You call me ‘pretty baby’ and lick white powder off baby-blue bathroom tiles;
I don’t know if you only love me when you’re high but on sober summer nights,
you use your lips and spare thread to sew bruises
into places my mother would consider unholy;
you whisper curse words into my skin;
and sometimes you kiss a little too hard,
but that’s okay, I think.
My father always said love was supposed to hurt anyway;
and when he decided to leave for the last time,
my mother hid in her room with paper-cut skin and wrists that leaked acid.
She didn’t come out for days;
not even when my brother downed four bottles of whiskey
and stumbled home reeking of dysphoria and doom.
I dressed his cuts with ivory bandages from a first-aid kit
and prayed he wouldn’t fall apart again.
Last night I called you over for dinner and when you left,
I climbed into bed and thought about the shades of black and blue
his knuckles etched into your lips last night;
I thought about your hands and gunpowder,
I thought about your eyes and rip-tides.
My mother thinks that you are this boy
who reeks of gasoline and menace;
she says boys like you aren’t made for loving,
says boys like you bury knives deep inside white-washed jean pockets,
says boys like you wash your mouth with bourbon and coke,
says boys like you are made of smoke signals and sandpaper.
She says, she doesn’t want to bury her baby this young;
I untangle my limbs and she crumples into my lap.
I know that she is spilling salt-water and heart-ache
so I tell her that you are not my father,
that your hands heal; that they don’t break or bend,
or get caught on the sharp parts.
I tell her that your legs don’t take off when things get hard,
I tell her about the time I broke my arm
and the way you carried me to the E.R;
all messy hair, sad eyes and blue heart.
I oozed blood onto your shirt;
hot and heavy crimson;
you smelt like rust and decay for days after.
But you came to see how I was doing anyway,
with lilacs and rub-on tattoos;
I know you tried your hardest not to cry,
I tell her about how much I love you for that.
She kisses my forehead and says
you are this broken, battered, half-formed thing,
but I tell her that I don’t mind;
I love you still
I love you still,
I love you still.
Submitted to ArtParasites by Thushena Ganesh