Cadillac, Brightness/contrast, and Other Poems

contrast

Cadillac

When I first saw you, you were
a half-erased sketch
in a wheelchair that could have
fit your thighs four times over.
The smudges of charcoal wavered in a
gaseous cloud
along the outline of your veins.

When the lab man crept in to capture
vials of our blood
he used the butterfly needle for you,
butterflies for all of us.
We were fragile like that.

You called it your Cadillac,
the wheelchair,
because even our dust bowls had
a sense of humor
(dry).

At the head of the lunch table you said
you felt safe here
for the first time
as you sipped your styrofoam cup of
creamered coffee through a straw.

When you got frustrated at your body
still ephemeral after all these days
I could see impatience burning in your eyes.
You moved too fast and you
tripped
a jumble of bones and tendons and
beating heart
palms flat to the floor of our distortions.
We were fragile like that.

But—
get up, get up,
someday there will be butterflies for all of us.
Someday I will also drink hot caloric beverages in
sytrofoam cups through a straw
and when the dust cloud clears
the Cadillac door will slam shut and you’ll feel
safe
right here
right here
right here.

 

 

Brightness/contrast

Grainy on the projector screen in the
activity room of the nursing home,
her photographic memory is fading into
sepia tones. They tell the story of
tea bags steeped in water poured on crumpled paper stained into
elementary-school antiques,
and yet
this memory dried to
crusty dark-veined brown all on its own.
But who needs accuracy?
Who needs natural light anyway?
Not in the artificially glowing hallways of death’s waiting room.

She fills in the empty pixels with charcoal sketches
better than the real thing ever was and
she colors them in later with rounded edges and
rosy cheeks
just like old-time movies and portraits
of her sister on her wedding day.
She adds shadow to the places she took the long way
through that town to avoid.
She adds brightness to the years that blur together into
melancholy,
tugging.

She is the Instagram of rememberers,
she is the animator of her own two-dimensional life and
now the Polaroids she never could burn for
fifty years
are obscured,
a real fixer-upper
for an artist with an editor’s eye.

 

 

Chapped Lips

I am the sassy one I am the snarky one I am the one with the wit wound up warm in my cheek I am the incubator of careless crass commentary I am the one with the attitude underneath the meek persona of my first impression silent and stressed and dull I am not dull I am deadpan and duty-free heaving hot air on the chance it might mean something and I don’t buy in to your cool calculations your continual quest for the world’s validation because I have no patience for that I’m disdainful I’ll make you painfully aware of the failings of your affectations and I do it so well I do it all so so so so well that now

wait
rip the layers of chapped lip from my smile

experience the wallowing hollow raw wound for a while because I’m scared and distrustful I look side-eyed at God and I’m colonized by foreign folds of flesh on my body I’m jealous I’m mean I’m vindictive I’m petty I will never be clean I will never ever be pretty I spend my days expending energy fighting off this skin it’s a weight on my chest that I hate more than anything so touch my lumpy stomach and smell my unwashed limbs I’ve tattooed jokes across my spine just to remind me how I taught myself to swim.

 

 

Interruption

cold night, foggy glass, clouds on windows condensating from the lips of muted voices on the other side the other side the brittle panes that separate you and me and you and me and you and me the separation of the hero and the other the Other with a capital O let’s talk Said let’s talk the things we used to say and said before the foggy cold clouds windows night glass condensation muted voices on the other side the other side the other

[interruption] but anyway i was going to

[counter-interruption] isn’t it selfish insensitive invalidating to let your loud laughter overwhelm the tentative commentary of the more timid other (Other) isn’t that kind of a little bit insensitive invalidating a little bit dis

[counter] but when i know where you’re going what’s the

[counter] it’s the person, not the point, don’t you

[counter] but you’re talking in circles and it makes me a little bit bored actually pretty fucking frustrated can’t we just establish The goddamn fucking Point and move on to what’s

[counter] you’re doing it again

what?

[answer] i love you but you alienate everybody who loves you you talk over the feelings of friends with less vocal aggression you

[interruption] fuck

[counter] don’t

[counter] i guess i’m like SORRY

[counter] let’s just start again can i start again? let me start a

[counter] tbh i think i no longer have a stake in

cold night foggy glass clouds on windows condensating from the lips of muted voices on the other side the other side the other

[interruption] side

[counter-interruption] fuck

what?

i love you but

 


Hannah White graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2014. She is currently a contributing writer at Adios Barbie, a Kelly Writers House Junior Fellow, and an MFA student at Temple University, where she edits TINGE Magazine. Her work has appeared in Word Riot, Cleaver Magazine, Gadfly Online, Thickjam, Apiary Online, and elsewhere.

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