting stolen like sentiment

It was drizzling, and cold 2 a.m.

 

“Okay.” Remember the time we stared at each other

From different booths

Over late afternoon pancakes

I thought your voice was funny

Because it wasn’t in my ear yet

 

One hour ago I knew I wanted to dance

To dance with you—maybe

To dance with you—yes

 

But here we stand on a concrete staircase

Under swirling rainbow circles

You, stranded on the bottommost step

 

Because I dream of writing in soggy notebooks in the pouring rain

Going on slow car rides that never end

 

I met you in total darkness

 

You’re not the one who would run around a lit-up city with me at midnight

And tell me all the places you dream of going to

Break into an art museum to look at the Boticellis

You wouldn’t do these things

That’s why I left you behind

 

My life story, if you still want to know

Is scribbled down on sticky notes

Or written up hastily in a document

Falsely titled “9th grade midterm paper”

I only told you the first sentence

Of a rough draft

 

You’re a half page of words that flow breathlessly together

Into an existence that fizzles with excitement

I took your hand once

And felt the shock of a thousand volts

But I have to write about more than electricity

 

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Everything At Once

If my mother asks why I left the Bernini, tell her the noise gave me a migraine and I needed to get enough sleep for the Wythemans’ brunch tomorrow.

If you ask me why I left the Bernini, I would tell you that the black ties and floor-length dresses crowded closer and closer around me until the smell of champagne suffocated me in a pink-bubble sea of lights.

Had I seen you before I left I would have made sure my white-gloved fingers slipped through yours. I would have turned to look back at you fleetingly before the doormen shut the golden doors on the scene.

A clink of crystal glasses, a pearly peal of laughter. And I ran.

Everything hit me at once. The muggy night that kissed my bare shoulders wetly. The buildings, lost in shadow. The summer green ethereal and dark, like a Burne-Jones painting I’d seen at the Met.

And then there was the sky, a darkness that filled the space between dreams. A black slowly fading into midnight blue—the faintest hint of morning.

I found myself at the Central Park Lake, in a field overlooking the old buildings of the Upper West Side. The warm lights rippled onto the water. I slipped off my black Jimmy Choos and tossed them to the side.

I lay down on the grass and thought of you till the sun rose.

 

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Gesper Diamond

Gesper Diamond tasted the way New York City felt. If you closed your eyes and put your lips on his, the world turned into a black and white photograph of a skyline. But it wasn’t black and white because the colors had faded. No; the colors were still there, but they weren’t what mattered. It was the light. The window squares that twinkled to life one by one, thousands by thousands, as soon as the sky went dark. The radiance that reflected onto the river and shimmered as the black waves rippled. The lit-up antennas that soared up toward the stars. You feel the tip of his tongue and it’s the windows again—the promise of millions of stories you could write onto his back with your fingernail.

He bites your lip. A gust of cold night air whips toward your cheeks.

You have photographs of the city you look at sometimes. They’re in a nightstand drawer, and every six months or so you pull them out to remember what life used to be like, in the city.

It’s funny that Gesper Diamond tasted the way New York City felt. Gesper Diamond owned the rubble that now kneeled in the place where skyscapers stood.

The city was dead, nuked down, just like all the other big cities in East America. But I promise you, if you could have seen the way that Gesper Diamond thrived in the shadows of all that once was—led his band of intelligent thugs like a mafia in a neighborhood that didn’t exist—counted his cash sitting like a king upon the giant pile of debris that was San Remo—you would think it was still alive. You would have seen the way he pressed his tongue against his cheek and you would swear the world was as it used to be.

There were dreams, and there was Central Park. Gesper Diamond had both in his hands and he twirled them around his fingers until you couldn’t sleep without seeing green grass and massive rocks and white buildings overlooking it all.

None of it was there anymore. He was all that was left on the map—a speck made with the last ink spurts of a used-up pen. A light in a window you see in your head.

 

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Detached // Attached

Detached

 

seventeen and

three quarters

she wanted to

twist the world

around and

around

in her bitten fingernail

hands

like a rubik’s cube

seven billion people

she can toy with

she twisted it

around and around

in her lavender petal

hands

in a

blue-submarine room

in a lights-off

underwater spectacle

of perfectly curved

question marks

shapeshifting into

armed and legged

enigmas

that twist each other

till they break

almost

 


 

Attached

 

I swim in your

christmas lights

and come to

the cellophane

surface

smelling of

the american crew

pomade

sitting on your

lights, camera

easy bake oven

I cross my legs

drinking in

all of your hundred

degrees

this

is how I counted

up to two and twenty

in the red-blush heat

of your desert

oasis blue

christmas lights—

half refusing to blink to

electric

life the other half I crunch

till my mouth turns

blue

 

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3:23 a.m.

It’s only a night if you end up on the balcony of an Elizabethan-style mansion, freezing in a black skirt and a thin button-down. Your sweater’s tied carelessly around your waist, but you don’t want to put it on. You’ve spent an hour in a muggy mass of bodies and you need to feel the cold air. Your face burns. The wind soothes it like an ice pack. You look up and notice the stars—dozens of them, lined up to gleam down at you. They wink, like they know the things you talk about to your friend on the phone. He’s here with you now. He takes a drag.

“Doesn’t it feel like tonight will go on forever?”

It does. But your voice is too hoarse to reply. The cold seeps into your skin—it’s getting to you now. You cross your arms tightly.

It’s 3:23 a.m. when you make it back to your dorm. The morning comes eventually and you wake up disoriented, your eyes smudged black like a raccoon’s.

The night had ended, as nights do. But millions of little things take you back—the first sharp intake of air when you burst out of a building in winter, the moon and stars arranged like an art gallery. No, the night wasn’t truly over. In fact, you’re not entirely sure when it began.

It was already taking place months before, when you found yourself sitting in the laundry room at two in the morning, your hair disheveled and a secret on your mouth. Your heart stumbling through the world laid out bare before you.

It was still going on, weeks after you stood on that balcony. You held your friends’ hands and ran across the deserted road, your face lit-up by the street lamps and your scratchy laughter ringing out in the night.

Every time your legs are numb from dancing to music that hurts your ears; every time the December cold clashes with your overheated body—that night is there, and so are the gleaming stars. They’re in the text you were waiting to get, the floor of the friend’s room you crash in, the shoes you bought just to get dirty.

The universe has it wrong. No time was ever attached to that night.

“Doesn’t it feel like tonight will go on forever?”

It does. Your voice will always be too hoarse to reply.