After your skin bleeds they never really want you to come home
I learned that when I drummed on the door My face torn by shadows and my skirt that I bought last summer too short
I dreamt that I saw you and
when you opened the door your lips still looked soft
mine were cracked from the journey
almost stinging almost bleeding almost red
I imagined your fingertips on it on them I imagined them pressed between
When I came home and you opened the door
and you looked at me like I was a stranger I knew I’d changed and you knew too
I remember the first time you pushed
your palms against the side of my neck you flinched
Like your sinew and skin had unraveled like it had all caught between something, flesh torn, a rose bush, you touched me like I was barbed wire Mangled thread
You didn’t want me when I came home When you saw the space between my lips when it’s already been done by someone else’s hand when there’s no more secrets to unclasp no more bone to bruise
But to me you were never unkind, just scared
and you didn’t like stains
you didn’t like having to catch a fall
My knees were dotted in purple, done by cement from a street you’d never been on and you didn’t like that and
I could never blame you for it not in sleep not awake
There’s an ache in my stomach that feels familiar A bitter pressed against my tongue Between my teeth I don’t feel any want anymore except
for my own skin to feel like a blanket A shawl wrapped tight to the bones in my fingers, the side of my face, the places that I know how your hands feel
I rake warm beneath my fingertips
It’s the end of winter but I think that it feels
the coldest now
The words of a dead woman
bleed and swim under my eyes
it’s like looking at the sun
I’m reading Didion’s Blue Nights again like
I have something to mourn for that isn’t you
or more like I have something
to mourn for that isn’t what you did to me
And sometimes when I close my eyes
I see my own mother’s. I imagine her being
able to cradle me. I imagine her knowing
me as I never want her to
But more often than that I see myself staring back at me
It’s like a mirror
All stained lips
and smiles and the taste of red wine
and tights I’ve ripped with the tips of my
But when I reach Hands outstretched Palms
wide I can touch her
Our hands will scrape
and feel like gravel and she’ll
look back at me
She won’t look away
I'm standing in the same places you once did. I think I can feel the time under my feet hum against the soles of my shoes I’m staring at the street corner in front of me so that
I can remember the way that your teeth taste the way
everytime you moved I felt like something was unhinging A cork pulled open wine staining the tips of my fingers the whites of your eyes hovering. I feel like i’m unpeeling something when I look at you it’s feverish but not because of the hot, because of the ache because when I see you I know too much: your breath the taste of it crushed and mangled doesn’t cost as much as everything that you’ve already given me and back then I thought it was good. I thought it was right. I thought you were like a key pressed into a lock I thought it was okay that
our fingers never fit together I thought it was okay that when you opened your mouth you wanted to taste blood against the corner of my lips. My eyes glazed over, that street corner, that cement. My knees were the ones to always come away bruised but I think I’ve always been the one to want to come out of love bloody anyway.
You told me once that when I looked at you too long it seemed to burn. I remember that your eyes were half shut and your lips half open and I could see the ridges of your teeth, imagine the swath and pull of breath over it all.
I told you once that in churches, a place neither
of us belonged,
that the light seemed number and buttery
but it always seemed to suffocate me.
Smoke wrapped tight against my lips
settled over my skin.
I keep having this dream of us standing at
an altar but not for anything but a prayer
and I only felt comfortable with you on your knees in front of me, fire cupped close to my palm.
I've always wanted to be the only one to burn you. In the dream I can't see your face but I see
your lashes and the shadow of them in cold
church light and I see your mouth pulled
up into a laugh and the same teeth.
And I can't get that moment back,
the one where you said that and I just laughed
and kept looking at you.
In the dream you always beg me for something
and I never know what and I feel warmth sting
at the fingertips of my hand so I press them closer to you. I imagine your teeth charring and your breath spilling out over my palms and the way you would look at me with tilted eyes. But then you say that if you could undo
everything that happened to me you would,
and I turn to ash and you to life and I still can't
get that moment back from before.
I think I’m really good at protecting the people close to me from the things that have happened to me and it scares me when I can’t.
And that's what I want to say to you now.
Because I can't look at you too long anymore.
Especially when your mouth is closed
and your eyes are wide open
and you look at me like you see a ghost
Bio: Priya Ele is a New York based writer. She studies dramatic writing at NYU Tisch School of the Arts. She's had multiple works of short fiction and poetry published and a play produced. You can find her on twitter @priyaeler