i.

if i use imagery of glass bones
present fragility as artisanship
am i lying to you, or being honest
about my lies to myself?

if i show you my weaponry
could you see me

as strong, even frightening, rebelling
in defence of rather than against
my own existence?

could i be a protagonist
you would cheer for?

if i call myself joan of arc
could you overlook i set the fire
myself?

i.

this is the truth:
i want you to like me.

this is another:
i never felt so strong as the summer
i barely slept. just spun

in the hot socket of sundown
my blood gorged with static
a slow sharpening of bones

a switch flicked ON,
which is a body realizing

that limits are arbitrary:
that a body is capable

of running indefinitely
until it's not

i.

being liked is often necessary
to being believed

i.

i lied. J_ set the fire.
or is that another lie?

i purge through confession.
i purge through perjury.
i bleach myself

from myself,
which could mean highlights,
whiter smile, or chemical injury.

believe this or not:
that he was a knife
i turned inward

the old
i can stop anytime
i just don't want to

blacking out in the zoo,
the goth club, his bedroom.
my body a fire escape.

is this agency
is this denial

i.

i read a study that said abuse
is an issue of values;
not of losing control.

that you don't hurt a person
unless, on some level

you think they deserve it

i.

i wake choking from a nightmare
faint smell of cat piss through the open window
waves of grey light on the walls

this is what safety feels like, i tell myself:
the heart a wide white quaking

my body alone in a small room
shaking off filaments of a dream

i'm already forgetting

i.

seven years later my memory
dims and flashbulbs: a shattering of light
then the same grey walls.

this is the truth:
i don't know. or at least, i feel like
if i repeat that loudly enough

someone will tell me.

give me the book of my life.

i.

why did you do this to yourself?

i don't know. i say.

i don't know. i say.

i don't know. i say.

i don't know. i say.

i don't know. i say.

each time a lie. or a truth that means:

because i wanted to experience the world
without being in it.

because i hated myself.
because i have spent most of my life
trying to say that
in past tense.

because memory and emotion dissipate and i wanted a record.

because i am lonely, bored, empty, pathological.
because i am kind, polite, naive, fragile but so brave.

because i am trying to write a story you can parse.

i.

when you destroy
every trace of personality
does someone else come
to take your place?

can you watch your new self from a distance?
can you fade out and, finally, rest?

i.

because i wanted to feel better.
because i wanted to feel worse.

because i needed
to feel different.