I write four letters to four friends with two letters I still want to write

(And one more, I just remembered).
in each I share a memory because memory is what we have,
and each memory softens something, so I start to run easy on the page.
Honey-slow, but easy
(but you can’t see that)
And I smile wide 
(but you can’t see that 
beneath a mask, or
across a country).

I write three letters on my favorite notecards from the Greenwich Village stationary store M took me to once in between internship errands,
and one letter on the good gold stationary my parents bought in Italy.
I had been saving it,
hoarding it really,
thinking its delicate flowers and gold leaf details were 
too fine 
too beautiful 
too rare and 
too special for just any letter.
I’d been holding on to it thinking I’d use it to write some future special letter,
on some future special occasion.

but future is a hard, weird word now. I choke a little on it. 

And special deflates as it comes out of my mouth
(being alive is special
having food is special
breathing deep is special).

And there are no more occasions, just days. 

So I pull a single sheet of the stationary from its package,
take an envelope too,
and I address it to a friend, tell her I love her.
Because friendship is a special occasion
(not in the future but right now, yesterday, at all, ever). 

And then I go for a long walk that’s half in nature and half on the highway, and sit on the roof eating salty chips and licking fingers and chasing with cold Coca-Cola because my god why not why not sugar why not salt, and I sit on the bed listening to birds coo and coo and coo, until the sound of some neighbor’s boombox drowns them out, and I let it drown me out, too.

in which my hair grows wild and I write bad poem songs

IMG_4377

my body has buttons like a mormon and they open wherever i choose
I am sick of wearing clothes that smell like loss
and I’m sick of having nothing to lose
I stare at the stack of books I can’t read from across the room in which I watch tv
Wishing I was a different kind of gal
Wishing gal was a different kind of me
when i whisper I taste my breath and I wonder if you taste it too
If the words I say softly land with extra weight
If my choke is something that you chew
My head is heavy with hair and it knots all down my neck and spine
I rip through curls with finger combs
Pulling handfuls from this mess of mine
Pulling handfuls from this mess of mine (patience patience
patience patience
patience patience)
I nod to near-sleep in an empty bed
Then wake when something stirs and wants my ear
It’s a weak whisper from an open wound that says “hurting and i want to heal”
hurting and i want to heal

score for some satisfaction dance

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release your rusty jaw
imagine a body that feels your age
imagine a body that feels ten years younger
and younger still
imagine looseness in joints and a soft crawl up the spine
the easy squat of a baby just learned to walk and coming home to stability
feel things align
align the way they would before you knew the word alignment
feel things get strong
before you compared your strong to anyone else’s
heart strong counts
mind strong counts
body strong counts
soul strong counts
history strong counts
family strong counts
community strong counts
feel strong in your gut
soft through to the back wall of your body but held
in mothers’ arms
in lovers’ arms
feel strong in your pelvis
safe, there, too
loved, there, too
know that there are eyes on every part of your body
that fingertips are seeing and recording and building memory
that lips are seeing and recording and building memory
that hip creases are seeing and recording and building memory
that spaces between toes are seeing and recording and building memory
that all of you is a record
all of you is a memory
like a movie
let it roll by
watch it from the back of your eyes
heavy in your skull
it is good
you can enjoy it
you are satisfied, today

hello, gray twig

hello, gray twig

do you know how heavy you are
to me?

(so heavy)
Moving last month, I was careful:

I wedged you in the side of the shoe box 
next to the postcards
from my friends
because I knew if you weren’t hidden, 
someone’d think you were trash.
Placed you on a glass shelf that picks up sunlight now
sun
sun
sun—you are 
old now

and showing the age.

Do you know what you mean, gray twig?
Do you remember?
my father 
(I call him pop
he calls me Jimmy)
My father rushing to my packed car
pulling away from the house
empty goodbyes already said
and scrambling—    
hands grasping at air
                                   like clawing in dirt

                                   like digging a grave

—he searched for words.

                                   (He was trying to say I love you, 

                                   I am guessing)

But no words.
Some stutters.
Then he bent down, lowering his aging body to the earth, and plucked from the ground some severed segment of the front yard tree—you, my dear gray twig, he picked up you—and passed you to me, almost gently, through the passenger seat window, saying “you’ll need this.”

Did he see you and decide to name you home?
Did he locate some love inside of you?
And in sharing you was he sharing that love with me, too?
(for the first time maybe)

Or was he making fun of me? 
And of you, too?
(Jimmy off to the city thinks she’s fucking fancy, 
but she dirt.)

I don’t know. My not knowing hurts.
Does it hurt you too, gray twig? 
To burn and grow in the dirt of one place
only to find yourself windblown 
elsewhere 
and questioning if your roots would have let you fly so far from home if they ever really did love you.

Baby

Baby

The pants are a little too short.
The slight difference in our heights means there’s a breeze on my ankles. 
(Lies on drivers licenses will call us both 5’4” but I know I have outgrown 
my mother.)

They are flannel,
a matching top 
and bottom
all angry pink and plaid.

I dig through my backpack hoping to discover some t-shirt 
I know I did not pack, but— 
pens
keys
a library book
a tampon crushed and crumpled under my water bottle,

so I borrow pajamas for the night between hospital stays.

I still smell powder 
and sweat 
and clean, medical air.
Feel the feeling of a whisper in my lungs,
like that’s the volume at which I was made to speak. 

Casey is a mother now,
and I an aunt
in clothes too small
tonight.

A LIST OF THINGS I AM

A LIST OF THINGS I AM
By Kimberleigh Costanzo
Published in RECLAMATION: A Survivors’ Anthology, March 2018

I am scribbled script on flesh. 

I am making text out of trauma out of text out of movement out of trauma out of flesh out of history. 

I am the story, block by block, in my grandmother’s quilts. 
I am keys pressed gracelessly, but somehow forming hymns. 
I am the comfort crocheted into a craft project, loops counted in a whispered tone by my mother in her armchair. 
I am the smell of shellfish shelled by a group of poor boys on the water, now grown, now men, now one of them my father. 
I am clothes borrowed and stolen from the closet of my sister. 
I am the perpetual striving of a suburban somebody, everything just out of reach. 

I am the same body that saw him on campus, ran from the computer lab, vomited in the trash can in front of the dining hall, then again next to the dumpster, and once more between chokes and gags and tears in my dorm room toilet before throwing my body into the bathtub and swallowing warm, dirty water, salty with my sweat and tears, sweet with whispers, and tender like a bruise taking shape.

(Rorschach-like, I asked myself, “WHAT DO YOU SEE? DOES THIS SMUDGE OF BLOOD REMIND YOU OF A BUTTERFLY? DOES THIS BLOOD VESSEL BURSTING LOOK LIKE A MAN GOLFING? DOES THIS FLESHY YELLOW BRUISE MAKE YOU THINK OF A SUNSET?” I want meaning in my meaning in my meaning in my pain in my flesh, so I can be read like a book, then put on a shelf.)

I am rare, medium rare.
I am not a book on a shelf, but you can read me if you are gentle. 

I am April and November.
I am howls and I am hums.
I am sick until I’m better.
I am a body no longer numb.