Salt

Libraries, for example, are good places
to escape the viciousness of people
when they try to get

inside of you.

Between the shelves
there is plenty of space
to lick your wounds.

This is something I do often.

My first twenty years weren’t easy
I was always busy
with the important occupation

of dismantling myself—an exhausting
and ungrateful enterprise.
I did this so earnestly that I was, in fact,
convinced 

I had invented the vocation.

I just kept carving
and carving.

Did I ever succeed? in scraping clean
the rind.  in turning myself
inside-out.  What is left?
after such a thorough cauterization.

One raw little soul.

I can still taste that grief
in my mouth like champagne, icy
& no hint of sweetness.

I could have stayed inside all day.

Meanwhile on the quad, a pretty girl
walks her small white dog
across the grass & shadows
sprawl across the perfect lawn

with their splotchy memory.
Although memory, I am learning,
always give back much more color
than what was there in the first place.

I look back now, and I want to feel 
that grass 
on my skin.  But all I can remember
is that I hated my life

and I hated my life.

The feeling comes
and goes, but at least I find
a quiet absolution in my landscape:
the restfulness of books
and sunlight in an empty room
that transforms the isolation
into something else entirely.

Panicked Animal

After everything, I couldn’t stand to be alone
in my bedroom, so I started sleeping on the couch.
Then I couldn’t stand the couch
so I slept outside in the grass,
but I couldn’t stand the grass.

So I slept in my body, strung from my ankles and my wrists
like a hammock. When I couldn't stand my body,
I chiseled myself out of it. This use of knives
broke my heart, because it was an act of violence.
My weakness broke my heart, because Julia comes from Jupiter.
The meaning of my name broke my heart because I would rather
be beautiful than strong. My vanity broke my heart
because I am a scholar. My education broke my heart
because universities are mostly lonely places
and knowledge, in the end, is empty.

My emptiness ate me alive; I was starving to be whole.
The thought of wholeness broke my heart
because it is elusive and I could not have it.
So I tried to rationalize wholeness
as the mastery of all interests: I walked into the yard
trying to vomit and pray simultaneously. I fell asleep
while whispering a love song. I was empty empty
empty. I've had enough heartbreak
to fill every inch of this house.  Really,
I was drowning
in a room I couldn't stand.