Metaphors for Leaving

I remember when I told you, it was sunset.

I remember, afterwards, you ran
out the door because you already

imagined the words leaving my mouth
before my mouth left you. I remember

it was because
I didn’t know

how to love you.

It was because I didn’t know
how to go
from treading water

to trembling ground,
it was because
we were metaphors for each other,


it was because
the metaphors came too easy,

with the way we cast ourselves
to fit each other’s shadows, taking turns
to drown each other in black, I remember

it was sunset.
We were playing
suicide chess, where the goal
was to make your opponent
take all of your pieces, and we couldn’t

remember
whose turn it was
to play black, and I wondered
if that was just foreshadowing
for another metaphor,
it was because you made me
forget the difference between
penning metaphors

and penning myself in,
it was because I opened you

into another closed door,
it was because we didn’t know
how to cut our locks into keys,
I remember

it was night, when you promised
to come home

but didn’t,
I remember

telling you, that home
is where the heart is

and you telling me
your heart only lies

in other people’s houses,
and that time, it was my turn
to run out the door

because we couldn’t cut
our mismatched hearts in half

and call it compromise,

because I didn’t want to pen you
into another metaphor,

into the dirty laundry
that never whips itself in the air,
into open graves,
between nameless bones–I asked
whether you preferred cremation

for a reason. We were as intimate
as two insects, drawn
to the same flame, yet somehow
I

am the only one
left burning.

Things I Know About Grief

1. Don’t talk to me
about stages.

The spotlights here
barely sputter
as they spit away their glass
exoskeletons. The floorboards

rot
into an open grave
for their shattered shells,
and the corpses here

keep cracking open, as if breaking themselves
into more microscopic pieces

could magnify them
into greater wholes

2. Don’t talk to me
about holes. As if you

could pierce earth
without losing your sense
of solid ground, as if you

could bury the questions
breaking the back
of your throat, by causing cave-ins
at another entrance deeper

as if therapy
was impaling hope
with a shovel–you cannot
grow answers

from ground-up corpses,
you cannot refine corpses

into ground-up metaphors

3. Don’t talk to me
about metaphors,
about stitching my scars
into constellations,

about spitting new needles
to match old threads,

about discovering new ways to drain
my blood into a corner–tell me

whose grave
have I been watering?

4. Even if you drown yourself in tears,
the sky will not rain flowers for your funeral

5. Instead, the glass
raining down from the spotlights
will crack your casket open,

impale your corpse
into the floorboards,

impale the floorboards
into the earth

impale the earth
Into your shovel

6. And the earth will choke back the bones
as it swallows your body whole

7. And the sputtering spotlights
will shed the last of their broken skin

and stitch their dying lights
into a garden of constellations;

they’ll bury stages in fire,
bury fire with the sky
until the sunrise
swallows

the last
splinter
whole.

Reasons I Could Never Hug You

1. I hate hugs.

2. I hate you.

3. I hate myself more than I hate you.

4. I hate to admit it.

5. Let’s play a game
of two truths and a lie.

Hint:
You have three truths
and I have three lies
and when we crash ourselves into each other
they cancel into victory
for no one

6. Which is better:
a lie that makes no one happy
or a truth that makes everyone miserable?

7. Because we don’t commit
to second turns

8. Because I was a second late
to watch you turn

9. Because no amount of touching
could ever erase
this distance between us

10. Because I could never bring myself
to touch you, in the same way
you touch me–flooded
with warmth that drips
into a messy puddle, soaking
through the floor–leaving
the rest of the room
unapologetically

cold.

Things I Could Never Say Out Loud

1.
Two years ago
I made myself a promise
to never write poems about people like you

again.
I’ll never understand
how easy it is

to fall in love
with broken promises

2.
I started writing two different poems
for two separate people
before I realized

I couldn’t separate the memories
of one from another
so I forgot about both of them

and wrote about you
instead

3.
You are never going to read this.

4.
Because I am never going to read this
to you. My heart

is hollow enough
to fit the remains
of any other stranger,
just not

you.

5.
Don’t tell me
to be patient
when you’re not

the one digging

6.
And what else
do you forget
about me?

7.
I started writing this poem
about someone I knew
before I realized

I couldn’t

7.
If a promise is broken
in a room full of liars

what kind of sound
am I supposed to make

for you?

Bones

When I was little
I threw up everything
my mother gave me.
For every spoonful of food she fed me,
I would give her twice as much food
in return. I was only
two months old
when she thought
I was going

to die. I think,
ever since I survived,
Death has been out to get me.
I was only five years old
when a teacher had to untangle my neck
from the grips of my own jacket string, and
I was only twelve years old
when I first tried to untangle myself
from the grips of my own body.

