DANI LESHGOLD POETRY

 

THE POEM STRIKES BACK

I open my eyes, and I wish I’d taken the night shift.

And yet, morning doesn’t feel like rug burn, anymore.

I live suppressed by words I can’t seem to write, but let roll around my corners,

like my body is a labyrinth that I always get trapped in.

I got my nose pierced when I was drunk,

borrowed my friends spontaneity for the night. It didn’t fit right.

Nothing does, anymore.

So, my nose bleeds over Saturday night, and

even Sunday morning greets me with stones in her pockets.

I hold her hands and tell her I’ve been there. I give her the light I keep for emergencies.

And then, the sun sets in my hands, and I carry everything and everyone and nothing and no one and only a few ‘fuck you’s,’ for emergencies.

I give one to the girl in poetry club, one to the boys from my high school, one to the boy who I sent my first poem.

But mostly,

I carry consequences in the soles of my shoes,

and reasons not to, and unfinished poems, and

RAPUNZEL

There are boys in the bedroom of my mind

That drift to the attic

As I am unwaveringly unable to sleep

As I sit on the stoop of cowardice

The boys pace in my attic

And if I were a box

I would be closed and empty

And if I were a poem

I would be cold and unfinished

The boys will not leave

So,

I invite old ladies

They arrive with scalpels and fire extinguishers

And they peel back my yellow wallpaper

Because they know how to drown lunacy

COMATOSE

i cannot shake the trembles that fill me.

so i mold the weekend,

like clay under my fingernails.

i mold it the shape of hands

on my face,

in my hair.

i keep sunday in the attic because sunday

is a secret embedded in shadows.

i thread saturday into the binding of pages

i have yet to fill

like a writer afraid to write.

i live friday

backwards.

i live it twice,

for good measure.

it’s the day i begin this festival

of uselessness.

i float on the surface of friday,

while sipping margaritas,

until my fingers look like pages

i’ve drowned in self doubt.

THE END OF EIGHTEEN

Have you ever felt the ache of a year in your throat?

like how the whisper of a lover in the dark swallows a moment whole.

I carry my moments in my shoulders, never on my face.

I have been 6 and in love

with the rise and fall of my almost-sleeping-belly

and the strawberry seeds I caught between my teeth.

In those days,

I played handball with resilience.

Have you ever felt gravity sinking through your bones?

like how the air in a room can change in a moment.

I have been 12 and felt grown.

my best friend and I braided worlds into each other’s hair.

We taught each other how to build strong into frail hands.

Have you ever felt yourself racing to catch breaths?

They always get caught

in now.

I have been 16 in the dark.

I stored night in my cheeks,

and held my breath an entire year.

Have you ever felt losing time while it’s happening?

I have been 17 and blue.

I felt almost’s through to my toes and learned emptiness

like wait for it. 

And 18, dear 18,

I wish to cradle your head for one year more

to nourish you with blindness, but

as I drop midnight into my eyes,

I can see the end of the world.

 

SELF PORTRAIT

it gets cold,

when i step out of my skin.

gets cold,

when i’m in heaven

because i always

brew my own hell.

cold,

when i look in the mirror.

i think, she looks tired.

like a wedding ring.

i get cold in the morning,

because morning is a failed night.

let me explain -

i am a girl with unopened things.

i close open boxes, and then ask why they’re closed.

and i call myself a magician.

for my first trick,

i will show you how to give moments to undeserving people. don’t worry. it’s what i do best.

are you listening?

my problem is that i can’t sleep,

or

that i sleep too much.

i sleep afraid, i sleep awake, i sleep lost

in my collection of moments,

which feels like a timeline,

that isn’t mine at all.

ready?

when i say that i get cold,

what i mean is,

i am often afraid.

so,

i don’t

step out of my skin.

HELPING HANDS

i have this tendency to turn people into altars.

someone’s marble heart into instincts, then shred my own.

i stack bricks beneath feet,

while i bury myself in a cathedral of broken pedestals.

i like to tie my hands in knots,

so no one can hold them.

sometimes,

i’m afraid to need anything at all, so i twist afternoons around my finger

like bubblegum.

because sometimes help is a trap door,

and hands always betray in the dark.

even my own.

