Dear Elise – Emily Yin

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elise, midnight is a twisted hour
i’m dazzled by the uncorked mouth, the way
hard words condense on a drowsy tongue.
how gentle is the darkness, how false the light.
fortes iuvat fortuna, a cruel bromide indeed:
what is brave, what is healing but a covenant
for future hurt?

elise, sometimes i’ll start to laugh at the oddest times.
i’ve laughed in empty hallways and crowded hallways
—all kinds of hallways, and at a funeral too.
old friend, i’m so sad i’ve forgotten how to cry,
and maybe mirth is just another kind of grief.

elise, it’s not my fault that i flinch under scalding eyes
how dare a casual gaze reveal the weakest parts of me?
listen: girls like me crawl onward, red-faced and grim
we’re broken by tenderness and tempered by flames
so don’t you think we’re burning when we’re only going numb.

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