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.
I carry consequences in the soles of my shoes,
and reasons not to, and unfinished poems, and
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
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
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
i live it twice,
for good measure.
it’s the day i begin this festival
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
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.
it gets cold,
when i step out of my skin.
when i’m in heaven
because i always
brew my own hell.
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,
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.
when i say that i get cold,
what i mean is,
i am often afraid.
step out of my skin.
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.
i’m afraid to need anything at all, so i twist afternoons around my finger
because sometimes help is a trap door,
and hands always betray in the dark.
even my own.
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
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
when my feet can’t find solid ground,
i swing from letters that are
“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
let’s stash poems in our bootstraps
keep them like dirt under our fingernails
like poems are even our unsaid fears
even if some days we only exist in poems
words are our wallowing wildflowers
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
look at all these hours.
lets wrap our hours in a gift box
and give them
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/)
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.
She has soliloquies that slither past her screws
And a face that looks like wet asphalt.
I want to ask the songs
And the girls – the real girls –
Which direction is open?
Teach me your language
Of satisfied screen slave
Static sleep without submersion
Teach me submarine asylum
How to dance to my heartbeat
When the battery is dead.
Are the synonym for
And when her screens turn into sinkholes,
Cyborg girl learns how to save herself.
Can I show you my personhood?
that my limbs keep snapping
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
leak into sidewalk cracks
to escape the sun, or the eyes.
when you catch me
by my toes
in the evening
let me eat darkness, tonight
so as to
that comes from
All I see is men
That see with their hands.
Men that think their hands
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.
We must stop
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.
how you read me the invisible string?
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.
months will stop hanging on my coat tails
when we turn into gods.
i will know it’s home
when i feel
on the roof of my eyelids.
it is as if
words do not belong to me.
words are another limb of
that we’ve all been borrowing
this whole time.
i will not kiss the hand
of my prison.
We are spinning
And some of us are so silent
We are almost
We lay still
Inside the eyes of gods
Inside of revolutions.
We try to be angels
To be so sterile.
But we are spinning
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.
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?
i will turn my skin inside out
if i get to cry. the truth is
i love to be sad.
my tears can be poetry! can’t they?
i am not a martyr.
i hold my tongue captive
in the belly of a revolution.
but i will go searching
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!
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
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?
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.
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
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?
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
I never believed in superstitions
I shattered my mirror again today.
i am steam rising
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.
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
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
more of the fluorescent lightbulbs in my bedroom
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
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
from inside me was
an impossible move even though i never wanted to
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
are the only path to detachment.
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.
is under quarantine. let me show you my four steel walls.
so when hurt
bang on the doors, this quarantine turns them
is loose in my chest.
the last pill
in a pill bottle.
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.
we take a breath,
my heart and i.
we find solace in one another.
we don’t reach anymore.
we find our light in one another.
we repair our fluorescent lightbulbs.
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
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.
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.
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.
when i look
inside my pocket
or my bedroom,
i find receipts of
remembrances of the empty.
and then i begin
breath in my mouth.
i am paralyzed for three days.
inside of the empty. glass.
when the days
are old dog-eared pages in books
i find vengeance underneath my fingernails.
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.
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
why is it that the people who live in the coldest
places know warmth the best
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
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.
we just want to be loved
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
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 not the sun
but the fire that scorches through you
we say sorry
for not being aphrodite
just girls that sometimes walk on wires.
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,
be a trumpet-
no, be a tuba
be the orchestra.
i wish i’d stop thinking of myself as an exit sign
i am a welcome mat
THE DAY A QUEEN IS NO LONGER A QUEEN
i’ll call you the shattered jewels because
but of course i really mean, insecurity
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?
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
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
CAPITAL LETTERS DON’T LOSE THEMSELVES TO IRREVERENT BOYS WITH PRECARIOUS EYES
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
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.
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.