 

GOODNIGHT MOON

i won’t write celestial metaphors anymore.

won’t write about isolated stars.

won’t write love letters to the moon

like an uncertain daughter begging

for validation.

won’t call him the sun to my moon

because i need him to outshine me.

won’t need him to incinerate me.

won’t need stars when i’m blinded by fluorescent lightbulbs.

when i’m buried in a cathedral of yellowed teeth and stretch marks.

when walking feels like a treadmill.

when i can drown in storm drains

but not my own eyes.

i can’t go

four minutes without looking in the mirror.

i think i’m a narcissist.

then i let him incinerate me again. i’m an isolated star. goodnight moon.

“POEMS ARE SAVING ME, AND POEMS ARE SAVING YOU”

these letters brew inside my mouth

like tea

some days,

when my feet can’t find solid ground,

i swing from letters that are

my anchor.

see,

“poems are saving me

and poems are saving you”

let’s plant poems in unkept gardens

your words are the world blooming brighter

let’s let poems sit on our tongues

and hide them between our teeth

let’s tuck them underneath our pillows

like hours.

let’s stash poems in our bootstraps

keep them like dirt under our fingernails

like hours

like poems are even our unsaid fears

even if some days we only exist in poems

words are our wallowing wildflowers

whispering worlds

wishing well poems

welcoming wizardry in the dark

i want to give poems to poets

i want poets’ poem

poems inside our wrists

blood flowing through poems

poems as heartbeats

like hours.

look at all these hours.

lets wrap our hours in a gift box

and give them

to poems.

we have so much glorious time.

*** ”Poems are saving me, and poems are saving you” – This is a quote from a poem by Rachael G. at InsideOUT Writers called “Our Lives Are At Stake” (https://youthtoday.org/2018/05/our-lives-are-at-stake/)

 

CYBORG GIRL

Before her eyes were pixels,

And her body lost signal

Before she melted into her symphony of screens

Cyborg girl cartwheeled

Into her thirteenth year

And she buried circuitry where her instincts should be.

Cyborg girl lands herself in the hospital

And implants an off switch

For those days she might cry

Over her circuit board

And metal walls

Are not as durable as the dark.

Today,

She has soliloquies that slither past her screws

And a face that looks like wet asphalt.

And I,

Cyborg girl,

I want to ask the songs

And the girls – the real girls –

Which direction is open?

Teach me your language

            Of survival

            Of signal

            Of satisfied screen slave

Siren sisters

Static sleep without submersion

Teach me submarine asylum

How to dance to my heartbeat

When the battery is dead.

Suffocating sisters,

You,

Are the synonym for

Surrender.

And when her screens turn into sinkholes,

Cyborg girl learns how to save herself.

Can I show you my personhood?

 

MAGICIAN’S ASSISTANT

i’m sorry

that my limbs keep snapping

in public.

it’s just because i tire

of swimming in the egos of boys

who speak louder than me.

when i look in the mirror

my consciousness is cloaked in cages

and there’s no trap door.

i spend days

filling up my throat with words unsaid.

the most interesting thing about me

is the way i can melt

into no one

cliff jump

into oblivion

watch me

leak into sidewalk cracks

to escape the sun, or the eyes.

when you catch me

hang me

by my toes

in the evening

let me eat darkness, tonight

so as to

eclipse

this petulant

whining

that comes from

my mouth.

 

SISTERHOOD

Some days

All I see is men

That see with their hands.

Men that think their hands

Are engines.

And other days I see us.

How we used to live in our whispers.

And we lived in our running.

Hear this? The sound of our feet doing their job.

And we screamed,

But we didn’t use our voices.

And we thought they’d change and we thought they’d change.

But they didn’t and they don’t.

So now,

We must stop

Being afraid

Of the sound of our own voices.

If their hands are engines,

Then ours are steering wheels.

I wish I could mummify a moment.

Or a movement.

