The water that pours out of the faucet in my bathroom never gets hot enough
to burn away the mud in my pores,
Staining my skin,
I am branded by the fingerprints of
People who looked like life when they arrived, and tasted like oxygen when they stayed
But never stayed,
Because they couldn’t
Maybe they did not want to-
But the empty rooms that they left vacant in my heart shudder at night
windows left open to catch snow and rain
These places that should have held joy
Ache with mold and regret
And unanswered questions,
Like why couldn’t you stop drinking?
The tears of a twelve-year-old on her knees,
Begging her mother to stay,
Telling her under the porchlight in the rain that she could get better,
If she just tried,
If it just stopped,
and she cried.
But I am a toy boat,
forgotten by you on the banks of this river,
beating endlessly in a polluted froth against a shoreline that is always too slippery,
Always too jagged to grasp for more than a few days
Maybe a week,
Until it is back to choking on weeds that grow out of my heart and trip me up around the ankles,
To drown in the bottle you chose over us both,
I pour soap
Into Questions like
What do you want from me?
As you tear into me with fangs dressed up like kisses for a night
and I learn to act the part because
After is when the gentleness waltzes in,
out of your body sucked dry-
And my heart would affirm that yes,
You must really love me,
Yes, you love me
Yes, you are different than the hands that came before you because
After is when you would pull me into your hollowed-out stomach and whisper importance into my ear
This is how I was taught my role in love.
Where I learned that the actions of my body
Directed the words that fell out of your mouth,
Where I was shown that the most important thing that I could offer you,
Could be found on a corner meat-market for a few dollars a pound,
But this is what I absorbed as I tried to give myself to you I realized that I was too real for your hands to carry,
But false enough for them to squeeze, and poke and pull apart like the spine of an old book
But you never learned how to read.
And when my ink finally spilled over the edge of the page
When I tried to make you see the value in the libraries of my soul
you claimed that I was blind
And I believed you.
So here I am at two in the morning
Kissing another bathroom sink,
surrounded by dirty towels and hairpins,
wasted and searching for answers after another long day.
I hate that I feel like I should apologize to you for having already washed off my makeup before seeing you in the mirror like this,
with splotches of red and fingernail marks where I feel we will never be clean enough
I am dripping with the brine of these memories
Because I was taught that love is for clean people,
And the water that pours out of my bathroom faucet,
Will never be hot enough.