Inhale, Exhale, Bad Dreams

By Francesca Wilkin

Artwork by Kareem Majid

Artwork by Kareem Majid


Spring brings new tattoo ideas and

the taste of leftover promises

like a rotten tomato in the summertime;

Her hair is more tangled this year,

her auburn locks filled with flowers and

her sleepy smile stretching like

daylight savings shadows across bundles of wild grass.

She smells like crocuses, rain-soaked dirt, and wood floors when

they get warm again—

how the earthy scent of the trees wafts up

through the boards like

dancing ghosts risen from their worn graves.

I will remember how he looked—


posed like a bad Polaroid with a cigarette

between his skeletal fingers,

between his violet fingers,

drawn up to white lips.

His eyes are brown this year,

his smile is wide and friendly and

he smells like shaving cream and earl grey, but

the smoke remains clinging to his shirt, and

his left eye likes to flicker cornflower blue;

I still bite my fingernails, but

I stand a bit taller now,

my head weighs a little less on my shoulders—

less like a globe, more like a map,

I feel more like an explorer than Atlas.

I dream of wet pavements and white cars

with the sun glimmering in their rearview mirrors,

of hawk feathers in windows and

painted faces with shy smiles.

I taste her laugh in my mouth;

the pine tree scent lingering on her chest,

the sage on her neck—

I will tell them later she looks a bit like a

basset hound and

a lot like a princess,

how the North Star spun constellations

behind her green eyes.

But she was more than remnants of Winter,

she hid flowers for me to find among the

reborn weeds and

told stories about fires so big they could

swallow a man whole.

Spring was more than memories I washed

with bleach and

a season that was no longer poison;

My fingers still smell like coffee in the mornings and

days spent in bed when I was supposed to

be at school—

trips to the nurse’s office,

laying on the the red leather futons with

the paper that makes too much noise when you move,

blank-eyed gaze staring at the ceiling.

I whisper in her ear,

“I still dream about him, sometimes,” and

she will laugh her blue jay laugh and

kiss the memories of frozen fingers and

tongues tasting like nicotine, away.

She will point out the way the water runs

down the quarry and tell me how

one day everything will return to stardust and

fire like it was born;

I am a sunrise over the sleepy horizon,

all solar flares and smiles,

and one day I will return to the dirt as

I came forth;

The black holes still love to remove my pieces,

unraveling my skin like a galaxy undone,

and my tears taste like saltwater and backwash;

Spring kisses my eyelids when I sleep,

I tell her I still think about him and

see him out of the corner of my eye,

I still have bruises on my bones,

and she laughs her hummingbird laugh and


“He is gone now, junebug.

I am all that is left of his death.

Breathe in through your nose and out

through your mouth—

the hyacinths and crocuses smell sweeter

than the smoke.”