Skeleton Keys

I locked my heart in a steel box the first time it crashed into my ribcage backed by my anxiety, leaving bruises that will never go away

I wrapped it in chains when my best friend announced that I was sleeping with all the guys in my 3rd grade class when I didn't even know what sex was, leaving me alone at the lunch table with my tear soaked lunch box and my poetry as my only company

I buried it in darkest parts of my soul when my 5th grade dance ended with a limo full of everyone but me, parked outside my house, music so loud that sleep wasn't even an option

I pushed it down deeper and deeper until I only felt its beat when it was repeating words on max volume

Worthless. Failure. Lost. Sick. Crazy. Dramatic. Mistake. Burden.

I threw away all the keys when I ended my first relationship and tried to go home but he followed me around every corner to explain how psycho he thought I was. I'm still afraid to be anywhere near his house

With my heart locked up tight, I learned that keeping my head up and shoulders back was enough to show everyone how together I really wish I could be

I learned that people will ignore my cries if I smile for just a second, ignore the cuts traveling up my arms if I lie and say I fell

I became content with living behind walls so tall that no one could climb over

But you –

You come and listen to the words I can't get myself to say and understand the thoughts that run backward in my head. You ask about my heart and my world freezes for my heart remained in that steel box for far too long and I don't know how to explain this to you

You want to know, you want to understand and for the first time I think that maybe I could tell you, but I don't even know where to begin

it's going to take me a while to find all the keys and before I let you unlock this box, I need to know I can handle its contents on my own

I want to know my softest, most fragile parts before anyone else can touch them

I need to get to know myself again

without the boxes, the locks, the chains, or the walls

before anyone else can see everything I've been hiding for so many years


Our love was a fire on a cold day, much needed warmth I couldn't get enough of, leaving burns on my hands every time I got close

Our love was a thunderstorm after a drought, quenching thirsts I didn't know I had, pouring until water filled the only home I ever knew, stealing memories from from me like pickpockets on the subway

Our love was a hurricane, pulling trees from their roots, my mind blown away settling on clouds looking down at the mess below me, pretending the clouds could hold me forever.

Our love was my secret magical place, so beautiful I never wanted to leave, but hidden away in a wardrobe so small I needed to shrink myself down to fit through the door

I kept coming back to breathe in our love like smoke from the cigarettes of strangers

until one day the wardrobe disappeared, the winds slowed, the sky cleared, and I – I was handed a fire extinguisher and burn cream

I started to clean the mess we made, rebuilding my home and rediscovering pieces of myself that I forgot existed since they were too big to fit into our love

Our love was a book you closed before I could finish

I finally stopped rewriting our love in every notebook I could find

I stopped rewatching every scene of our love on an endless loop

I stopped looking for our love in every storm cloud

and the next time I returned to that empty room that once housed that small portal to our love, I found a door I never saw before

A door big enough for everything I have inside of me and now I'm thinking that maybe I never even needed to shrink

Keep Pretending

You have never laid a finger on me
but your grip holds
tight around my neck
and I have been gasping for air
since you first showed me
your temper erupting from
your palms landing on the
one you promised to care for

You proved to be a
volcano spreading your lava over
birthday parties and graduations

A tsunami ruining beach days and
washing away sand castles and smiles

You have never laid a finger on me,
but your grip left
bruises on my young mind
and you spent twenty-two years
pretending they weren't there

You are everything
I don't want in
a partner,
a friend,
or myself
and I will scrub your essence
out of my soul, mind, and body
until the only thing
linking us is our
last name

Blistered Hands

my blistered hands
have forgotten what it felt like to
reach for something that isn't
running in the opposite direction

forgive me if i doubt your love
for i have never held something
that didn't slip through my fingers
whenever i looked away

every time i wake with
a kiss on my cheek and
my heart safely in your hands

you are giving me
a break from
reaching because
you are
right here

i can’t save you, but i can love you (and that’s kind of the same thing, right?)

i can’t make those fires go away and they are still going to burn like hell.

i can’t stop the water from flooding your basements traveling up the stairs to your bedroom and wrecking old photographs

i can’t hide your heart from anyone without gentle hands and good intentions

i can’t save you from the thorns as you walk through rose bushes and I can’t promise my love won’t leave similar cuts

i can’t take away the hurt life has been throwing at us since we took our very first breaths


i can let you see the softness behind my sharp edges and carry bandaids and peroxide to care for the cuts I will inevitably cause

i can hold your hand through the heat of the fires and have ice water ready when the burns get too painful to handle on your own

i can clean up the mess the flood leaves behind and take tons of new pictures to fill the destroyed photo albums 

i can hold your heart long enough for it to recover from the fights it had to endure

i can wait on the other side of the bushes and remind you that the smells of the roses were worth it
i can’t stop the hurt or prevent the pain


i can promise to have my first aid kit in my backpack for whenever you need it

5 Stages of Grief

1 – Denial
I rush to your room,
a small iced tea from Dunkin’ in my hand,
lemon 2 sugars

I see your face and the world is still,
the screams in my head the
only thing I could hear

“She’s gone”
and whispered “sorry”s from
nurses who don’t even look at us
“The social worker should be here soon,
she died 5 minutes ago
we’re still filling out the

You lie in
that bed in
a room
the water and
it almost feels like a vacation,
though your face shows
no color

You lie there and
my tears are falling
like each of my eyes
a broken faucet,
filling the sink of
This Can’t Be Happening
until we reach the point of
This Is Not Happening

This can’t be happening

We go home and
the air around me is
imperfectly still,
completing the scene I created in my head.
You’re coming home soon
I’m going to see you again

I search for your voice
every time my phone rings,
I won’t eat pickles
except on cheeseburgers
because I’m waiting for you
to share them with

I walk into your house and I can almost see you


Asking me what I want for dinner
and why I haven’t done anything with
those papers on the table

2 – Anger

Why did you leave me
You didn’t have to leave me
Not yet
It wasn’t supposed to happen yet
You didn’t even tell me
I need another day
just 5 fucking minutes and
I could’ve seen you.
Am I not even important to you?
Do I not matter?
How can you leave me here like this?

3 – Bargaining

Maybe I could’ve given you another day.
Maybe if I missed that concert the night before,
maybe if I sat by you all night and
didn’t let go of your hand
maybe you would still be here
maybe I could’ve helped your lungs
to keep breathing,
your heart to keep beating
I should’ve been there to save you

I’m sorry

4 – Depression

I know this is my fault

But I don’t know how to live like this
I don’t want to live like this

My heart is empty and
there’s no one to fill this space and
I don’t want anyone to fill this space
it’s not theirs
it’s not even mine
it’s yours

I see you in everything and
how can I get out of bed
knowing you won’t be there to
catch me when
I start crumbling

I am crumbling

I can’t stop crumbling

I don’t even want to live anymore

5 – Acceptance

One year later,

my heart still feels empty sometimes,

maybe most of the time,

but other times…

Other times,
I know I have enough of you to
fill the empty spaces to the ceilings with
photo albums and
home videos and
everything I learned from the
greatest teacher out there
(but nothing involving math homework
because that was never your specialty).

I don’t know where you are or
what you’re doing and
I could spend years trying to
figure out if there is a heaven,

but right now…

right now,
I am trying to fill that
emptiness in my chest with

everything you would be proud of.