you are eleven,
and terrified of thunderstorms.
so you find yourself in your mother’s bedroom
building treehouses with your fingers
and the branches of her hair.
at school they will show you movies about how
she gave birth to you — and though you close your eyes for the finale —
you remember them telling you that they cut you from her.
so you reach your hand beneath your shirt and ask
your navel for a second opinion
and it directs you to your beating heart,
that steady cadence of rain tapping at the window
and you feel her silence there,
the way she rolls over without speaking
invites your warmth.
they will call you a tactile learner
when you fail your first geometry test.
you are unable to translate that feeling onto paper:
of holding ‘sphere’ and understanding Earth
of holding ‘body’ and understanding Puberty
of holding ‘him’ and understanding Sin
and you are twenty one years old
and learning how to build Home from
the leftovers in the fridge, the smiles
you meet at parties, the chorus of articles on your laptop
but it is raining and you cannot tell if you are cold or lonely, or if there is a difference,
so you turn on the space heater before you sleep
and it reminds you of the love your grew up with:
that warm feeling in the air that nestled itself in your bones,
tangible like the hum of your sister’s voice in the room next door.
you wake up on fire
and your mother is snoring and the thunder is screaming
rip off the sheets, grab your arms to make sure the wood is not cracking
feel your body and persuade it to live again
shake the blanket, cover your mouth
smoke is the darkness of the hallway to her room
the first boy you kiss, the cavern of his smile
open every window, touch your throat
remember the script of breathing,
rinse your hands in the sink, pick off the black soot and find comfort in brown, and find comfort in brown.
how you refused to believe in God
because you couldn’t feel her until now
and you are lying in bed in the emergency room as they wrap your fingers with bandages.
and your nurse tells you that you should have died and you smile
want to tell her that you have always been a tactile learner
— he who does not know life until he can touch it —
but your tongue has forgotten the sound of thunder, so you grit your teeth and feel regret, like the parts of the birthing video you were too afraid to watch,
and your mother is thousands of miles away and, you, are a boy looking for warmth in a city of wind and fences
What I mean to say is I’m not quite a man, but I am a tactile learner —
want to touch you and re-learn safety,
rehearse the urgency of fire,
how it digs closer and faster than a lover
that under these bandages is a heart that orgasms, quivers, and bleeds
and we are all walking around with gaping wounds that we mistake as mouths
and we are howling in the night,
throbbing and scratching the deepest parts of us those places they tell us not to touch, but we do, but we do
because we hunger for that crash
of pleasure and pain.
And loneliness is an absence of feeling, it is the distance between ‘body’ and ‘warmth,’ that bandage between ‘you’ and ‘me.’
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