YOUTH, BY LIZZIE HARRIS
I love you so much, I never tell you
I wanted to die. I have been
an inconvenience to many. A baby
come at the worst time. A bridge
between my parents’ bodies.
In New York I have the Internet
and through it I search for pictures
of my life in Arizona. I see total anonymity.
I chart paths away and back
to where my body was unmade
by the people who made it. I pick up
a new life where I left the old one.
I zoom in close enough to see a mouse flash
across my father’s roof. I can live
where I want: outside anything tangible.
If eyes are watching, I’m safe to survive again:
I need to stretch into old age like dog.
I need to fill bowls with lemons.
I need to take the right
pills in the right dosages.
I need to ignore my father’s letters.
I need to eat.
I need to imagine a world where I’m unlovable
by no fault of my own.
I need to forget the chainmail
telling me it’s unsafe to wear a ponytail.
I need, when I meet a man, to not see
the ways he might batter me.
(I need less overlap in language
that means “to hurt” and “to fuck”—pound, ram, bang.)
I believe I can change.
I've seen dogs unlearn their beatings.
I've seen the Internet diagnose everything.
I see myself running through a lawn,
sleeping at the foot of your bed.
I use all my sick days and breathe easiest
in the hospital waiting room.
My mind moves like warp speed in an action film,
so fast it's slow again. I live three ways a minute.
I work in a lifetime of punishment.
On the subway, my iPhone reminds me
this is when I listen to music. Life shouldn’t be
this accommodating. I've seen death
near enough to know it lives in me,
but on the Internet, I have as good a shot
as anyone at being remembered. Remember:
I was never the happiest or the most beautiful,
but I did everything I could to be alive.
Lizzie Harris is an American poet. Her debut collection, Stop Wanting, was published by CSU Poetry Center. She was born in southern Arizona, raised in Pennsylvania, and lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband and daughter.