her/ hers


The first time you called her pretty it didn’t
occur to me to worry. My nails are always chipped
and my clothes are always black and the scent of
cigarettes buried in my hair wafts into every empty
space, filling in all the cracks, but you once told me
that pretty isn’t about lace dresses and clean hair
and the smell of lilies on my wrists, and I took that
to heart, the way I do your every word. It didn’t
occur to me that maybe you wouldn’t always
mean it, that just because someone says something
on a summer day doesn’t mean they’ll still feel it
when the ground is brown and wet and the leaves
can’t hold onto the drops that slide right past them.
There is a nook between your jaw and your
shoulder that should be saved for my chin, my
cheekbone, for moments when I need to rest against
something true, but these days it smells like lilies,
a perfume-laced threat in my nostrils. We sit
in silence more often now, trying not to drum
our fingers on scratched tabletops, or tap our feet
out of sync. Your hand in mine feels limp, different,
strange. This morning I thought about buying
a white dress, holding it up against my skin. I tried
saying “pretty” out loud to my reflection, but
my tongue felt like it wasn’t my own. Maybe I should
practice braiding my hair, getting enough sleep. Quit
smoking. Change my polish before it breaks. Stop
wearing my darkness to cover my body.