At 15 I discovered what silence meant.
I wrapped myself in the absence of my brother’s voice
and let it smother me.
I was 18 before I remembered that I had something to say.
I press ink to paper the way
first graders press their bleeding palms together.
I make blood brothers of irony and metaphor
and they work in their garages on the weekends
to race across my hometown and your hometown
and all the places in America where
kids have skinned their knees on the pavement
trying to fly.
My mother marked my growth in band-aids,
because every time I bled,
I got taller,
but I will never have enough
of the world in my blood
to be “grown.”
Writing is like yelling into the Grand Canyon
and having the world reply, “Yes,
we hear you.
It isn’t easy, throwing your heart
across the darkness,
but there is always the smallest echo
of someone grateful
for the pulse.
I write because the vibration breaks apart my bones,
like the bars of Mandela’s jail cell,
flooding me with peace.
Nothing ever came from
holding that peace,
so I stopped holding my tongue.
I’m tone deaf, but I’m singing through the lungs
of every college kid
writing postcards to their parents
from a bottle of rum:
“Wish you were here, Mom.
I wish you were here
with your band-aids and your smile.”
The first letters I ever read
were on an exit sign,
and ever since,
I’ve been writing letters to the outside
asking, “How’s the weather?”
I’m still waiting for a reply
of more than just “fine.”
I’m writing because I want to stop lying to my mother
when she calls me up
and she knows as well as I do
that not everything is fine,
but at the same time,
I’m up every night writing birthday cards until my fingers bleed.
I have an eye for silver linings.
It’s like tripping balls in a bathroom,
and even the white linoleum
looks holy when it starts to move,
so I’ve been running for the home
I wrote about in a travel notebook when I was 7,
the one I could never quite find on a map.
I think I only ever found it in that notebook,
but some places are like that.
I write because people deserve to know
about the girl who lost her virginity and her mind
back in ’79,
who grabbed a guitar
and ran to LOVE Park in Philadelphia
where she married her voice
and they’ve been happy together for 34 years.
They deserve to know about the teacher
with 2 kids, 4 jobs and still
enough time in his day to bring coffee
to a 17 year old girl
who’s trying not to think about the vicodin in her backpack
and the vodka in her kitchen
and her brother found dead hanging by his bed linens.
They deserve to know
that the soil is made of love and madness
and that you could grow gardens in it, up to the sky,
that gospel music isn’t pure,
but it’s the muddy low-lights that give it depth.
They deserve to know that there’s someone else out there
asking the same questions they’re asking,
like, “How’s the weather?” and
“What was your mother like?” and
“Listen. Do you hear that music?”
Inject me into your veins, love.
You’re already a reflection in my blood.
So I’m standing here with open hands,
connected to you, whose connected to him
by links of paper signed by people I’ve never met
to carry on here in time come after death.
The moment you tell me about your fingerprints,
I’m already reaching for a pen
to write the lyrics to a love song
about the places on the subway
where my hands rested 2 years after yours.
We haven’t come home yet.
I’m trying to trace us a map,
but “Human” is hard to find.
I’m still looking, love,
and I won’t stop
until every living notebook
is filled up.