 

THE INVISIBLE STRING

i am sleepwalking in new york.

loneliness follows me,

like it’s my stalker.

all i want is to be held

by something other

than the cold.

6th avenue made me promises

it just couldn’t keep

because day drenches me in dark,

head to toe.

remember

how you read me the invisible string?

well,

i hardly feel it anymore,

though every day i grasp harder.

i wish the string were a funnel to my heart.

because i’ve never hid behind silence quite like this.

i’m not sure how to find home

anywhere that isn’t you.

i wish the string were a roadmap.

i wish i weren’t scissors.

 

SISYPHUS

months will stop hanging on my coat tails

when we turn into gods.

i will know it’s home

when i feel

pouring hues

on the roof of my eyelids.

it is as if

words do not belong to me.

words are another limb of

anne carson

that we’ve all been borrowing

this whole time.

and still,

i will not kiss the hand

of my prison.

 

ON EARTH

We are spinning

And some of us are so silent

We are almost

Evaporating.

We lay still

Inside the eyes of gods

And quiet

Inside of revolutions.

We try to be angels

To be so sterile.

But we are spinning

So madly

That we welcome the embrace of abyss.

Let’s dance let’s dance let’s dance.

Let’s call this holy land.

All the while,

We’re spinning we’re spinning we’re spinning.

 

QUESTIONS

how many hearts can take refuge in this poem?

how many moments until words don’t need to plant my flowers for me?

will my heart become children’s scissors?

do we dare ignore the clocks that wield our strings?

can you get lost in your own roots?

 

ANTAGONIST

i will turn my skin inside out

if i get to cry. the truth is

           that

                i love to be sad. 

my tears can be poetry! can’t they?

                                   i am not a martyr. 

                because,

i hold my tongue captive

                         in the belly of a revolution. 

but i will go searching

                                       for restitution. 

because i have been wearing this red 

on my skin. the devil

                     in the mirror. 

maybe i wield                     his scepter. maybe

                            i will stitch my lips together!

    if only

           to prevent

                      nonsense. 

 

FEBRUARY

february is calling.

calling me pink and rosy and painting me happy.

can’t you see me happy? february manifests

in my puttering heart beat

my elastic smile. only days more

of brick wall in my heart.

days of invisibility. days of mist.

february is fading blue. vanishing

blue.

the moon on its most timid day.

not even a blue moon speaks when i tell her she is beautiful.

if she has a mind that isn’t blue at all,

won’t she render me beautiful?

because all of my blue washed out with the tide? because she calls me pink and rosy?

 

NIGHTLIGHT

i drench myself in moonlight

and pray for an extra piece.

i find balance in a stranger,

in a scream,

maybe one day in silence.

november won’t last forever, though

days drag on like cigarette smoke.

and i won’t always think

of the universe as harrowing.

my professor tells me the world is fleeting

so i grasp harder. reach further.

my professor tells me not to fear my death

so i shake when i fall asleep

and leave the light on.

peace is a nightlight.

 

CLOUDY GLASSES

this world is riddled with raindrops

in the eyes of gods

and junkie moons

and death too soon’s

and an inability to stop wasting time

 

LIGHT DANCE

give me a hand to call home.

and I will remember how to hold.

I feel you,

wings in my stomach.

if you teach me to fly,

I will gift you my wings. I won’t need them anymore.

I find a grounded home. I call it

fingers laced together like stitches.

I will give you my stitches,

if you hold me together.

bursting is not just a name

I call the sun when she loves me.

do you know light when she looks you in the eyes?

I find her in the arch of my spine

and when i’m on my tiptoes.

can I call searching, ballet?

 

SUPERSTITIONS

I am the canary in a coal mine

A shattered mirror

The space under a latter

They call me “bad news”

Because my heart always fluctuates in size

I just call it loneliness

And try to forget

Though, my bruises never fade

And I dream in black and blue

They call me “old news”

I just call it still lonely

And can’t forget

I spend more days in the city

So I can hide in exhaust and car horns

I aim a pistol at my mirror and

Step on cracks in the sidewalk

You know,

I never believed in superstitions

Until you.

