by Lily Klinek
In December, it will turn 16 years old.
The weight of the machine on me,
cool against my hipbone.
I remind myself of an orange.
When first making my introductions to the
needle tips, the clear glass vials,
droplets of blood on my fingers,
I was instructed to practice injections on fruit.
My tiny hands, holding this precious globe
like it was the world,
watching flash of silver, the pungent smell of chemical.
I am pinpricked now,
inkless tattoo, scar constellation,
polka-dotted over my hands,
belting around my waist.
Living this skin is exhausting.
Citrus seeping out through the fine mesh sieve of me.
Writing it is somehow worse.
The synth is louder
in the heat.
I suppose at one point
everything I listened to was quiet,
dulled to blunt edge,
and all that I spoke, too,
drifting into warm front.
What does it mean to truly work?
By that I mean to produce,
not to function.
Sometimes I think I can hear your voice at night.
I hesitate before exiting sleep,
and in this moment I feel real fear,
as a rolling pin, flattening my spine.
The sound is a vibration,
my fingers caught in pause and
outstretched to cold,
pressing gently on your throat.
I spend so long reaching that
I forget what it feels like to curl tightly.
I am learning my symptoms,
atrophy, tucked here in the loam,
and learning to speak them, too,
jumbled shapes filling my mouth.
The other night I thought I was dying,
googling “low blood sugar,” “anxiety,” and “weed”
from the strip of carpet next to my bed.
pictured what I must have looked like,
thankful, now, for closed door and for
the loneliness that, yesterday, made me cry.
In the apartment next door,
someone plays one prolonged note on a bass guitar.
The noise seems to come from above me,
covering me in soil as
I shape my lips again into soft, round words.
Does it feel better to be in or out of love?
This thought crosses my mind as I lay sleepless next to someone who
I think sometimes feelings are a muscle,
the sinews in her calf I watch as she
lofts paintbrush higher,
the flex of my knuckles pushing pen
towards the earth.
These silent choices to move, love,
ripples in the lactic acid around my heart.
This month I feel alarmed at my own peace,
the latitude that comes from
being untethered, spaces where I once felt
a steady strain,
swelling now. Each of the
glands in my chest,
ballooning with cool air.
Someone set off firecrackers in the street.
brought a warmer coat or
drank a little more at the last bar
but something about those flying sparks numbs me to the cold,
as if they’re starting flames, racing over the backs of my hands and my neck and
sucking oxygen, rapacious, from my lungs.
something has been sprouting in me,
little beanstalks propagating in my shoulders and
lifting their green faces to the gray skies.
One day, I think,
I’ll walk again on this same sidewalk.
I wonder if I’ll recognize it, then, without
the youth I will have lost,
the moments shrinking in the hollows of my brain,
and the popping noises of this firecracker colliding with pavement,
slowly filling my ears like rain into empty bucket.
112, or, 26.2
Like one of those optical illusions:
once you see this cycle of yourself, your mind,
you can’t really un-see.
In some ways, I feel I am back at my beginning.
Though, when that really is, who’s to say?
When did I fall into this? When will I fall out?
Will I? Ever?
In some ways, I am so far, now, from that hand that
held the orange. That was not me. No.
Sometimes I feel my memories have been injected
deep into me like insulin. Someone swapped
the vials on me. A clever switch-a-roo.
I think that orange girl expected answers by now.
All I have are more questions. Better ones, maybe.
Maybe it’s not about answering yourself, it’s about
questioning yourself. Learning how to ask
kinder, gentler. Learning to accept silence
for answer, give back soft hum of agreement. Both of us narrowing our eyes in curiosity. A quiet alliance.
Me and that
four-year-old I barely remember,
huddled together around the microscope.
There is a bright light here. A buzz of machinery.
She is a little scared, I think. So am I, sometimes.
We fall asleep and I practice the act of speaking,
words in my mouth, lips popping like firecrackers.
There is soil here but things are growing.
Beanstalks, keeping me company. Twisting up to air.
The clicks of knobs turning is lullaby,
the light a warming glow on my collarbones, knees.
I reach and feel the cool skin of citrus.
It sits still in my palm,
all of us curled up on the slide.
Waiting to be dyed, to be made visible for this lens.
Lily Klinek is a student at UC Berkeley and is current Managing Editor of Berkeley Poetry Review. Her writing explores the ways we carry emotion, inhabit our own bodies in illness and health, and find ourselves pulled towards or away from expression. She studies environmental science but makes room in her heart for poetry and language, always.