These Are Not Sonnets. Or, “honey babe”


You, Judy Blume, Marriage Equality.
the great comic triumph of our time.
Three days of summer,
Three days as if kicked straight from the stars
a big fat fandango, cherry lips crack ribs
stupid good stupid pretty stupid sweet,
You kissed me.
You had me, I knew you.
In the morning I went home,
and Judy Blume touched my arm.
She, who changed my life and
mind when it was barely formed and she
who taught me how to love inside a body,
(about masturbation and mothers
and best friends and blood)
she wrote my name by hand and
you were the only person I cared to tell,
and when the sun rose again, then, it
rose on a country where women could
marry women and men could
marry men in every state and every
corner by the rule of the court and my
sweet friend cried on the phone so
I was sorry amid my joy that I couldn’t
kiss his head and my clever friend said
“so, was the sex really so good it changed the nation?”
and all my thoughts that day were purple
prose and all my purple prose for you and
Three days. That was three days.
And, it’s the kiss. So I can’t breathe.
I can laugh big and hard as I’d like
and still —
now when I leave work sick to
cry in my car about how it felt
to run my finger in an s behind your ear —
it always will be.
Even thighs pressed so tight, in
work pants knock-kneed,
tripping to stay together I fear
I know that anyone
can taste the scent of me.
I know this slickness never seemed so toxic.
And I remember. Lactic acid.
Paint and flags all
in the streets
and crying, and
Judy Blume
and you.


When it was hot
I was wearing a romper.
I provide this detail here to set the stage, please,
let none of us forget that I am prone to
abominable judgment,
that I was perfectly naked in a port-a-potty
when I had to pee, and that I was perfectly thrilled
every single second you were around me just around me
(“I feel fine anytime she’s around me now, and she’s around me now, almost all the time,” – James Taylor. You know because in the grass I told you all the songs that make me cry. I’ve wanted to dance to something in the way she moves at my wedding since I was too small to dance in any other way but atop someone’s feet and and still I had to bother formally coming out.)
had your hands around me and, all right,
the point is it was beautiful that night
I guess the point is that
I love you
More than strawberritas or snowflakes
or “Sweet Baby James.”
I guess the point is saved to my iPhone
is a picture where I can see
my own petals opening up greedy sugared swollen spring
like in the Georgia O’Keeffe paintings that I buy as six by six calendar prints to make a lazy and tasteless joke about vaginas, then hang on my wall as an ironic statement about my own overinflated, underused intellect– No, well.
I can look now and see us rising in the twilight
and all our teeth.
This is the part — you remember — where
our legs touch all the way from hip to foot while
You say that I am going to fall in love with you.
It’s near dark and I’m wearing a romper and
you don’t pause to say the words slow, you
say it like a fact. Like a threat.
You are going to fall in love with me.
it is July,
and I have known threats and
I have been hit and I have lost teeth on
ladder rungs of simple climbs and I don’t
put my hands out toward hurricanes and
I believe that it is good and smart to
close your fist and jaw and heart, and fear,
and I will not be trod on I say I
will never melt I have just the barb I
do not allow my heartbeat
to fall into perfect unison with another because
now they have just the trick to stop it just the trick
you’ll unlearn your hard-won skill for
punching on and on
and on alone brave red chambers alone,
no key, and I have never been easy and I
(I, so easy, I, made of pink play sand & peeling Elmers glue, I, all yours)
am, anyway, frantically grateful that you were right.


Joni Mitchell is sick.

I know this, but a gray man tells me it the way they do, when he stretches his hands out from his overcoat to pay. I know. “But, god. Blue.” This, we breathe at the same time, like a matching set of misassembled dolls, separate but the same. And in the hidden camera show of life this makes perfect sense, sharing from the stomach on a Sunday a wound that knows no demographic.

could drink
of you

He actually mouths it there in infinitely accidental mercy, with eyes closed. Now I don’t have to.

I iron my hair but not my clothing. A lot of that I’ve given away. A red dress from the fourth of july that made me ill to touch. I walk and walk and curl in and out of situps on the carpet until my middle screams. I shop for products to make my face look like someone else’s. Make oatmeal in the microwave with tap water then spoon it into the trash. I put the birthday card I won’t give inside a book I’ve read to breaking. I put the blazer that my mother bought me over the shirt that I am more alive under because it feels like your eyes on me, which was like the burst and fade of light from fireworks which is like bathwater set so the metal spout can burn. I put my hands in the pockets of my jacket sometimes to keep them still because even now even after even in the cold and the dark of your stepping from my locked arms my head appears suddenly bobbing above the water and I float away on the ecstatic luck of a love so vital as to sing all the same even without its partner. And then I turn on the car and drive.

