2010s · How to Unexist · Poetry

Dancing with Damage

Sometimes I let Damage win.
We’ve been wrestling for days
on the edge of my teeth.
No matter how much hair pulling
or ear biting, sometimes
I give in.

I curl up like a small child
and lie in her bony lap.
Some may say I wear her
like a cross on my back,
but she’s the one wearing me,
wraps my heart around her like a cape,
splits my head across her knees
using them as shin guards.

As a child, she ran me
like a bully-sister,
warded off the boys
like Buffy with her stake.
She kept all my keys under her tongue
clenched by pit-bull teeth.

I learned to pick my battles.

She can sleep for weeks at a time
in her coffin-bed night.
That’s when I dance all night,
swim moonlight-naked,
run head-first for love,
and make no more apologies.

When she wakes again, she yanks me down,
my legs kicking–my fists punching. I thought
I was done with her. I thought
we’d shared our last breaths–
but we’re here again, now.

So I let her pull me into her embrace,
crying like a knee-scraped school girl.
Then, after a while, D and I lie on our backs,
listen to records as loud as we can,
and sing along until our throats hurt.

First published in On the Grid Zine.

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