I’m 19 and on a bad trip
I’m 20 and have a bad habit
I’m 21 and I kicked
I’m 22 and they try to pin me down by my limp wrists
I’m 23 and I have learned to suck the air out of the room
just like when I got sucked into the ceiling fan when he fucked me
just like a rogue balloon bore into the sky
just like how my pupils tightened up behind my glasses
following its course, eclipsing the sun, a speck of red
just like how I lose everything in the black hole of my purse
can I borrow a hair tie or nevermind, I’ll just shave my head
I’m 24 and a little tired of growing smaller
a little tired of watching the blades of a ceiling fan go by until it’s over
tired of throwing up, tired of running cold
tired of overhead lighting and tired of tight clothes
but the thing is I can’t sleep
the thing is I’m on these low-grade antihistamines
the thing is I have regularly scheduled ECT
so I don’t remember anything
I’m 25 and one giant oversized sweater
I’m one tired joke about 5150s and 420, baby
I am numbers, I’m in line at the deli
I’m serving half smiles and soft landings
I’m inviting you over tonight
I’m kicking you out because it’s too much for me
I’m thanking you
I’m making another cosmic joke
I’m texting you right now
I’m 26 and I’m no fun at parties but I smile more readily in the checkout line
I’m learning to make pesto and chimichurri
I’m madly in love with the color green
which has a stark melody like Satie
which has botanical notes like gin
which has the faint lilt of my mother’s voice
remarking on the rain
Did I tell you I stopped drinking?
Did I show you this meme?
I’m 27 and I’ve felt the kelp licking my legs
I’ve felt the waves wash up on the rocks inside me and smooth them out
I’ve started to make myself come thinking about it
I’m 28 and I’m thinking about nursing school
I’m talking to mom again
who smiles more readily in the checkout line
whose pain is so similar to mine that she couldn’t look at me
is so similar to mine that she was too nervous to hold me as a baby
who smells like cigarettes?
Have you been smoking, Jenny?
Have you lost weight?
I’m 29 and I am the inner part of an oyster shell
pale rainbow, smiling up at me,
mother of pearl catching the light
all smashed up and ground down
and sold to me
I hate this city
I’m diatomaceous earth on the windowsill for the ants
I am dragging their tiny bodies over the shells
I am cutting to ribbons
anything that seeks to destroy me in my sleep
they call me by different names
when I see a child falling
and I see they start to cry
I wonder if they are crying
out of pain or shame
because it seems
that we learn very young
to not make silly mistakes
that we could have done a better job
if we were paying attention
and often, when I see parents scoop kids up
and say "you're alright"
I wonder what they mean
can you tell me what they mean
by the phrase refrigerator mother?
They seem to say, you're not hurt so no crying
(like a utilitarian)
They seem to say, it happens all the time kid
(like a nihilist)
They seem to say, walk it off
(like an existentialist)
I actually don't know what they mean
But do they mean, I love you, like a goddess?
Can you tell me if I am a cowbird?
A brood parasite with a beautiful song
watching the babies fall from the nest
in these fraught moments, I am just an observer
I'm stealing away behind my shades
I'm averting my gaze if I seem too interested
I am one big joke about a ticking clock
and ultimately a stranger
But I imagine myself a lifegiver
And find myself cooing
mouthing strange spells of healing
Potions dripping from my brow
My heart pumping milk
My tongue thrush with affections
I wonder if a child falling and learning
how these things play out
is just a part of growing up
But now, I am grown up
and I am lost boy hiding behind hipster sunglasses
I am so interested in your interior
but (like vampire), I must be invited in
I am always clutching my pearls (like oyster)
I am always uncomfortable with touch (like oil slick)
I am asking to be left alone (like abortionist)
I am asking for my turn to make dinner (like communist)
I am asking to be held in a new way (like little mermaid)
I am asking to never cry from shame
I am asking to be loved
and not told what to feel when I fall (like it was)
But they call me by different names
Can you tell me what they mean
by the phrase biological woman?
Can you tell me my future by drawing chalk lines around this body?
Can you see past all this texture and color?
If I will be divine nurturer
if only I freeze my eggs?
Can you tell me what’s wrong with me?
I will ask you if you’re my mom
and you say yes alright?
Are you my mother?
The New Engagement endeavors a novel approach to discovering, introducing, and showcasing writers, artists, and filmmakers, by providing them digital and print platforms, while encouraging and supporting their social-consciousness.