Masculinity is leather-bound hands holding you closed, taut skin,
how he taught you to hold your mouth as a purse-string,
drawn together so no one can steal from you;
a pocket full of loose change,
lost marbles, mouth so full of bees;
they'll sting you if you let them.
Keep your tongue from the roof of your mouth,
your soft palate; let them sleep.
but those hands–
full of forest fingers, getting lost in the trees. your daughter
peering around birch branches– she's got stars in her mouth.
It's your voice clattering against the walls
when breaking plates against them just won't do, summer sun beating in
your windows, hot patch of carpet where the dog always
wants to sleep. Ultraviolet rays burning patterns into
your skin & you're trying to shield yourself
from the heat with air conditioners humming louder
than the cicadas.
Strength bubbling up like your breath
when you lay submerged at the bottom of that saltwater pool,
sunken ship. You can't remember which way is up, and when you do,
you are gasping for air; your mouth is a black hole,
a void devouring all those stars.
You tell yourself to stop romanticizing those
hollow bird bones. Like you, they too, are empty.
Your marrow exists as deep-seated ache,
a piece of your childhood swallowed
like all those tiny measuring cups of bubble gum amoxicillin;
if only adulthood was filled with such innocence.
The first time you believe yourself to be irreparable,
it will look like silk but feel like road rash,
and you will spend every second of your day
crafting lies, believing
you deserved this.
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