loving her everywhere
i. Here, there is sand in your mouths when you kiss. Sweat and long hair. A shared water bottle glinting in her hands. She finds a succulent plant and slices it open, drawing her finger through the clear gelatinous discharge it bleeds. She touches that finger to her cheek and glistens heavenly. You are dry heat desire and she is your oasis. You drink her with stinging eyes.
ii. In this place of neat grass and gridlocked streets, there is not much to do except make chains of wildflowers for her neck and yours. There’s no one around to hear you tell each other how you feel. You feel like a sparkler, so you say so. Like a lit match. Condensed brilliance. She holds your hand in the middle of paved suburban wasteland, squeezes it three times. You know what she’s saying. You say it back.
iii. She draws your initials in condensation clinging to subway glass, while you thunder beneath the metropolis in claustrophobic darkness. You can’t see all of her in the changing light, just fragments. Her lower lip. Her nose. Her jaw, holy. The city makes your want electric. Her mouth on the edge of a cheap coffee cup and crowds jostling the two of you together. Curry and gasoline and the sapphire smell of her hair. Adoration in alleyways and open streets. Here, you can be two girls in love and the world will not punish you for it. Here, you blow her a kiss and a bearded old man says che dio ti benedicta. Bless you.
iv. To love her in the mountains is dizzying. High altitudes and mist. Leaves caught in her hair. When you stand at a precipice and look out, she photographs you without you noticing, dilating the lens to catch the rosy burn of your cheeks above your wool scarf. She finds you painfully becoming like this. You against the violent, beautiful sky. You in love and unhidden. Her heart is thumping as fast as yours when you turn and move into her, wrapping her up as if she were some ephemeral thing, a moonbeam from a passing orbit. Together, you breathe the thin blue air.
Moon girl is breath and curve. She catches light and throws it back to the universe. You see her and tremble, falling, as she once must have done from some heavenly place.
Moon girl is wild. You follow her into the forest where she steps barefoot into a stream and takes your hand, water swirling over her feet and hers. She talks about roots and branches and flight. You are in love.
Moon girl is dancing. Moving her body, dynamic, unpracticed elegance, shaping space, graceful, unafraid of audience, unafraid of pause, unafraid to bend and swish and rise, flying, electric, boundless. She gets everywhere. In your morning tea, clouds, April storms, wrapped in sparkling strung-out melodies, and especially in your head. You dream of waist, skin, movement holding her and warmth, closeness, desire kissing her and your heart burns soft inside your chest, a lantern lit by lunar beams.
Moon girl gives you violets. You give her your hands, open; your heart, open; your soul, open. You give her everything, or you try.
Moon girl is with you, always, this silver fire here in the filth and blood and terror, head on your shoulder, palm on your skin, speaking to you in ways language cannot, grounding you, saving you, saying your name, holy, lifting you up, repeated tenderness, voice low, eyes deep, glorious, and she is steel, she is iron, she is endless.
Moon girl smiling. Moon girl watching. Moon girl brave. Moon girl rough and sweet. Moon girl creating. Moon girl radiating. Moon girl moving, toward you.
We stand at a funeral, hand in hand,
under a sky bleeding glorious light.
The year is dying but we are
here to remember. To celebrate and to cherish.
To laugh and sob, reverently, as one.
We stand circular around a cavernous well,
and in this well, we place bouquets of memories.
There is a door rattling off its hinges. Daffodils picked in a hurry.
A boy, a girl, and two hands finding each other
in the darkness of
a cheap movie theater.
There’s a dying woman telling her sister to
read her favorite book to her one last time
goddamn it. Two boys shucking off
clothes and leaping into the ocean, shouting
and gasping as the frigid waves lick
their bug-bitten calves. A gun held
to someone’s temple,
ruthless. Desperate mouths
meeting in a train station. An I Love You
torn notebook paper and passed
across the aisle. An endlessness of
There are fists on jaws
and pennies dropped into fountains
and meals that taste of loss.
in front of their mirrors, looking for
evidence of approaching
womanhood. Hangovers and weddings.
