This is how you wake up
With your full weight on my chest, knees inside my knees,
asking what’s the world record for folding a piece of paper
in half. Every day, set your first alarm for seven and your
second for eight. The hour in between is do not disturb
doorknob hanger for the gentlest counterswing of sleeping.
Roll ‘round your pygmy parrot bones, side to side your neck.
Open wrists into rude yawns, ankles circling like rescue planes.
Pah! Tea! Gush! Key! Snore helicopter loud. The trick is you have
to wet the edges. Same goes for hot dog eating competitions.
Hollow but also heavy. Anatomy textbook. Of a feather. Land soft.
What on earth. The light is the lazy color of the last slice of
lemon meringue, nagging what about the dog-eared page with
the picture of blackout curtains in the home goods catalog you
keep in the guest bathroom and read mostly while shitting. Hey,
handsome. Hey, sleepyheart. Monsoon tongue, sandpaper beard.
Hey, you whose name I’ve forgotten. Hey, governor of the U.S.
territory of all the fucking blankets. I am so, so, so, so, so, so, so,
so, so cold. Like silver. Good time to practice your lucid dreaming.
You are going to sleep diagonally no matter who stays the night
and I know it, Nyquil tired of little spoons trying to stir you.
Pillow drool pools and drowns you up toward consciousness.
For me, it’s your right arm like the seatbelt in a taxicab. Unsure
whether to ignore it. Elbow writing trigonometry problems into
xiphoid process. Crime scene heavy, keel-shaped breastbone.
Safety third. All I ever wanted was to be suffocated awake in 3D.
This is how you come home
With half a bird in your mouth and dried blood on your snout.
The top half, I suspect, when your gums unfurl to reveal its
beakish smile, corners upturned and chewed up like a candied
tangerine. Bleakly. Like one of those pictures of a man holding
a picture of a man holding a picture of man holding a picture.
Campari sour, bittersweet, and your cracked lips the frame
around a sky bright, blue, and small like a cap of Listerine.
Be positive. Be negative. Even thick skin peels, making your
hands look gymnast cyclone chalky and smell like someplace
outside the city. Then you must toss the rind nonchalantly.
Because the form it takes when it hits the ground is the first
letter of the first name of the person who will love you forever.
This is a Baba credence. She said men are not so complicated,
keeska, zayats, milaya, and it’s their grandmothers you ought
to worry about. Drop it. I’m not going to tell you again.
Smeared beets on her eyelids and blueberries on her cheeks,
not the other way around. What’s thicker than water is thinner
than plasma screen TVs. Cut strips a quarter-inch wide. Simmer
in hummingbird spit for, one Mississippi two, however assertive
you want the zest to be. Really, it’s a matter of preference.
Healthy afterschool snack for your picky eater! Huge success at
my neighborhood potluck! Try it dipped in dark chocolate. The
sugar residue came off under the tap, no problem. I blanched it
three times like the recipe said. It tastes okay but I’m allergic.
It tastes okay but there’s just something about the texture.
This is how you put yourself to sleep
With the New York Times’ Saturday crossword and a slow, plucky
cover of a song about picking your soul mate based on clusters of
concentrated melanin. The former gives you a tension headache and
lashes like ship anchors, the latter a sudden certainty that everyone
you are fond of will leave for someone they knew before they met you.
You prefer the sentences vaguely familiar but uttered by strangers.
Use your thumbnails to dig X’s in the freckles on the foothills of my
ass, like you are disengaging a minefield. Say they remind you of a
constellation, only you can’t remember which one and it’s going to
drive you absolutely crazy, can I hold on a minute while you look it up.
Insist on playing chords until the pads of your fingers fall off,
but know you’ll be identified only as a mediocre guitarist. Literally.
We make a protective hand fence around the Jenga house. We make
a muddy Nutella moat around the hand fence. We concentrate very
hard on the wooden blocks not falling. This is how to save a kingdom.
It’s funny that no one thought of this earlier. This is SPF a billion!
Let it happen like a fever breaking. Hey, tenderfoot. Describe your
hunger to me exactly. Look at a word search. I’ve heard the first ones
you see are the ones you most need. Heels in bed. Skin cancer in cats,
squamous cell carcinomas most probable in the white and the old.
Also those that live at higher altitudes. Cepheus is the husband of
Cassiopeia, whose seven stars are visible to the naked eye. He is
connect-the-dots a clown cap, the brightest point Aldemarin,
meaning the arm. It drapes keratin filament possessive over his
queen, covers tangled as the small intestine and just as necessary.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Kristina Ten is a dog person and a people person, in that order. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Word Riot, The Literateur, Quiet Lightning’s sparkle + blink, and SP CE’s LOVEbook. She lives in San Francisco.