lit issue 2020

Costumed Self-Portrait

God has left a lamp on 

in autumn’s living room. 

Though the humid months 

have gone, taking with them 

their concentric circles of sweat 

and dirt, the air weighs more

than dropped pennies, 

and I shift side-to-side between 

my curtains of skin, as though living 

permanently in a too-itchy 

Halloween costume.

Remembering the year I dressed

as a goblin with a carrot tied 

around my nose, sitting

in a clumsy heap of flesh on 

the floor eating Butterfinger 

after Butterfinger,

the way a howler monkey 

uses its hairy fingers to pry 

open coconuts.

The way, even then, 

humiliation was fullness,

was empty wrappers, 

crinkling cellophane, 

my chocolate-stained

Cheshire grin. Humiliation

which, if you let it, can feel

like being followed for blocks

by a man with dark glasses and

a baseball cap pulled low over 

his face, except that when you do 

make it home to your basement

apartment, you invite him in,

and the two of you make 

popcorn on your greasy little

stove, eating it by the handful

next to one another 

on barstools. 

I don’t know, maybe 

the whole world suffers

quietly from Stockholm syndrome 

against their own rib cages, and 

even the monks, in their Alpine

hideaways, shudder to think

of their stomachs pressing up

against their white robes, 

dreaming, as they always have,

of shapelessness.

That October, passing along 

a sidewalk cobwebbed with tree roots, 

my young limbs under the scratching,

suffocating yoke of my homemade 

goblin, I happened upon a broken

mirror lying on the curbside,

glistening in the ochres of late

afternoon. My face in it, 

sliced beyond recognition. My 

shoulders and torso tangled 

as city traffic, tangled as 

the curls on my small head 

that night when I finally 

pulled off my goblin’s mask, 

laid back on my bed, and realized

I was growing.