Dirty fingernails and splitting nooses,
The smell of alcohol and the click of razors
That was my story, but I wanted a different one.
I am a thousand lanterns, so different, so light
But one day, every single one will go out.
I remember the piles of matted teddy bears
And the sliver of lavender soap that stuck to my hand
Soft hands brushing the hair from my reddened face
As I tried to catch fireflies in the humid summer.
But I was a match in a beating storm,
And the flame will always go out
Against buckets of pouring rain.
A broken crown of long forgotten happiness
Rest atop my cinnamon hair
Dying stars that lit up my eyes
And strings that tied my tongue to my teeth
Until I bled with silent tears, but no one could hear.
I remember my cousin’s grandfather clock
That sounded like the steady beating of my father’s heart
Before he closed the rusting iron gate
Leaving me alone in the world that seemed so much colder.
My mother’s rosy cheeks and her golden curls
Gave way to a thin pale face and oily waves,
And her hearty laugh that sounded like caramel
Shrunk back into a darkened corner,
Far from light and never to be seen again
From here on now to the day the pills finished her.
I was force-fed spoonfuls of artificial happiness
The box claims that there are nutrients in there,
All good for your body and your health
But really—all it does is kills,
Unrecognized until a grave has been carved.
And so each day was a nail in my coffin,
A shovel of dirt out of my soon-to-be tomb.
I spun out of control, a flicker of gold inside a tornado
So I turned to the one thing that I could control:
So now I stand on the chair, a skeleton smothered in clothes
Sharp hipbones sticking out of ripped blue jeans
Shadows of guilt under my drooping eyes
Shivering hands that can’t even tie my shoes.
Your past does not define you; that’s what they say,
But if they had stepped into my worn-out sneakers
Felt the heart that they tried to mend
With poorly sewn string and fraying patches
And touched the tears that pour out onto my pillow
They would not say so.
For my past does define me, and it has marked my body
With thin lines the light of an African sunset
The feel of a dancer’s silky dress
Ribbons on a neatly wrapped box
The color of the blood that spills down my sink.
It has marked my body with its withering muscle,
The cold that covers me like a blanket,
The cracked lips of my mouth as I try to scream for help.
My past is my present and my future
So it was not I who tied the rope onto the rafters
As snowflakes waltzed through the open window.
It was my past, my present, and my future.
My story could’ve been so much better.
If my father had not left and stayed the king
To our small but faithful kingdom
Lifted me up on his shoulders and kissed my hair,
And my mother only took pills for her headaches,
Still laughing at the soap opera on the TV
And if only I had taken up that first razor
Looked in the mirror at my freckles, my eyes
Looked at everything they loved about me
Then realized that people loved me with all their strength
Then maybe, maybe
My story would be different.
But it is not, for my lanterns have gone out
The final one blown away with a gust of wind
That smelled of pine trees and chocolates and sorrow.
Maybe if someone, anyone, from the school treasurer
To the tattooed lady who drives the 4:09 bus
To the boy with the green hair who always sold soda
Had asked me if I was okay, then I might
Look into their worried faces, see the care that lit it up,
What would have happened then? I don’t know
I might’ve gotten better; but no one cared enough to ask me
So we will never find out.
All I know is that I will feel worthless, a waste of space
I will curse the Heavens for creating me
But when I step off that chair and into Death’s timeless night,
I will regret it.