Q-tips feel good when I scratch inside my ear,
try to find what’s living in there.
Is it guilt for being “the golden child,”
my sister running away to the Hewitt playground
because of the dark shadow behind me?
Maybe it’s associations, trauma,
changing the narrative as a practice,
taking gentle effort, taking time?
Idealized stories of my crush, perhaps?
Am I going to dig him out first, then her,
compare their waxy edges on each tip?
I scratch because it feels good.
In the past, it was compulsion.
Now I have the skills to figure as much;
Now I’d rather not feel the anxiety rush,
the fear, the hush, as the world crumples up
before me, slides me back to a time I cannot
return to but my mind sometimes remembers.
Is the Q-tip pushing pressure back,
into my throat, my jaw, my brain cells?
Practice makes…practice. In and of itself.
I see my socially isolated past, sitting,
mentally alone in a purple, rubber-smelling
locker room, see my dad cry when he reflects,
“I saw her cry! And I still let her go, I let her go!”
I see my sister, sitting on the slide, moon glow
settling in on her face,
my brother and I fearful, waiting on my bed,
wondering how to live without her.
How did the playground smell that night?
Was anxiety running through your sixth-grade veins?
Did you find a sense of peace when the police
showed up, brought you back home?
You had a boyfriend at the time.
I’m not sure
but maybe that’s when I started
idealizing you, too.
Your skills with boys, with friends,
getting a laugh, people to care.
Things that matter more than grades and sports and dance —
two steps right and two steps left towards “perfection.”
Contrived. Defected. Just like that college locker room.
I felt so alone, so sad. You did, too.
Twin expressions of a time,
like wax on both sides of a stick
never designed for the inside of the ear.
But I don’t know…
it just looks like the ear is exactly
where it was meant to be.
May 9, 2020
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