the 1:45am whisper

when I don’t sleep I go all out of my mind, like stagnant panic. I trick myself by counting ghost hours, but I’m always all awake and not knowing it, forgetting I woke up to check the time, the blinking digital numbers like some sort of mechanical Monet. the words come into my head all wrong and I can’t comb them the right way, and then madness seeps into the marrow of my bones, all wrong, arthritic.

I drank wine every night this week; it didn’t feel like I was alive and I liked it way too much. my grandfather used to carry whiskey in his glass every evening, sharp stained breath I remember so well. I drink my blood and wake up all hours of the night, chasing words in rem sleep, tumbling over half sentences and poetry that I forget in the morning sun.

 

© Alexandra Jema

strawberry moon

under the low-hanging yellow gloom of the June moon I entered my twenty-fourth year. is it a secret that we age? everyone whispers not to ask but I tell them with pride—I fought the numbers until now. I fought the panic until now. and this morning as the sun yawned itself awake it seemed like the world opened up to me, petals unfurling, unveiling the stamen. ten years ago I couldn’t tell you how I might have hoped to feel—and now feeling in itself is so divine. I use every pore to soak in the life around me, the life that has been conjured from thin air: a tapestry of memories and the threads weaving into themselves like wanton vines, like a storyteller who is saying the words as the story happens. that is me: the storyteller with her words and her dresses, living a cynical fairytale, writing ugly poetry, dancing.

 

© Alexandra Jema

girl, divine

Sometimes I will talk to women who start to argue with me for no reason. Then I feel it in the pit of my stomach – they are looking at my liquid lipstick and sharp eyeliner, the clothes that drape from my body, and I feel my age. I swallow my youth like a gulp of coffee in the mornings. Being beautiful is just as hard as being ugly but you can’t make the same complaints. If you’re beautiful you just cannot complain at all or else it’s frivolous. I wear my youth when I walk in the centretown streets; I see women clinging to the last of theirs, terrified of becoming a sexless old hag. In a week I will be 24, a woman, immortal, a goddess. Under my arms there is room for everyone but not everyone wants it. And I will not be fearful of growing older, because I have many sisters who know this is not the worst thing in the world.

 

© Alexandra Jema

the waiting

I had red wine and whiskey in my stomach, and I started peeling back all the scabs from the past two years. black corrosions unveiled baby pale skin, unready, glowing with ache. I stopped eating when you left and my belly became so concave you could see my ribs (if you were there). my sister the nurse worried over me but I ignored her, only looking at people through a cloud of smoke. I tried loving someone who wasn’t you but all he did was chew me up and spit me out, or maybe I did that to him. Everyday I would come home and suck on ice cubes, wishing for the way your fingertips cooled me down even in the hottest summers. I started writing poetry about the universe and how I fell to earth, mortal, a Soul without her Love. And maybe someone was listening to the tin can telephone attached to my heart, because somehow my Love came back to me.

 

© Alexandra Jema

toothpicks

I count all my teeth and
my fingers and I swear I could just
rip it all apart, destroy everything in one go,
and I would still be red.
some days I wanna reach up
to the back of my neck and
pull the skin off like a mask
surprise!
I’m still the angry little girl who blamed her moods on puberty:
only now
I don’t have that excuse:
just shreds of the past
caught in my incisors,
becoming deadly cavities.

 

 

© Alexandra Jema

in media res

I used to go around, newly godless, heart racing, gentle about my bad luck. I had broken many mirrors but I knew the spell was over when you kissed me. “come here,” you said. it was as ginger as it was when I was seventeen, young and virginal. when you moved my hair out of my face and touched your lips to mine—the bristles of rough hair on your face scratch against my chin, and I breathing it all in, like I can’t ever get enough. sometimes I keep my jealousy alive imagining the other girls you kissed when I wasn’t around. but then I remember that your presence alone conjures words inside me, making my mouth bend in different shapes. you were Orpheus with your music, I was Eurydice with my quiet steps. you are every handsome face in the mythology of us; sometimes I am the gorgon, the harpy. but you call me the princess and wrap my legs around you like we are a constellation in the making, on fire until our stories are buried with us.

 

© Alexandra Jema