Ode to the open window

spring takes a breath 

and the city is an open kind of empty

the inviting kind

has there always been so much space?

Ode to the breeze slinking between

window screen threads

and how we will not put on a sweater

This city is overflowing

this apartment bursting at the seams 

with worry or 

something else invisible 

that everyone can see

But the sun threads its fingers through mine

we write poems about each other

my partner is smiling again

and we are having sex instead of lunch

Ode to the window chill and the forehead kisses

to the potted plants

to the little sister

who coughed out the winter

and woke up alive

I have been looking at the same cars

on the same street

and the same planted trees

who will be here long after 

this empty space we made for fear

and what do they know about survival

but sunlight

A thank you to my partner

There are times

I want to squeeze the I love you’s out of you

like you are an orange & I am quenched.

Times I cannot imagine getting tired of your voice

or the reminder I am worth everything that you believe I am.

I once read a book in which the veteran goes back to Vietnam.

Finds peace. Finds water lilies blooming where he almost drowned.

If words can make a place safe, I will spend my life listening to you

tame the explosions inside my chest, until there is only the after.

I let you hold me

and this body is no longer a warzone.

The breaking

I was 13 the day I broke my mother’s favorite vase

and she said

Isn’t it good that things make noise when they break

so that we know to move out of the way

as if shattering was a warning

rather than an end

So much of my life has been the putting back together

the hardware store glue

the coworker 7 years later who still sees the cracks

the way I am 13 again every time someone asks if I’m ok

I open my mouth and shards come out

or I am the shards

I have spent years trapped inside this throat

and now cannot find my way back into my body

I am the flowers crumpled into the carpet

how my mother never quite got the stains out

you wouldn’t have guessed

there was so much color just waiting

to live outside its body

But of course there was never a shattered vase

there was a bottle of pills, a pair of scissors & a lonely room

what I’m trying to say is

did anyone hear my breaking before I hit the ground

was there ever a warning?

but also this is not about the self-destructive tendencies of a girl

it is about the sound that is still vibrating off of these walls

the poems that are always the same

(the shattering is a warning rather than an end)

there are days when I stay in bed

buy ice cream at the deli on my block

watch two seasons of The Office in one day

& do not know if this is selfcare

or mental illness holding me hostage

My friend says “just get up & do the things you need to do”

and suddenly all the days I have done this

mean nothing and the days I have not are failure

I think about the walk to the subway

the people pushing up against me

the men who always stare too long

the professor who calls on me when my hand is not raised

the customer who yells about the wrong coffee

the way the smallest pieces of glass can still leave you

needing stitches

the way I still keep all my flowers in plastic pots

the way I am still so scared

of the breaking

Poem in which I am invisible and use my powers for evil

My art professor sees my final project

laughs and says he’ll leave that for a mental health professional to explain

my name is corrected to “Frankie” on the attendance sheet

he says he will also leave that for a professional to explain, he really said that

Once, I went to a poetry show with my parents

and the feature did a 20 minute set on being genderqueer

the next day at lunch my parents remark on how talented

the woman reading poetry last night was

Girl on the bus turns to me and says

“If you’re dating a guy doesn’t that mean you’re straight?”

& I launch into a metaphor about pull out couches

and how they are still pull out couches whether they are in couch or bed form

(I got that from tumblr)

Take 2: girl on the bus says I must be straight

and I disappear from my seat

vanish into thin air

I follow her home and

throw away all her milk

so that when she wants cereal she realizes sometimes it’s nice to have two ingredients

if I can’t have options then neither can she

I sneak into my art professor’s apartment

and exchange all his shoes for half a size down

now he can know what it’s like to have a something not fit

something nag at the back of your mind

a dull pain that eats at you until you go back to the store

but the store will not take them back bc I have carved my name

(my real name) (by my standards) Frankie

into every sole

I break into my parents home

& my dad comes downstairs with a baseball bat (which is not that different

from the way it often feels in this house)

& does not see me (which is also not unusual)

but today it’s because I am actually invisible

I leave articles on my parents nightstand

titled “queers in your home? it’s more likely than you think”

titled “Santa no longer a man: the real gay agenda”

titled “your daughter actually identifies as a grapefruit and what the fuck are you gonna do about it?”

I go home and throw pages of my poetry into the recycling bin (pages they did not listen to)

maybe it will turn into something solid now

I delete the text messages where I begged them to try & they pretended to understand & now it is like I was never there

I jump into the compost

become a banana peel

yellow is my favorite color but my mother always said it washed me out

I look in the mirror


washed out

down the drain


Dear body, thank you for surviving me

I find detox tea in the back of my mother’s cabinet

& suddenly we are both teenage girls

comparing waistlines in the bathroom mirror

my mother – hard from the years, yoga pants 5 days out of the week,

who doesn’t believe for one second in all that

“beauty advertising propaganda”

is suddenly soft

is insecure

I find detox tea in the back of my mother’s cabinet

& I am fifteen again

throwing up after dinner

sometimes real life is too human for poems

& I am only now learning to take up space

I say I am healed now

because my dinner no longer looks like numbers

like regret

but the truth is I still lift my shirt in the bathroom sometimes

enamored by my own smallness (on the good days)

there are moments that my worth lies

in the flatness of my stomach

They say that it is harder to recover

from an eating disorder than a drug addiction

that this willful hunger will take half of its victims

to their graves

Yesterday in an empty subway cart

I saw a woman spread out across three seats

& I think of how different we are.

