by Emily Dhatt

On that island, Rick told us, We're telepathic too.
We just have to move our mouths a little.
Sounds stopped crystallizing the same way
after that, stopped hanging lamely
in the air once spoken, stopped folding
themselves into sentences like geese
martyring themselves for mattress-toppers.

All I ever wanted was to say one true thing.
When I speak, people ask if I'm foreign.
I say, We are all speaking a foreign language,
and I never laugh, even if they do.

But poetry was not exactly a choice I made,
it was the spontaneous immolation of
a world only accessed through neural pathways,
I couldn't behave myself, even when Megan
Markarian mocked my poem in the third-grade
hallway, squeezing her voice out like saccharine
reading You Ran Away From Me, the poem
I dedicated to a dead great-uncle I don't remember,
my hands moved obtusely on paper,
because I knew, and always have known, the truth:

there's no home more hostile than the little hut
that builds itself inside your skull,
which you have to live in, alone,
a reluctant tenant whose rent
is always past due, and when you finally
find someone to love you, they'll think you're being

a poet when you ask them to open up your scalp
and crawl inside with you. They won't think
you've said something true. You won't remember
anything true. The most you're given
are pinpricks, thin apparitions of memory,
and you're chasing them around
asking them to haunt you. The great-uncle's name

was Lee. Someone told me he invented
the soft-serve ice cream machine. What it's like
to be a human, speaking words, is embers
of gratitude throwing themselves off
the wildfire in a forest called No One
Will Ever Know The Whole of You. Before Lily
died, she said she had to pull words

out of her throat no matter how much
it burned because she feared her thoughts
rotting unuttered inside her skull
in the soil. She thought of language as maggots,
infesting her, desperate for release,
but at least they were carving paths in.
No one's said enough who dies
at seventeen. No one's said enough

who dies. Sometimes I think of Rick, and the island,
and how all he asked of us was to stare
at the world until it fell apart before our eyes,
like Agassiz and the sunfish, and I think he was right,
but I also think I misunderstood: nothing
is worth seeing that isn't stained with decay.
Sometimes writing poems gives me a headache

because my brain is getting an anticipatory
erection, it's so anxious to be heard.
Sometimes the words are just phonemes
masquerading as dancers, to circumlocute
a sadness: I don't want to make sense,
just sensation. My best poem was the cop

who stopped me from punching Mike
in the stomach on the post office loading dock
one 2 a.m. behind the bar, but I showed the most
command of formal craft in Mike telling the cop
we'd both agreed to this. I am finding a way
to make poetry without lines. Then I'll do it

without language, since it's too much
and never enough. Things will decompose.
The little house inside your head
will be foreclosed. I will find it.

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