"Five Years: Excerpts"


5, 4, 3, 2, 1


It’s 2am and

I’ve been wasting notes

wearing them thin

like butter spread

over too much bread


Spread my pink leather

across your perception

of both our stories


Spread me onto sweaty July

boxes, random and panicked,

only to turn around and try 

to convince me that I 

had forced your hand

to write me out in sharpie


Do you remember how I used to sing 

as we walked along lines of snow?

How I used to curl my cunt against 

your warm and thoughtless body?

A sack of dirt, longing

to be filled 

without opening its throat -

my body of water

longing to be held 

without shrinking into 

such limitations


It used to be important

to write down our 

collective story, several mistakes

now melted into millions

meaningless as I stumble into 

a neon bar in Astoria, blink momentarily, 

and find myself back 

in June of 2015


How can I keep writing when

you’re out there

in the divide

thinking I, alone,

was the poison? 




It’s a lifetime later and 

I’m smoking slowly 

a joint rolled 

by my own two hands,

looking up at the notes rolled 

by my own two lives -


years drowned, condensed, and 

solidified so that 

they are now so small 

I can fit them into 

several neat boxes


Wednesday morning, it is 7am 

I am half awoken 

by my birth control alarm

I stand up, black out,

steady my borderless body,

throw up in my mouth

hold my hand over it, automatically,

and make it to a paper bag

in the corner of the room:


I vomit up undigested

hope from the night before

I go back to bed

I rest there

(one week)


A lost Friday night,

four days before winter solstice

Lying flat

on a melodyless bed,

tears come up like vomit

It feels good 

like laughter

I laugh


Midnight at JFK

A sleepless flight after 

a sleepless week in California


I drag my suitcase behind

my bones getting caught up in

its weight and time


cry and shake

assure the cabbie I’m okay 

until I can get home

lock my door,

lie down

and become myself


Crystals in abalone -

I find the gift I left there,

ignite, inhale, and listen:


fear of losing more 

means loving what could be;

wanting to die means

I want to live 




Stuck spring,

dull summer

Thousands of blown

eyelashes later,

ashes of now foreign earth

still grit up my sinuses


1 gone, 2, 3, and 4 waning

with the strawberry

moon I was too

unstable to taste


Then it's 2am at the end of February

and I can see

the moon outside

my little window

Expansive, I am spreading

across these hazy 

purple sheets - an ink blot

of one thousand butterflies


Some people stare

then look away

when I face them with wet red 

eyes, others pretend I am soulless - 

just another piece of trash on the sidewalk


Sitting now, wings folded in,

beside a dumpster in Williamsburg,

contemplating the broken glass that lies

some inches from my thigh


I am unfazed by the shortness of this danger

I am drumming my fingers

I am cutting up time,

making it easier to swallow


The head of my femur drags home,

grinding its edge 

against pelvic bone


Am I still me

without a story?

If I don’t, they will

write it for me




Mother leaves:

I lit the blue candle minutes before

and returned to my room after

to find it had burned to its end

A fragment of paper upon which the word

“forever” had been printed

is floating in

the cooling wax

where I left it, hoping to forget



and time is still playing

a drawn-out trick -


I ran like honey 

through wildflowers in

my head two nights ago,

a painless but disturbingly

dispersed body lagging

behind its neural web


I dream only of myself now

I live through my ancient lovers

all one cloud now, one blurry face

I see my own eyes peering through,

trying to teach

my voice a lesson


In the pink sweater 

I draped over a hotel chair in Baltimore

and wore on cold mornings my first

autumn in New York

I can see her,

that paracosm woman -

revived after years of

synaptic starvation, myelin kept velvet

by the memory of dreaming

until its stifled fibers

could be watered by new blood


She is parallel

a distant oscillation


A loose collection of nerveless tissue,

I tap dully at her edges

never filling in the truth


June: I am smoking

and drinking in my underwear

on the back steps of

my Scholes St apartment

The only thing holding me

is anger

Worn thin, the words

110 pounds,

I drag myself out

of dreams each morning

to drag strawberries across toast


Perfunctory markers on

an unremarkable journey

through an external structure

whose aim is death




Cancer: half moon

Jackie Shane

sings Raindrops on my

wet roof


I drink mango juice

with a rubber-tipped


My lungs won’t fill

and I cannot see

the river


In this haze, unbeckoned:

speculum rips

his fingers slip

core bears down

to pull central

away -


gotta like it here

gotta wanna stay -


Knife slides,

blood drips

Skull splits open

to end the endless mourning

of unnamed and misunderstood



The hit delayed

whether for days

or years – 





I call myself "babe"

nowadays and kiss my wrists often


Kissing the lids

of practice pianos

after their precious accessibility

graced my dying fingers -

I did not know then

what I know now

I knew things then I

have since forgotten

"A different person each day"

I would say


My reincarnations continue to slow:

revolutions only yearly


I like to think I am

grinding down the years:

indents in pavement, intentional


Wearing down

what prevents


I also like to think

I’m less,

that my wearing

and weariness

weighs light against


This also,

this impatience: power

without cadence


Like snow under wheels:

flying without feel.


When I was young and strong,

roses blooming synaptic,

time’s arrow pulled back

its path not yet altered

by information withheld

I contained all of myself



But that “habit” of mine -

“letting” my guts slip

out with each stride,

tissue threadbare

my left heel

and many other pieces

lost behind


Here I am at 26,

here longer

than my and my ancestor’s prophecies

could predict

Writing with 

the only voice

I(’ll) have (left):


Each time I ask myself

why blame what is green?

What grows from graves,

from the sacred space

between loss, limitation, and dreams?


Needle and thread

between living and dead -


so deep, so long, the rose beneath the tree -


The power I have?

I would not wish it

on my sibling


I would wish:


hands to hold

fists to raise

and voices to join

in ever-growing song

© 2020 by LAURA TUTHALL. All rights reserved.