To the Staining

Sister, I stain my lips
to think of you. Say Russet Moon
and two mouths ooh
before the mirror.

Under red bulb sing Siouxsie raw.

Razor. Alcohol. Swab.

Adolescent ward 1: Stiff against seat vinyl, a new eighteen, it’s January.
Not sure my car will make it, too much ice,
but I promised and you’re waiting and
I do make it (as we always do in these stories
until we don’t).

Someone lets me in, even though I’m unauthorized and,
curled into your side, no one notices I don’t belong
for five hours.

You should seriously think about getting committed,
you say too cheerfully, taking my hand in your pianist fingers,
and I think of my phobia of needles and the way your face
is exposed now without lipstick and loose powder,
glad nothing I do to myself can be seen on the outside.

Adolescent ward 2: You’ve been hallucinating yourself in coffins.
I’m still eighteen but it’s not a new eighteen,
the school psychologist calls me out of class twice a week
to ask if I’m going to kill myself. Yes, I want to tell him,
it’s catching.

The shrink at the hospital won’t release you until the insurance
runs out, so you’re having a long stay at a place with a name like
an amusement park. The cool nurse takes you for trips to the corner market
to buy Marlboro Lights, you make out with a guy
who tells you you’re pretty. Your first kiss is between
rounds of medication.

Carly hung Tina’s doll. She’s a witch, you whisper on
metered time, and more when you earn enough good behavior
points for an hour pass on a Sunday afternoon. I believe you.
We both believe in witchcraft, and someday when you get out
of this shithole, we’re going to talk about it over scorched coffee
in tall-seated booths at a 24-hour diner that sounds like it’s named after someone’s mom or daughter.

America, I stain my lips
to think of you.

A tender fruit. A crazed mirror.

Thimble. Needle. Thread.