It’s like that, I think

when you are used to being made smaller

you stay small even when there is room.

Today I am growing

& I mean that is every sense.

I can look in the bathroom

& see only a bathroom

not another way to lose the calories.

I can look at fat

& see all the ways I have chosen to love myself

rather than a reason not to.

There are the days I stand in front of a mirror

& count all the ways I could shrink

& then there are the days I see

the closed up scars

& the stretch marks

& all the ways I tried to die but didn’t

There are days I look at my body

& see only healing

I haven’t been able to get warm

My body is a graveyard of everything I used to be / there is ownership I can swear I used to have / the more you say a word the less real it sounds / mine / mine /my body was once mine / I don’t remember anymore / I tell my therapist that I sure am blaming a lot of my problems on my sexual assault / like that was the marker of before and after / the carving on my headstone / but the truth is there is so much and I have always been as soft as first fallen snow / just as impressionable / all these footsteps have left marks I don’t know how to cover up anymore / there are so many parts of me that have become foreign / how do you spit out an anger that is melting you in an unreachable place / and time doesn’t heal anything / in the sense that if you make me talk about it now / my words will be just as broken / just as slippery ice cracking down the center / just as flooded lake / just as / did you really think the winter could protect you from drowning? / Soon I will be 21 / someday I will dig up my own grave / because 15 year old me is just as alive as she was 6 years ago / the past doesn’t stop living when we want to kill it / I have always been as impressionable as first fallen snow / but there is more of me to come / the clouds are just waiting


So my good bitch depression is back

& I’m sitting on the library floor drinking a nasty spinach smoothie

like this will save me

like if I can clean my insides out with some $6 health drink

maybe it will reach the parts of me I’ve been digging dirt out of since I was 13

& the truth is I didn’t even ask for spinach in my smoothie

but now I’ve got it

maybe the smoothie lady is trying to tell me to stop being so self destructive

& I know the truth is she’s messed up like 5 orders before mine but sometimes

it’s nice to believe in signs

or omens

or things happen for a reason

it’s nice to think someone wants me to get better

library floor spinach smoothie

at least I am still functional

only a little late to class

only partially hiding in the bookshelves

I mean the place my depression chose to sit is half empty of books

& I can see everyone but at least they are not looking at me

I mean the places my depression chooses to sit are always in plain sight

but no one ever looks

or once I told my mom I wanted to die and she told me to get ready for school

I think a lot about how maybe my depression isn’t bad enough

once my dad told me about a man who’s depression was way worse than mine

I have heard so many well intentioned words that all mean “stop complaining”

hey dad I don’t think most people who kill themselves actually spend all day in bed but I’ll dig a grave out of every crevice of my body if it will make you understand I have been breathing in dirt faster than I can spit it out

my mouth is a shovel & my brain – a mudslide

I mean I will keep talking about this until I drown in my own grave

or leaves bloom from my tongue

as long as I cannot forget

you cannot either

& if no one hears me at least I will have created a garden to the sound of “someday”

to the sound of “today I am still here”

sun on the horizon

laughing butterflies out of my stomach

if poetry is healing then let this be my prayer

let me spill enough pain into words that someone remembers what I say

for all the days we are depressed enough for people to notice

we are still alive

for all the days screams feel like whispers

I am writing this poem in the hopes of postponing my own burial

but anyways you should probably know

I always wanted to grow into a tree when I die &

they can do that now ya know

there are forests full of second chances


when I came back to prague last summer you were the first person I saw

& yeah I was fine

just crying cause I thought you couldn’t hold a place

couldn’t hug home

& here you were

we stopped talking a couple weeks ago

probably for reasons we could have figured out

but I don’t think you wanted to

telling someone you aren’t worth their time

only merits so much sympathy before agreement

& I still love you

like I said I would

& you didn’t do anything wrong

just the only thing you were taught how to

like me

I always pick the people with the most scars

have lost too many friends to a world that turns them hard

the softest fruit always bruises the easiest

so I understand

why you left

or why I had to

there have always only been two options

you are either the knife or the cut & sometimes there is no more blood to spare

so you turn cold

so I leave

so I keep having dreams where you swear you hate me and I kiss your tired eyes

so you swear you hate me and I don’t let go of your hand

it was never me you hated

it has always been the blood

Empty space

“Dear survivor, healing is not a destination but a practice.” – Amita Swadhin

I’ve come to the conclusion that trauma might take up negative space | I leave pain in places I have been like a breadcrumb trail | I always find my way back to collapsing | healing asks me to take my medicine | says stability is more important than the poem | sometimes the line between artist and self destruction gets so blurry | I say I am a history of bad habits | healing says no | you are a history of breaking them | healing looks at me through inked over scars | says look how with every self destructive break your body keeps saving you and saving you | another version of this poem goes like this | last night I had a dream that I lost all my fingers | gone with whatever I was holding on to | the more I learned to live without fingers the faster they grew back | sometimes surviving trauma is not recovery it is just acceptance