Inhale, Exhale, Bad Dreams
By Francesca Wilkin
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.”