But other times
I listen to Blue.


double-u double-u double-u  dot fragrantica dot com is a wealth of poetics, ephemera, is art for whatever that’s worth. “this smells like high school” “synthetic in a good way” “say what you want about this one, women like it” because scent is the basest sensory experience, because there are no words for the way I unfold from the center when you — or a college football player with a similar looking medicine cabinet, now, and oh, this makes me mad– walk by. The English language has not advanced that far. It won’t. But these men with lines shaved in their faces in their perfume website profile picture say they get compliments all day when they wear it, that on the streets after the gym the masses flock forward, needful, compelled, and so I breathe out jagged, sniff right back hungry, say it’s only science when I cry at Sephora.



But I do love boys who love Bob Dylan
And my mother loves Bob Dylan
And I love boys who love Bob Dylan who are
so much softer than they realize, who have taken sensitivity as a pose of intellect, who believe they have a handle on the way the moon moves with just their sweet pink brains, I can
I can talk to a Dylan boy at a party and feel impossible tenderness that does not sour

But we are sad
I may finally say

with my mouth wrapped on a plastic cup and my eyes on a girl across the room. Eventually, I will have to. Can’t you hear in your own voice that you are broken? Here we are, everyday, wading through. Dear one, you. Aren’t you tired, always, from pretending to win? It only happens, then happens. We can’t stop it and we chase it and I have been so happy I have holes in my teeth now. But I do love boys who love Bob Dylan who can’t see the way their own body has rebuilt itself around the cellular understanding they heard and found and held, the truth that beneath everything is the sorrow of its absence. It is always coming and so it is always there, the throb. The wet line down each bone waits to weep and this is what allows for all the rest to matter. The slow mornings painted a supernatural sleepy green. Beer soaked summer sun fat with possibility, salt tongues, barked laughs, the spectacular stupidity of human skin, alive, exploding on contact, not the last or only organ I wished I could rip forth and give. Streetlamp light through a high up window framing the mouth shapes, starts and stops, on the only face I’d ever need to see again. The fraction of a second, hanging in exalt forever, of her hand moving from the steering wheel to my leg. Always, always the goodbye hangs on the doorframe a long-limbed joker like the boys in the bright rooms who love queen jane. They don’t know, I don’t know and we are only falling. I can’t regret having been swallowed whole.


I spent money on heavy shoes
a navy velvet jacket
pretzel cheddar cheese combos
39 ounces of diet coke in styrofoam
tall socks cause my feet hurt
a t-shirt bearing a politically pointed joke
three kinds of chapstick
a book of mean poems
a book of kind advice
a book about Dickensian lesbian thieves
silver hoop earrings silver hoop earrings
hoop earrings
professional removal of hair from my eyebrows
serum that stings so I stay young forever,
a horrifying prospect,
Taco Bell
red wine, ad nauseum
toilet bowl cleaner
an Adele song
new underwear with candy colored stripes to replace the pairs her dog ate

It hasn’t helped.


I may never see the rest of Making a Murderer
or find a use for my cold hands that I prefer to
sneaking them in against the small of her back.
I don’t imagine I’ll order steak over the telephone or
say Serendipity is stupid and mean it or
drive that stretch of highway easy,
and I’ll drive that stretch of highway daily, or
sleep to the sound of her breathing, no. That’s
too much I won’t say it,
or sleep,
or –probably– get the blood stain out of those sweatpants
(on Sunday I cried because I got a blood stain on those sweatpants)
Or think of Lizzie McGuire the same way
Or move first in my mind to my late grandmother when I crack a Miller Lite


It was never actually  insane, except the taste of it.