I shattered my mirror again today.

Did you?

 

BULLFIGHTING

i am steam rising

quickly

escape artist quickly

because i find it hard to stay

when my heart is a blimp. 

when eyes beckon me to stay put, 

i must say, 

that my heart is a bull.

and i, 

the matador. 

i hardly win anymore, 

so we lock it in a cage. 

wish i could be one of those girls

who says what she means, 

but i am a lock 

with an impossible combination. 

i call myself my own jailer 

and i sit in my cell 

scribbling bullshit on the walls 

and the jailer laughs 

when i say i’ve got regrets 

because my heart is a quarantine. 

when i think of hands on a body

i think of trespassers.

so i leave my lights on at night

and try not to think 

about love

 

SCULPTORS

we make happy like clay.

can teach you how to mold

loneliness into smiles,

cement into lace.

we were afraid of the dark,

but watch us bathe in this light.

 

AN EXPLORATION OF MY HEART

I.

more of the fluorescent lightbulbs in my bedroom

have burst

so it gets darker.

i’ve been thinking

about how the rhythm we speak in

is the same as a heartbeat

except heartbeats are

butterflies and boys

with cute smiles and

sometimes deep brown eyes but

i didn’t mean to start talking about a boy it just

slips out sometimes. what i meant to say

is that hearts are never lamp posts,

hearts are my broken headlights i keep meaning to get fixed

but never get around to

they’re candles with untouched wicks,

ready to burn

indefinitely,

that one stop sign i never stop at, always

driving through. so

i forgot to hit the brakes, like

i would’ve last fall and somehow

silence means yes and

conjuring up a

stop

from inside me was

an impossible move even though i never wanted to

stop.

so teach me how to say no. teach me how

to forget about car doors opening and closing. teach me how

to remember that my heart is a magnet-

no, super glue, and

scissors

are the only path to detachment.

 

II.

if hearts aren’t lamp posts

they are the caves we wander in on camping trips. a bat’s

lair. and mine is ridden with cob webs.

if hearts are caves, mine is

the deserted one.

and we wander in and out until I can find something

that will love me back.

 

III.

my heart

is under quarantine. let me show you my four steel walls.

so when hurt

and love

bang on the doors, this quarantine turns them

away.

 

IV.

my heart

is loose in my chest.

the last pill

in a pill bottle.

 

V.

i dance with my shaking hands because

i don’t want to be afraid, don’t want my heart

to hitch a ride out of town but

it all feels fleeting.

i dance with silence because

i mistook it for music.

 

VI.

we take a breath,

my heart and i.

we find solace in one another.

we don’t reach anymore.

we smile.

we find our light in one another.

we repair our fluorescent lightbulbs.

 

ELECTRICAL STORM

I pretend I’m a lion

I tell people red is my favorite color because I think it makes me seem powerful

But I really feel like a child who sticks their fingers in a power outlet

I have this dream I’m a statue

A big one, in the center of a square maybe

I can’t feel anything or move

But I’m eternally important

And the people

They ignore me, but they know me

And in this dream my knees don’t buckle

And my floor boards don’t give out

I can hold myself up

I dream I’m a power line but I wake up road kill

But I refuse to be a blackout

I cry a call to arms in my sleep,

Unaware that I’m alone

I never try to fight alone but

This time I will not drown in the moat

I am my own knight and shining armor

I slay dragons in my sleep I fight my demons when I’m awake

My body is an electrical storm

Not a battleground

But I win

I win I win I win

 

SUMMER

we drink summer in champagne flutes. mine will shatter on marble in the foyer. hours will lay on the thick of our tongues while the women in black shriek. cheers, you whisper. a bed of grenades. the woman in white throws a bouquet of knives to the girls with open hearts. roses. the devil’s eyes. mercury. my kiss lives on the brim of summer in a glass.

 

THE TOUCHABLES

Do you feel the hourglasses in your wrists?

Or the urge to cut them out?

I wonder if anyone thinks about time as much as I do. How it’s the most wretched villain of all.