One unemptied bottle of pills later
I find myself haunted
by the presence
of my own skeleton.
Three years later, I’m still
searching for a way to get rid of it,
when my girlfriend tells me, last night
she attempted suicide. She gives me her skeleton
and begs me to get rid of it too,
but there are only so many bones you can fit inside you–

I start splitting my corpses
with strangers. We invite our own
skeletons into each other’s closets,
and barricade our bodies in–after all,
if we make the world into our afterlife,
no one’s body has to be gotten rid of–
I tell myself that these refuges

buried in our refugee bodies
are all we will ever need.
That outside, there is only judgment–
outside, it is a crime
to speak of yourself
outside, you cannot open up
without being reduced
to a box marked “FRAGILE”–we only
take care

of each other’s corpses
because we have no one else to turn to
and we are too used to existing in darkness
to see that colliding our skeletons into each other
won’t raise enough ash to turn us into phoenixes,
enough hell to smash these closet doors
that they keep asking us to break down, even though
they’re the ones that keep building more,
they’re the ones that keep locking us up,
they’re the ones that keep the keys–

and why wouldn’t they?

How could they ever know
the way an unburied body
can be kinder company
than the living? To know
is to have experienced, and this
is an experience I could not wish upon
anybody–they must understand

there will be no understanding.
And I must break my own ribs
just to make more room
for myself to breathe.

I suppose, for this too
I must be grateful:
for the right to choose
between destroying myself
or letting them destroy me
but I am tired of being told
how to choose
the lesser evil.

I just want to know
when the lesser evil
will stop choosing me.

Double-Sided

My mom is like Donald Trump
at the Presidential Election debates–
she never stops talking.

You’ll walk into the living room
after school, and she’ll be
sitting at the table, China Times
splayed out at one end, coupons to Winco
clipped out at the other, as her eyes
dart toward “sale on bok choy,” you start

slowly deploying one toe towards the stairs,
thinking that maybe this time, you’ll make it
all the way back to your room before you hear–

“Honey!

How did your test go today?
Are you hungry? I made more chow mien,
did you wash your hands? Did you pick up
your dirty socks in the laundry room
next to the sink that’s been there
on the floor for the past two
and a half weeks? Are you finished
with all your homework? You’re not?
When are you going to finish it?
When are you going to–”

Stop!

I’ll admit.
My mom can be
a little annoying, but this
is her way of showing me
that she cares. She spends more time,
cooking, cleaning, driving, and working
for the family, than anyone I know.
My mother has always shown her love
through her actions: I still remember

the first time
she took me to the sushi restaurant
on my birthday. I still remember

the first time
she put the handle of her favorite wok
into my hands, and taught me
how to fry an egg. I still remember

the first time
she drew her sharp nails
across my face, and told me
that I had misbehaved.

I still remember telling her
I was sorry.

I still remember telling her
I didn’t mean it, and that
I would never do it again.

I still remember, every time
I made more mistakes
and got punished, I would tell
all the people at school

how I got into accidents
with stray cats, tell my friends
they couldn’t walk home with me after school
because I was afraid

they’d get into accidents too; I learned
to perfect my lies, to protect myself
from the truth that no matter how much
I loved my mother, I could never

make her happy.

I don’t remember
the last time
we sat down together
to eat sushi.

I don’t remember
the last time
my fried eggs
didn’t come out burnt.

I don’t remember
the last time “family”
didn’t feel like a battle cry,

I don’t remember
the last time “home”
didn’t sound like war.

But I hope someday
I’ll remember
the first time I can stop her
from talking over me.

And I hope someday
I’ll remember
the last time I start
to forget.

Crown

Confession:
I love dick jokes.

Long dick jokes, short dick jokes,
straight dick jokes, gay dick jokes,
good dick jokes, bad dick jokes–give it to me,
I don’t care–all the dick in the world
will never be enough to satisfy me. That’s why

I got so excited
when I found out
about the statue of Donald Trump
standing naked in Union Square.
I thought, “Damn, this year’s election
is turning into a real baller–

oh wait.”

The plaque underneath Trump’s feet
reads: “The emperor has no balls”,
cue: me looking down at my own crotch,
and smiling, thinking about how,
as a trans man born with no balls
I too, like naked Trump,
must be royalty; mentally, I
am adorning myself with glittering jewels
and a crown of gold,
when I see the testimony

of the artists who made the statue,
which reads: “We
decided to depict Trump
without his balls, because we
refuse to acknowledge
that he is a man. He
is a small arrogant child
and thus, has nothing
in the way
of testicles.”

Wait.

So you’re telling me
that my jewels
are just broken pieces of rock candy
that some kid threw up on Halloween.
So you’re telling me
that my crown of gold
is just cardboard, gilded
with frozen piss. I can assure you
there is no problem
with my claim to the throne of masculinity
but you know what they say
about men with small hands:
they can’t
be trusted.

You see
the golden crown
of masculinity
doesn’t come cheap, and apparently
I am just too good to be true;
I am an expert swindler, a peckish Peter Pan
merely playing at an adult’s game,
they only call me an emperor
so that they can mock me for wearing new clothes,
they only call me rich
so that they can make fun of me when I lose my rag

but perhaps I am too small
and too arrogant
to say this. Perhaps
I should leave this to the real men,
the men whose masculinities
are built on a solid stick of meat
mounted above two giant hills.

At least I’ll always have
the comfort of knowing
it takes more than one blow
to bring my dam(n) house down.