I didn’t know before and that is so funny, like, all right I’m stupid. I throat laugh I ache I can’t believe my body now when it moves through my days, I can’t. And when we laughed I knew had bones in me, but I’m not just sharpness now I am not my skin but I like what it feels like to be touched. I do! Okay okay because I can ride in the front on the highway and I know the songs. I can hold hands. I made myself a liar by all the old rules made for safety because of how I don’t even squirm. I don’t want to crawl from under my wanting, don’t even itch about it. A miracle a spectacle a flicker flame of trust that burned down an iron cage. I never want to breathe anybody else and I leave big tips when I pick up dinner. Only sometimes. Usually she pays. Paid. I am me. I am magnanimous I am crying I am the divine sickly head rush before the starting tone sounds in a swim race, leaning forward tight and waiting to give over to the chlorine burn, the man made chill, the muscles thumping, the heart that heart. I don’t really understand. I am delirious for wanting and beside myself for getting. So, the loss. The loss is already more. I am already too far. I am laughing because one night late and bare there together all wet and made more water just crying just moving through the feeling I didn’t care. I have so many small notebooks of secrets in my entrails, up my spine, in the jumping blue veins at my elbow. I am only all that ever happened to me, and everything I’ve done, and now like nothing I put my head in her lap and tell. Or I try. Or I like to. Or I want to. I’m bent. I say yes with all of me my bottom bloody belly is yes and all my breaths. Yes out my pores yes I need I want I love I can I rest I suck I hold I open my lips I yes, in out, I am, true.

Some days I can live on the ouroboros of my love alone. The whole of me, the hole in me is full with how I see you all in shades of gold, true good, true bright, I’m nodding now, I mean it. It’s okay. Some days I can feel the lining of my stomach wearing thin and wearing through. I can feel the pieces of myself you took away by accident. I can’t be sure you even wanted them; they’re gone. I search with fingertips top to bottom for nothing. Since the first, or anyway the start of the undoing,
the becoming
the woman,
there have been stretch marks on my breasts.
Quivering white tears
of tiny failure
or, alternately
the joke of the flesh that allowed me to put on
falsely like a silk gown
for dressing or shoes for dancing or a masquerade
the pose of an older woman
freed from and unfettered by
the strangeness of the body
the climbing bile of shame.

It makes no sense, I told all the girls who saw them. The girls that looked at me, prodding pink. I am made from all the smallest of humilities. And mostly hollows.

Now, I know
that my girl body long ago away in years and bends
was ready for how
your presence would stretch
the machine in my chest
to breaking, to brilliance, to greater than skin
and so made scars
And marked the conquered terrain
so any new flavor I might seek
would see how I had torn

Dear, fox-faced, flint and cashmere Taylor Swift writes too many breakup songs say the bored and boring who are already dead but are paid to write about culture, and I suppose they have never known the exquisite horror that floods the days that come after a love you were so certain of keeping that it seeped into your best kidney and your sweetmeats and bedsheets and your favorite jeans becomes a love you remember but can no longer hold. Taylor Swift is enormously wealthy and famous because a pain like that is not eradicated from the body when it is named aloud but rather the words — and the cry quite unlike words for how it is too much of the body too much of the blood and throat sludge — must repeat on and on and over, a call to arms, to god, a zealot’s prayer, a mystic’s mantra, a superstition whisper-hummed against the bathroom floor where cat litter digs into your cheek pressed on the cool tile. I ache I ache I ache.

When I sleep now, we are together, euphemistically, and in the flesh from end to end, from sweat snarled nape to tattooed ankle, and all the mixed up pieces in between, mine or yours mine and yours yours on mine mine in yours, but the room begins to burn as I wake.


I skipped an Eileen Myles reading I had been counting down the days til so we could buy wine down the street and smoke out the window and watch an Australian children’s television show about teenage mermaids and be naked together in dark sheets so I could press my mouth to every heat source you were blessed with and shiver at the truly startling prospect that the cruel and wild universe would allow me to feel so whole, or your hair to be so soft.

I am not won’t be was never sorry and today I would choose you, too.
I am not won’t be was never sorry and today I need you, too.

I skipped an Eileen Myles reading I had been counting down the days til so I could pick the sunburn scabs from your back and I only want to write on the wall in plain block letters we will see in slow blink tandem if ever both our glances fall again on the spot where once we were in love that, whatever else, I didn’t think twice.

About Tess

Tess is a prickly maybe-writer and aspiring dumb broad who likes vampires, the way cold mornings smell, and women who play guitar. She lives and listens to "Always Be My Baby" on repeat while looking at herself in a mirror in Massachusetts. Her mom is still hoping she'll become a nurse.

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