liquid state of matter(being)
let’s go swimming, you say,
a heat-scorched dragonfly
(who goes in memorable movements to sip the fresh sunlight
beneath the softlapping surface the lake shines wild green
and your ears are whorls of precious jade.
you burble through the delicate-draped light,
(diving to wrap yourself in the dim)
down here our skin looks wondrously unnatural as we link pinkies
and trail our heels through the silt.
pulsing storms in the eddies of our slippery bodies.
how grotesquely powerful we are here
where no gravity exists
and we do not recognize the silken moss growing from our scalps
and lingering behind us in the tepid water.
we are alien, perfected by unrepentant green,
vivid things tiptoeing on the rim of a boundless heaven.
i run out of breath faster than you do
and drift to the surface like a film in reverse:
lips spit out clear water and hands brush hair back from shining
back rises through the membrane into forgotten air–
slowly up up with hands grasping for the bottom–
let’s drink, you say
dirty shoes off exposing ripped sock,
your head sparely haloed by string lights
(but you are less iridescent than ever)
lovely you hands me vodka in red-knuckled, apathetic fingers.
clear like tap water, smelling of bare collarbones and average late nights
and through it i see the everyday pink of your cheeks
and the places where your cheap earrings have scarred your lobes.
you and i are no lake creatures and no gods.
here we are, natural beings, sipping nothingness.
half an instant of light
we paint cities on the palms of our hands / and press them feverishly along the edges of the sky / knowing they will wash away in building hurricanes. / (we can hear their eyes blinking, their weight heaving through wet air) / fragility smells like crushed lavender, don’t you think? / how lucky, how cursed we are to be minuscule (timewise). / if you are a baby mayfly and i am the corner of the briefest cloud / can we ever hope to last longer than this holy-handed present? / and if we are so sweetly fleeting can we ever be anything but lovely? / we climb to the tops of cherry trees / until we can no longer see earth or sky. / (just the smudges we left with our chrism-oiled hands) / really there is nothing before or after us. / this you say to me with your fingers in your ears, / smearing skylines over your blushed cheeks. / (darling darling i long to hang streamers from god’s front stoop with you.) / (darling my darling i will stay with you forever / until we blink our eyes and the world erupts into empty—– / how awful and beautiful it is to stretch time ragged / breathing hard and fast to fit infinite life into half a second. / your head so cleanly haloed by tangible wind. / the sun rises and sets while we eat one overripe cherry. / is this not life? / is this not the span of the universe? / are we not occupying all the time that will ever exist? / look at us choking on luminous air. / our bodies burn out, quickly, quickly. / for the slowest of seconds we wind our fingers through the shuddering void.
darling, darling. it is time to go
photo album, with you everywhere
here is me squeezing the last toothpaste from the tube
hoping that when i slit it open, i will not find you
sleeping on the silver foil, a neon, too-familiar thing.
here is me slicing an apple into messy eighths,
hoping the overripe nectar will cover the taste of you:
stardust (which is all just heavy metals).
here is me peeling off my eyelids and soaking them overnight in contact lens solution
praying that when i stitch them back on,
your face will no longer be etched in this most fragile of skin.
here is me staring at my wall from which all lavender has bled out
trying to rub my neurons raw enough
that this will stop being your brain, too.
here is me losing my balance as i walk along the curb
here is me waking up to a tree burning scarlet in the yard.
here is me trying to forget you.
(here is me wishing i had said goodbye.)
Allison Stein is a 17-year-old student living in Pennsylvania. She has been writing stories and poems since the age of two or three. Her work has previously been recognized nationally by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards and published in the Ralph Munn Literary Anthology as well as several smaller publications.
Visual Art by Guo Cherry.