The corners of my bed smell like different men
I’ve invited to help me forget you, to mask your scent.

Bottom left, the artist whose name I forget. His large, rough hands that smelled like turpentine and clay.

The sheets between my legs, that baby-faced bartender who left bite marks on my thighs, kissed them back to bruise.

The bank teller, his blue shirt and ugly tie wrapped around my neck twice, pulled tight then flung; he fucked–body hard, deathmatch loud—a brawler, like you.

The bed lies gnarled, undone. I could dismantle the frame—bare hands and teeth; I could wring out the sweat and bodies but won’t. Let the odors seep through mattress, let the stench permeate—anything to drive you out.

Last week, I fucked a guy because you share a name. I wanted to scream it over and over at the ceiling, rake it up and down his spine like I used to yours. It was almost the same. I let him in twice and scratched you a letter bright red into his back.

I wake up naked, always alone. This morning, a jagged burn, new; a curious destruction. I tug it hard, tear a hole, and look inside. It is space enough to bury my fist-sized heart.

I consider it.

There was that college kid, linguistics, eager to do it; kept saying do it, only to small talk something thereafter about soccer and homework and Dustin Hoffman—his face flushed, panting. His pants around his ankles. O! His mismatched socks! I bought him a six-pack and drove him to his dorm room.

Yesterday, I kissed a father of two and left him confused in a Duane Reade parking lot after we did it in the back of his Saab. Fucking elsewhere seemed beside the point and I just wanted to go home.

For months I craved you. I mourned you in celibacy, as though it would make a difference. I wallowed in your pillowcase, to smell you where I could. Reshaped you in piles of laundry; wanted to burrow, to coil myself around you in silence—the way animals speak with their bodies.

I made home. I nested; I waited and waited—

I don’t love you anymore. I just want to feel mammalian.

I almost did with a man who offered me breakfast; real slow. I let him lean into the soft and raw. We danced in the kitchen, and he was gone by morning. Hating him reminded me of you.

Darling, I’ve fucked myself into a maze.
All the aching corridors lead to your center.

Light the pyre, high on my sternum: your head in my lap, dirty sheets, all my love and want and mistakes.

Burnt hair, smoke rise: throw the heart’s wild pack off course—

Last night, I dreamt of you: opened palm, a fist-shaped heart, my new Saab—
Tucked inside the crook of us, curled, coiled: breaths in sync, mammal hearts beating.

Every morning is an end, I know:
Can’t wash you off, unzip this skin, fistfuls where you linger–I’ve tried
Every gasping breath, choke, a gasoline reminder
Your scent in everyone, in goddamn everything

Christine No

Christine No

Christine No is a writer/filmmaker who has shown work at the Sundance Film Festival and in publications including The Rumpus, sPARKLE+bLINK, Columbia Journal, Atlas And Alice, Apogee, The Brooklyn Quarterly and various anthologies. She is a cohort of the Kearny Street Workshop Interdisciplinary Writers Lab, a VONA/Voices Fellow, a Pushcart Prize Nominee, Best of The Net 2017 Nominee, and placed First in Poetry in the 2016 Litquake Writing Contest. She believes in radical kindness, that Magic exists, and that "the only way out is through." She's also a total dork, and looks much better on paper. She lives in Oakland with her ride-or-die pit bull, Brandeh.
Christine No

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