As small as I was, before my hair ever darkened,
when I was still a flash of white, my platinum locks,
my baby teeth, the white sclera that had never shown
the blood vessels already burrowing like pinworms
into some distant morning’s hangover, some rage
at grown-up failures. When I was still that flawless,
that twenty-four–carat pure, I knew it was you
who came into our house and weakened my father’s heart,
who choked my mother’s laugh into a cracked and arid rasp.
I saw you loitering in our kitchen, clinging to our windows,
wearing your crude perfume, when in my nightmares
you were always hiding in the closet or under the bed,
or curled up like a polyp in the dog’s nostril, waiting
to explode. You lived with us. You touched everything.
We met again when I was sweet sixteen, you so neat
and slim in your white slip, and me sliding, glass by glass,
into my first drunk. At night in a friend’s backyard,
fifteen years ago, the fire-lit trees spread their branches
into darkness. The stars above them seemed a little nervous
when they twinkled. The chatter was coming unravelled;
voices walked across the lawn without their mouths,
saying words like “punk,” and “fuck,” and “faggot,”
words without targets, exempt from meaning, so that
the edges peeled away from everything, every memory.
When someone refused to kiss you, you came to me,
surprised at how much I’d grown—taller, darker—
and though you hadn’t changed, I wasn’t frightened.
I brought you to my mouth and breathed you in all night.