i.

i walked home today
past the overpass, where
last year
a man ended his life.
the cement was grey
beneath paintbrush trees.

cars kept going.

ii.

i've been thinking we could move to a house by the ocean. cover the walls with photographs of skylines and paintings of our friends. we could keep the windows open on warm nights and listen to the wind dance pebbles and chip bags through the street.

we could grow our hair like merpeople or dress for the wrong century. we could sing to the rain and sleep away the daylight. you could take air into your flute and rearrange it as colours i cannot name, as i stumble fingers over a guitar. we could take the camera into the blue dark and laugh fake anger at the blurs. i would tell you every day that you are beautiful until you believed me.

quitting wouldn't be work anymore.

iii.

a small tornado:
invisible
except for leaves
that play in the empty street.

iv.

we want this to mean something. a number on a scale, a graph of the bloodwork, imagery of soft lips on scratched skin. we turn down the voices of talk shows and unopen the covers of teen novels, but here we are: twenty-somethinged and still waiting to be better. stronger. at least, not less than we used to be. before we smashed ourselves open like fishbowls on sidewalks. before floors memorized the shapes of our spines and insomnia the shapes of our nightmares, when we understood fear was another word for pain. i peck at my cell phone while the girl across vibrates painted nails and battered knuckles. i hold down keys and form words with no vowels, snap the lid without saving a draft. i miss friends who messaged with frozen fingers and told stories with too many syllables. i miss days when i trusted doctors, when waiting rooms weren't burned into the backs of my eyes. before i'd seen a stranger throw her bruises to the floor and ask to be swallowed. i have a question i can't put into words, a too-fast pulse and a process of gluing shards together as i try not to slice my fingers. try not to care that some pieces are too small to pick up. try not to flinch as every touch reminds me where the cracks are.

v.

love hasn't made me any more articulate.
i don't know how to live somewhere that could do that to you.
i know i can't keep you safe. i know you aren't what was done to you. i know

i will never understand.

i hold you close. we stop traffic in hallways and the curve of your arms is safety. i can't stop crying.

vi.

in five days, it will be twenty months since i quit.

maybe i will celebrate:
hold the taste of orange
in my hands and mouth
and walk past the wind
chimes that harmonize
with construction.

the underwater shadows
pull each other arm by arm.
small shapes carry small boats,
a shared shell for when frost comes.

the growing-smell of mud.
feathers.
scraps of yellow.

vii.

please stay.