The stunned pause
after a kiss. Old men in
baseball caps joking at diners.
A boy stepping numbly into the
path of a freight train. Things said
at three in the morning and regretted
long after. Snapped pencil lead.
A scraped elbow. Soup on a
misty night. Want.
This is what we have left.
When the earth turns, as it always does,
this will be the past.
When the earth turns, it will carry us
into a new year
and we will burn, hats in hand,
for what was.
But when the earth turns, all will be fresh and flagrant,
naked and breath catching.
All will be ours.
We stand together between death and dawn.
lucky paper star
You learn several things that day.
Step I: Start with a strip of paper, about 11 inches long.
The first is that there is something painful about paper in your best friend’s hands. The way she bends and folds. Her fingers moving, delicate. The nearly inaudible crackle of a creased, college-ruled page. It makes you wistful.
Step 2: Tie a knot in the end of your paper. Pull gently to tighten, then flatten it.
The second is that you are clumsy. You haven’t always been so. In fact, you are usually quite graceful. So why the sudden tremor in your hands? Why the mess you’re making of your white paper strip, as complaint in your best friend’s hands as it is disobedient in yours?
You know exactly why.
Step 3: Fold the end of the strip down and tuck it into the knot.
The third thing you learn is that you loathe origami. It was a mistake to let her show you how, here in this room where there is nowhere for your feelings to run to. Those terrible radiant things. Those deathless hopes. You hate them, almost as much as origami.
Step 4: Wrap the other end of the strip around and around this pentagon you have formed, creasing gently as you go.
The fourth is that you are never going to make a lucky paper star. It is impossible. Your best friend is already finishing hers, pressing its angular edges until they become concave.
Her lovely fingers. Your damaged star. These facts you cannot bear.
Step 5: Keep wrapping until you get to the end of the strip. Tuck in the end.
The fifth is that the universe is mocking you. Your fingers fumble with your paper strip, bending and creasing in all the wrong ways. You want to make this star, desperately, awfully. But you can’t. You don’t. The paper sits ruined in the palm of your hand.
Step 6: Very gently and slowly use your fingernail to press on the center of each of its edges. A star should form.
The sixth is that this is a metaphor.
She can’t. She doesn’t.
The paper sits ruined in the palm of your hand.
That song, that awful terrible song.
The absurd sting. The foolish decision. The irony of it all.
Me, staring down at the black and white grin of the piano keys,
every atom in my body screaming with Awareness Of You.
If I didn’t look at you, not even once.
If I kept my gaze elsewhere. If I leveled my tone to a sedated monotone.
If I talked about pace and rhythm and chorus and speed up there and slow down here and yes, yes, like that, beautiful. If I didn’t watch your hands on the bow or the bow on the strings
or the light on your face. If I crushed those violets of want blooming in my belly.
If I built myself a castle of steel through which you could never penetrate, maybe,
maybe, I could reach a quivering sort of equilibrium.
But that song. The melody mocking me, mocking my heartache,
pointing to my hidden places and yanking the curtain aside.
It shouldn’t have been romantic, not the stone in my chest, nor the
frigid fact of my unreciprocated feelings
but god, the room shrank until it seemed as if you had hollowed me out and
saturated me with yourself, that the end of me
and the beginning of you had become completely indistinguishable,
my heartbeat so loud we should have heard it echo off the walls.
That song and that glow and that loss. That soft desire, that song
I should never have suggested we play, that ruin.
That song and you and
Claire McCulley is a queer poet, activist, and revolutionary majoring in Public Policy and minoring in Women’s Studies. Her pronouns are she/her/hers. She identifies as a panromantic demixsexual, which means gender has no bearing on her love. Poetry is her purest form of healing empowerment, so she writes it whenever she can. She has been selected for various publications, and served on the executive editing board for Teen Ink Magazine throughout her teenage years. Claire is a proponent of combat boots and glitter, as well as crystals, space lesbians, and explosive self-love. She’s very tender. #BringBackSapphicVioletGiving2k16
Find her on Tumblr @tendersapphic.tumblr.com and Instagram @star.claire.