Eight Touches to Survive

1.

He shakes my hand, hard.

When he was younger,
he accidentally killed a bird
and buried it in a red shoebox
beneath his favorite tree.

You can tell by the way
his veins quiver,
that he still remembers its eyes
as he held its body in his hands.

2.

A cashier hands back my change
and tries not to touch me.

There is nothing beautiful to be said
as he flinches
when his right index finger
slips.

3.

A woman’s shoulder grazes mine
as we sit together on a bus.

For the rest of the time that I am next to her,
I wonder if the rest of her is just as
soft.

4.

When I tell her about my brother
committing suicide,
she holds me close to her
and tells me that
God always has a plan.

I never find the courage to ask her
what it is.

5.

I hold a handrail on a train
as hundreds of people pass me by.

There is a sense of grief in knowing
that I will never see these people again.

6.

The only time I feel beautiful
is when someone runs their hands up and down my body,
their fingers plucking my ribcage
as if I were a harp
or something made
to be touched.

7.

He never offers me a cigarette,
but he gives me his hips.

In the morning,
the bruises remind me
that nothing is meant to last.

8.

He puts his hand on my shoulder
and tells me that I’ve grown up beautifully.

I do not tell him that all beautiful things
suffer to become what they are.