Time consumes us, keeps us in straitjackets and tells the young,

“you are untouchable.”

We think we’re untouchable,

but we’re not. 

Because, sooner or later, time takes off that mask and reveals

that it is not in fact the bulletproof glass we thought it was,

but plastic. Disposable, flimsy plastic.

This is why I have made the executive decision to enjoy every single moment

of this existence.

Yes,

I will miss being woken up on Saturday mornings

by the loudness of my mother’s voice from all the way downstairs,

but I know that one day my fear will be behind a glass case,

an artifact that will be untouched.

So long as I’m open to being alive.

 

LUCIFER

when i look

            inside my pocket

or my bedroom,

              i find receipts of

                                loneliness.

    remembrances of the empty.

                               and then i begin

to feel

        the devil’s

            breath                           in my mouth.

i am paralyzed for three days.

                              “bed ridden”

                              “ill”

     inside of the empty. glass.

and then,

         when the days

                       are old dog-eared pages in books

i find vengeance underneath my fingernails.

          the devil’s

              breath                         in my mouth.

WHAT I THINK ABOUT WHEN I CAN’T SLEEP

lost time is why my hair ends up in knots/ not for lack of sleep though insomnia is in my hair, too/ and because ghosts swim in my rotten heart and it's a rotten brain, too/ with shallow thoughts about boys that are 6’1 or 6’2 maybe/ and they kiss me in the dark when there is smoke in their lungs and they breathe it into me so my judgment is clouded/ and maybe my lips are rotten too because of the words I speak that aren't true/ and because I kiss boys that only wear masks and don't speak true words either/ and now I think I've become a phantom because I no longer breathe in clouds or daylight or wonder about things like the galaxy.

 

INSTRUCTION MANUAL

i've been looking for an instruction manual at the bottom of swimming pools 

but i keep drowning

and i can't get the water out of my

lungs

why is it that the people who live in the coldest

places know warmth the best

i'm shivering

drowning

i keep trying to dig myself out of the

trenches i built for myself

but I am stuck,

on a perpetual moving walkway

so I close my eyes, looking for

escape

but I realize eyelids are only drapes

and drapes can always be opened

so the sun can come in

but if I close the drapes again,

maybe I will find no noise

not even the hum that my heart makes when i'm falling asleep.

 

RUSSIAN DOLLS

we just want to be loved

we -us-

with circular hearts

and four dimensional minds

 

we, with beauty

and with nothing

we want a beating heart

icicles, like daggers, stem from our hearts

but we like the warmth on miserable nights

 

we, with envy, and with poison

we’re looking for oxygen, maybe

just a steady breath

 

we with blood stains

on elbows and knees

we may haunt you

we may leave you

but please try to start our hearts

 

we are prisoners

like the girl with holes in her skin

she is a russian doll set

small

in large packaging

they love her painted smile

and the glued glitter on her eyes

she never liked herself

so she’ll rip you up too

 

we’re sorry

we’re not the sun

but the fire that scorches through you

we say sorry

for not being aphrodite

just girls that sometimes walk on wires.

 

EXITS

stop following

exit signs

and closing your bedroom door

maybe they’ll see you

stop getting in cars with

people you don’t trust

the world is a trick candle.

 

stop shrinking into your seat,

goddamnit

stop shrinking

 

be a trumpet-

no, be a tuba

be the orchestra.

 

i wish i’d stop thinking of myself as an exit sign

when

  i am a welcome mat

 

THE DAY A QUEEN IS NO LONGER A QUEEN

i’ll call you the shattered jewels because

sugarcoating

but of course i really mean, insecurity

 

mirror, mirror

through a window this is the ALL AMERICAN FAMILY

 

but the mirror shows our punctured portrait.

 

and aren’t i the fairest of them all?

because i hide my bullet wounds, like they’re the world’s greatest secret

and can’t you be the queen

 

and the huntsman?

