TW: suicidal ideation I guess

Once, a boy who thought he knew me
but really only knew the version of me he romanced in his head
told me I was a cold, emotionless robot.
His mind could peel away my layers,
down to the skin and the heat and then further,
to the flesh to devour me alive,
but I am not your darling, not your baby,
not your girl who is respectable enough to wait
but ready enough to do what you want when you want it.

I run hot, but you wouldn’t know it to skim the surface of me,
and that’s probably all you’re ever going to do.
Every day I pour all I have into keeping myself contained,
to keep the white-hot sparks of my soul and the electrified static of my skin
away from anyone who might ask me to share it.
I am selfish and too good and too awful
and too, too tired.

I can’t commit to what I want for dinner,
to how I want relationships to function,
to living.
And I can’t commit to dying.
If I could, I imagine a gentle sinking,
a coolness and a quiet calm,
freedom from everything I don’t want to touch
and everything I don’t want to touch me.
I imagine no longer having to clench my fists and hold my tension
coiled tightly in my neck and shoulders
and drag myself through the viscous, oozing muck of existing.

Sometimes, at night, I strip off my pajamas
and toss and turn, in the heavy, sticky heat of summer
or the freezing cold of winter, always burning, burning,
burning from the inside out.
I try to keep myself going by finding the small pleasures of daily life,
I try to schedule spending time with the people who make me feel a little less trapped
and suffocated by my own body,
by the world,
by living.

But, as Warsan Shire once said,
You can’t make homes out of human beings
and so here I am, trying to make a home out of myself.
What Warsan Shire didn’t say, but what I know to be true,
is that you also can’t make homes out of hollowed-out burning buildings
and you can’t form secure structures on the foundations of graveyards
and so what is left to do but give in?

I no longer believe I can become something else
or do anything else,
and most of the major parts of my support system don’t understand
what this feels like, the enormous impossibility of another minute,
another hour, another day.
An entire endless lifetime.
I never feel closer to death than when I imagine life.

What is the difference between a cry for help and a cry for relief?
A cry for attention and a cry for nonexistence?
The flailing of a drowning hand and the quiet acceptance of lungs filled with water,
sinking down to the place where it’s cold and dark
and all the sea witch wants is your voice?
Having a voice and feeling compelled to use it
and losing a voice and feeling the weight lifted off?

I don’t know.
There’s a lot I don’t know, but I do know this:
that the price of life is too high
and the price of death is too high,
but the lure of one is stronger than the lure of the other
and one day, I am certain this will be my undoing.
The question of which particular day seems very far away
and insignificant in the knowledge of this truth.
Agony to apathy, desperation to destruction.

I shut myself inside myself,
tight, tight, so I couldn’t get out.
I locked the diary of me
and threw the key into the ocean,
so no one would ever open me up
and pull out my secrets,
wet and shiny and cringing from the light of day.
I knew what was necessary to survive
and I did it, ruthlessly, compassionlessly,
in a way I could only ever do to myself.
Hard shiny plastic
that felt and moved and acted like a real girl
was all that was left.

There were girls who lured me,
tried to pry me open and pull me out.
There were boys who pushed me,
tried to hold my secret self in their hands
and clench it until it was what they wanted.
I resisted, and resisted, and resisted.
I told myself so many untruths:
I’m just not meant for elationships,
I don’t know how to commit,
people terrify me,
I don’t want a partner.

I danced on the thinnest tightrope
as high in the air as I could go,
friendships so intense that they disintegrated,
my wet, shiny secrets too much for them to withstand.
Claw marks, teeth marks, whatever I could do
to make people stay, without telling them,
without cracking the plastic,
reasoning that the key was lost forever, anyway,
no use trying to pry myself open anymore.

