There was a time when I hid myself—
at the onset of entanglement,
I wrapped myself into a knot
and huddled, brooding,
in a cage deep beneath my ribs.
But the knot frayed and now,
after years of trembling exertion,
I have come forth, loosened, exhausted.
And tonight, I realize softly in the darkness:
I am transparent.
The mass of my back as I lie facing away from you—
always away, though I feel your breath on my neck
and ache for it—
should not hide me from you any longer.
You can see through it even in the night, to my pulse.
The layers of knots I've added under the shoulder blades,
tied to my spine,
are nodules of pain, but nevertheless translucent, I think.
And the silence of me in these unconscious hours is immaterial
in the face of my heartbeat like summer lightning on your skin.
In shadows and closed bedrooms I like to feel heavy;
my hands are cinderblocks
on the mattress, but made, I suppose, of glass.
My feet, icy pendulums sinking to the earth
through the empty space below me,
I have always craved weight
to back up my ambition;
and when I feel your breath steady in sleep,
I imagine myself swelling into a behemoth.
My spine stretches into train tracks.
My pulse is thunder on the horizon.
I wonder if you feel the same terror,
when you are alone in the night,
Mortality is to me a horrifying lightness,
the fragility of a dried leaf before the immensity of the wind.
Like the wind, I am invisible. Undeniable.
I lie awake, eyes wide, stretching my leaden, monstrous toes.
I want to turn to you and dig my swollen fingers into your flesh—
rip you from impermanent dreams, and bury myself in you.
Show you I am more than your sleep.
Bigger than my body.
Heavier than life.
She patted the back of my hand,
urgency in her eyes and demeanor—
She often taps her fingers on tabletops when anxious—
and when I turned to her she said:
"Your monster side is showing."
We were at brunch.
I looked down at my hand under hers,
there on the white table cloth.
She quickly removed her skin from mine and,
yes, I could see it there,
the black, wiry hair poking out from the cuff of my sleeve.
I moved it under the table, smiled sheepishly.
I'd almost forgotten about those claws.
"When you laugh," she whispered,
"you scare the people at the next table.
I can see them cringing."
I pushed my lips down over the fangs.
"And," her eyes were cast down to avoid my yellow ones,
"when you talk, you gesture so much, and
your claws are so dirty. I don't think
we should do this any more."
I stared down at my palms, smooth and almost-human.
She quietly got her things, threw her hair
over her shoulder like she does,
I guess I should have known better
than to think my happiness could mask those nails,
or that smiling might diminish my teeth.
Anyway, what choice do monsters have in life
aside from becoming writers?
Because who can write when they're happy?
I will open my face to your gaze,
Stretch wide the follicles, pull taut the neurons,
and flay apart my spine for you.
And I will let you watch my heart drag itself inward
and out again,
Toward you and away,
swollen with the quiet
pulled from the space between us.
To the casual observer,
There it will be, an elegant spectacle
of working machinery
The clock will tick off the breaths
before you believe me,
And when I zip myself back up
You will still see the alveoli like Styrofoam balls swelling and receding,
Pulsing inside my iris,
Burned into the memory you will cling to
—oh yes you will—
I live like this,
Omphalocelic and raw.
I am, in fact, by now,
so transparent that I smell my own purity
even when I am lying.
The untruths are like lavender.
But have you guessed,
That deeper still,
nestled beneath the places one looks inside a ribcage,
In a nest of lost earrings and nerve tissue,
There is a ball of yarn,
Infinitesimal and crimson,
and counting the outrages?
It is guarded by all that I am believed to be,
And one will never see what one has never suspected.
This is for the best.
If your eyes were amber enough to slide into my belly,
Where they could recognize the rhythmic gleaming,
This knot of me
Wither us both
In an upward rush,
A volcano of teeth and hair and maw,
So vehemently empathetic
it would whimper
while it eviscerated the bartender.
You see, then.
I am trying to help you
For both our sakes.