pain is the colour
of a grey sweatshirt
and the smell
of disinfectant.

the shape of a room
with the lights off
where someone has been sick
and no one has cleaned.

the cold edge of a street sign
slicing through
your grandfather's thumb.

the contrast between
his rough hands gentle
on your new face,

new hair, new soft
bones not yet knitted
and twenty years later

your awareness
of the weight
in your still-small

the feeling in your jaw
against iced coffee,

a needle through the root of the tooth.
the sound of a slap
with all the muscle broken down in the arm.

the feeling on skin
of clothes worn too many days in a row.
your first time seeing seattle:

a turned-off camera,
the taste of handsoap
clinging to your tongue,

your ear against
the washroom wall
in a restaurant

with the tapwater on
as loud as it could go.

a hand reaching for a thread that isn't there.

reaching for a hand that isn't there.

the way nine and one and one
never quite add up
to enough.

a woman in a photograph
who folds herself into a paperclip
inside her pretty dress.

pissing on your hands
to keep them from cracking,
the way the nail breaks

from malnutrition, the creature in the checkout aisle
with glossy fur and razorsoft claws, nested between
diet tricks and broken relationships,

that never takes its eyes
off your back.
a suicide note disguised as a shopping list.

love is your grandmother
running down the street
on bad knees

saying in her fourth language,
take a jacket.

take a jacket.