 

MAGENTA

i used to be magenta

fuchsia coiled around a maroon heart

but with clouds overhead, i shoved silence down my throat and became irreversibly blue

now magenta hands creep around my neck and suffocate me

mocking the color of my heart

and the shade it used to be.

now magenta is only in my dreams

a foreign concept

that i struggle to grasp

and my fingers slip off the edge

 

CAPITAL LETTERS

I’M COILED AROUND THE TIRES ON YOUR CAR

I’M WRAPPED AROUND THE T-SHIRT YOU LEFT IN THE CORNER OF MY ROOM

THE BLACK ONE YOU WORE ON THE DAY WITH THE FIREWORKS

THEY WERE GOLD AND I COULD SEE THE GOLD IN YOUR EYES TOO

EYES LIKE QUICKSAND

I CAN’T GET OUT

I’M LOST IN THE SEA OF FRAGMENTS I WROTE AT THE BEGINNING;

UNABLE TO DECIPHER,

I USED TO BE ABLE TO FIND MYSELF IN COMBINATIONS OF WORDS

ARRANGEMENTS OF LETTERS

THERE WAS A CERTAIN SIMPLICITY

 

BUT THE WORDS ARE BEYOND ME NOW

LETTERS FLEE AS I CRUMBLE

WHY DO I ALWAYS CRUMBLE

I WANT TO BE STRONG

LIKE CAPITAL LETTERS

STANDING

SCREAMING

CAPITAL LETTERS DON’T LOSE THEMSELVES TO IRREVERENT BOYS WITH PRECARIOUS EYES

 

SHRINKING

i’m trying not to shrink

or fold myself away

everything seems to be some somber shade of grey

there’s a black hole in my chest

that I’m trying to suppress

but it continues to shrink me

now I’m afraid I’m just a combination

of all the people I’ve sacrificed for

and i can’t find any salvation

all i can hear is the narration

inside my mind

i feel confined

destined to be consumed by an ever present black hole

i’ve never liked to feel exposed

because i’ve always felt like my heart is closed

but perhaps now it’s just decomposed

lately my eyelids have been feeling pretty heavy

i’ll hide inside my dreams

they don’t muffle my screams

like the confines of my lucid mind

im afraid

that i won’t be able to save

who I’ve been and who i am

i don’t want to fade

because i gave myself away

I’m melting, shrinking, falling into a mold

I’m screaming, flailing, I’ve become cold

lost my heart

lost inside my mind

and I’m running out of time.

 

SPLENDA

I know heat. I know heat and stars and lights that stretch across the highway like taffy. I know exposed brick, and photos of us with fake smiles when we couldn’t conjure up real ones. I know pretending to lose our inhibitions because wild girls are fun girls. We just wanted to be our best selves. I know that after we take off our makeup we stand on ledges and talk each other down. We were always talking each other down. We laugh at things that aren’t funny and say things we don’t mean but we never let each other jump. I know perfecting our coffee orders and mastering how to turn silence into I love you. And when the boys lost their pedestal and hopelessness set in, we began to hold our own hands. Not all of us, though. Some of us remained puppets, and the rest puppeteers. Some of us remained lost in voices slow and thick. Voices laced with molasses and kisses coated with artificial sweetener. These girls take their coffee with lies. These girls can’t seem to kick their habit. Some of us tell them to go cold turkey. We tell them they’ve got bitterness on their breath, but they mistake it for Splenda. They seem to be wandering the city, trying to turn silence back into I love you. So we don’t blame them. Now I’ve become numb to the artificial. I know artificial. But I’m learning about how the universe works. And it’s summer. And in summer, the sky doesn’t lie and the sun doesn’t hide. I’m learning that the trumpet is my favorite instrument in the symphony because it sounds like the world snoring and I can’t think of a more beautiful sound. I’m learning about how our eyes can dance when we’re happy and when we’re happy together, our eyes dance. I’m learning to be by myself too. I’m learning that it’s okay to be by myself, even when presented with another option. I’m learning to say no. I’m learning to say no even when the word is stuck on my tongue like bubblegum. I’m learning real things. How to be a real person. How to stop hiding. I stopped taking my coffee with artificial sweetener.