Was I happy?
I didn’t even know what happy meant.
I was detached, floating in a void
of my own making.
I watched documentaries about women who loved other women,
men who loved other men,
movies about their tragedies,
and I sobbed an entirely new ocean.
But that ocean had no key, and so
I said, what a good ally I am.
How empathetic. How much I care.
I heard slurs, derogatory comments,
came home to my apartment to fume and cry.
On behalf of them, the marginalized, who weren’t me.

And then, and then.
It happened overnight, or so it felt.
I expanded, my plastic shell splitting apart,
and I was born into the world anew.
Raw and red and shiny and wet,
cringing from the light of day.
The ocean threw my key back at me,
and it burned to the touch until I used it to unlock the diary.
There I was, my true self,
calling myself by my true name.
There was a time when I was scrambled,
my true name like ashes in my mouth,
and so I tried another, and another.
Why couldn’t I just make up my mind?

So many gentle hands reached out to guide me,
so much kindness flowed through the circuitry and signals that make up this world,
and eventually I lay gasping but alive,
on soft grass, and the sun shone down.
But I couldn’t touch anyone else,
couldn’t reach out my living, questing hands,
couldn’t share my newfound self in a tangible way.
I was certain, living, but isolated.

Until I wasn’t.
Until there were hands reaching back,
other living, breathing, nearby people like me.
I couldn’t find them through all the static and hiding,
but the universe knows and the universe provides,
and it provided me an abundance,
more than I feel I deserve.
I am part of a community,
and that community doesn’t always have to be a physical intangibility.

But the only way this was possible
was by showing myself, my raw, terrified, quivering self,
to the world, or at least my part of it,
and trusting it to hold me up.
It doesn’t always, but this time, for me, it did.
And this time, through the visibility of others,
I was able to be a real girl, no more plastic shell,
no more locked diary without a key.
Through the visibility of others,
I was able to visualize myself,
and find ways to exist
without hating what I saw, what I was.
I’m still a little raw, still quivering,
but I’m figuring out how to inhabit myself
and the world I live in,
and I could never have dreamt of this reality
when nothing was visible, everything shrouded in fog.
This is why it matters,
this is why we matter.
This is why I’m alive, and will never shut up.

I seem to always be writing and rewriting the same poem, just with different stories and slightly different forms. Sorry about it. This is the shortest one I’ve probably ever written, because it’s an acrostic. The first letter of each word spells out the title. Katabasis is a Greek word which was often used to describe a descent into the underworld, typically as part of a hero’s quest, but, as we know, women can’t be heroes. So Persephone’s was a punishment, except I don’t think it was. I’ve never thought it was. I choose to reinterpret her story the way I do to all my favorite goddesses and fairy tale princesses and etc.

Killing would be better, she thinks,
a clean break, a final severing.
To lie still and quiet,
away from those who make scrutinizing her into a job, insuring she plays her role.
Beckoning, Hades’ hand is the clearest thing she’s ever seen,
agonizingly real in a world where everything is spring green unreality.
Spreading on her palm seeds as red as the blood she’s often thought of shedding,
igniting the blood she’s not yet shed, an offering and a promise and a binding.
She lifts them to her lips, and she twines their hands, and she reaches out with the other and takes her own fate.

This is kind of cheating because I wrote this poem months ago. But it’s been a bad week, so I hope you’ll forgive me, whoever you are. I had vague aspirations of getting it published somewhere, but I’ve since decided that I only want to try to publish essays, not poems or short stories or anything else, because the weight of publication makes the creating so much less fun for me, so I’m putting it here instead. It’s also kind of cheating because I haven’t given it a real title, but in my defense, coming up with titles is awful.

Growing up, I had a collection of Grimm’s fairy tales on tape from the Library for the Blind and I listened to it on constant loop for years. “Jorinda and Joringel” was one of the stories on it, and for some reason, it embedded itself in my brain and I never entirely stopped thinking about it. But, me being me, I wanted a version where Jorinda told Joringel to get lost because he was boring, and, naturally, I also wanted some depth given to the witch. Preferably in the form of Jorinda and the witch falling in love. I thought I would write it as a short story, and I kept thinking I would do that until suddenly, finally, I wrote it as this poem instead. It turned out to really only be tangentially a retelling of the story, and of course I made it more about being trapped in a body than in a literal birdcage because again, I’m me. But, anyway, here it is.

