Ari Koontz

p o e t r y

vacant

i have never loved you more than when you are not here
    (but your voice remains an urgent rhythm against my skin that i cannot escape)

 

polaroids are scattered across the windowsill
my bare feet trip into grayscale

 

and you are not listening      anymore.

 

there is nothing left of me to hear.

 

you always told me it was too much to hold
    (the sun or my trembling hands, i was never quite sure which you meant)
so i always pressed my eyelids closed against your heavy breath
and held myself, suspended in your darkness even after the air stilled

 

i stand in the dusty moonlight

 

i stare at the worn carpet

 

i wish that i didn’t wish you were still here
    (i miss your colors too much)

 

 

 

dysphoria; aka wings

01.

The desk is covered with unfinished paper cranes.

My fingers tremble as I crease, then fold,

trying to get it right, following the printed

directions. A stiff angle on one side,

then the other, every movement tentative.

Thinking I’ve got it right this time, until my

creased and folded, callused hand

wavers

sending one side of the paper in the wrong direction,

the careful shapes now askew.

I drop the mess in frustration, exhaling through my nose,

closing my eyes.

I just want to make something beautiful.

When my eyes reopen, I pick up the unfinished bird

and slowly, carefully, gently crumple it in my palm

until it is smaller than a gum wrapper on pavement,

until it is so tiny I could put it in my mouth and swallow.

My grip relaxes.

Try again.

I pick up a new piece of paper and

start from the beginning.

 

02.

When I dream at night,

when I’m not plunged underwater in nightmares,

I dream of flying.

I dream of gathering myself up

and heaving myself out of the cracked, swollen shell of my body

and bursting forth into the air,

shimmering against the atmosphere,

storms carrying me upwards. Leaving everything that hurts

behind, leaving the wrongness

of my skin to collapse

into dust.

 

03.

At the candle-making workshop, the instructor tells us,

Write a wish or something you want to leave behind on the wick,

so when you burn the candle that thought

will be sent skyward.

I wait until I have dipped the paper wick -

which I know will not really last -

into the blue wax fifty times, layer upon layer,

the excess dripping onto my shoes,

rippling outward and down.

I smooth out the four inches of paper left unblemished,

leaning against the table, yellow golf pencil gripped between

thumb and index finger.

I write, I want to fold myself up end over end until I am nothing,

and then I scribble it out.

I think, I want to see how much space I’m really made of

after you take away the dirty tangles of string

and broken pencils

and the dust that might once have been

leaves.

I write,

I want to set

the sparrows in my chest

free.

                                                                  *previously published in Wizardz in Space Magazine

Ari Koontz is a queer nonbinary artist based in Bellingham, Washington, with a bachelor's degree in Creative Writing from Western Washington University. In poetry and prose, Ari grapples with identity, truth, and the sheer beauty of the universe, and is particularly fascinated by birds, stars, and other forms of light. You can find them online at http://arikoontz.com or on Twitter @paigerailstones

© 2018 by Azia Archer

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