You can read the original story here if you would like context.


When you’re a girl, your body
A cage, and you, a nightingale
Without a voice,,
What do you do to survive?

He claims your salvation
As his cross to bear, says
Love, says forever,
But you know better.
She claims your warmth as her due, says
Wisdom, says truth,
And you begin to understand.

You say love and it burns, poison
On your tongue. You say
Please and it presses
Heavy on your shoulders,
A weight you can’t shake off.

When you’re a girl, your body
Unyielding, a stubborn outlier
Refusing to conform,
What do you do to feel real?

You offer as sacrifice your breath,
Your blood, but she
Scoffs, says she has no need.
You offer as penance your tears,
Your sweat, but he
Is too far away, occupied
With a quest for which you have only ever been
The catalyst, never the true goal.

when you’re a girl, your body
An inconvenience, a commodity
You no longer wish to trade,
What do you do to transform?

You say stop and
It feels like relief,
You say no and
It feels like release.
You have always belonged to yourself.

He comes bearing gifts:
The flower red as blood,
The enchantment broken,
The happily ever after.
She says this is not for you,
This was never for you.
You already know.

You rise up, you turn your back,
You hold out your hand.
Her smile is an awakening.
Together, you wield the dagger
Of your power to
Unbecome and rebecome,
Skin shed, flesh unbound,
Monstrous and finally free.

Sometimes, I don’t write anything because I feel very bad and I would rather save my words for nicer things. I’ve always been this way, withdrawing rather than spreading my bad feelings. But I believe poetry is a space where those feelings can be safe. So here they are. I’ll get better, and my words will be happier, but when I sat down to try to start this feature, this is what came out. I don’t think it’s a particularly good poem, but if I waited until I could write one I’m happy with, this blog would remain poem-free forever. I’m sharing it with you with the disclaimer that I’m fine, no one needs to worry, I don’t really hope to never wake up so much as I hope to never have to deal with anything again. I’m fine. Just mentally ill, constantly in pain, and tired of my life.


I am trying to write a poem,
and what I keep coming back to is this:
my life is a forest where nothing grows,
a farm where the crops have all been poisoned,
a fire whose wood is too damp to burn.

I don’t know what poetry is because I have forgotten
how to look for it,
I have forgotten
how to feel it.
I have forgotten
how to feel.
I have forgotten.

My days are one long forgetting,
a fog that never lifts.
Remember when? Remember when?

To survive, you have to let go.
To survive, you have to move on.
To survive, you have to forget.

I am a spilled vase,
the water puddling around me slowly evaporating.
I am every clumsy metaphor contained in this not-a-poem,
not-a-confession, not-a-salvation.
I am a passive observer in this not-a-life.
I am not a monster, no teeth to bare,
no claws to extend. I am tired.

They say the body is a poem,
its skin, its bone, its veins and vessels,
its miraculous, marvelous blood.
Its breaths, in and out, its lungs expanding and contracting.
Its muscles and sinews.
When I stretch, I feel the ache,
the despair of joints and muscles that have worked too hard
with nothing to show for it.
They want to quit.

They say love is a poem, the yes,
the I will, the I do.
The hands clasped, the lips pressed,
the sleep-warmed skin and the mundane intimacies.
When I love, it is furious, it snarls,
it demands and takes and is never, never satisfied.
It blazes, a brightness that cannot be sustained.

They say hope is a poem,
the thing with feathers, the lift of the heart.
The thaw after winter, brutal cold to gentle sun.
The ice that is slowly melting. A smile,
a spring in the step.
I hope, I hope for quiet,
I hope for rest, I hope to never wake up.
To be released, to be relieved.
To look around and see nothing,
nothing at all.