Toska Tap

Jayleen Serrano
2019

I. HILAND PARK: HOW TO FORGET

your feet sank straight through the melted concrete as you were running, worn shoes slipping on air. You didn't say a thing.

II. LEGS WRAPPED UP IN AIR-THIN SHEETS

two jeering faces were mounted to the wall, grinning with empty, half-moon eyes. you exorcised yourself on the carpet, twitched and sobbed yourself clean.

a ribbon of yellow outlined the eye sockets, accusingly, tauntingly -- your mother sighed and removed them from the room. are you still scared of bobbleheaded ghosts and faces in the wallpaper? you're such a silly kid. look, i'll show you there's nothing to be scared of.

III. I BURIED THE MOUSE BY THE CREEK

an itemized list of your greatest fears:
• hollow-chested pangs
• things that are real
• a hand recoiling from yours

IV. WHAT YOU DON'T KNOW

one of my greatest talents was always how flexible i was. i could fit into small spaces, twisting my body into obfuscation, hiding in the cupboards and slotting myself behind washing machines. i once read that octopi can fit through openings as small as a penny. when i was a kid, i would imagine that was me when i was in my bathtub.

unfortunately, there were no holes in my bathtub, so i had no way to practice my amazing act of marine escapism. still, i was positive i could do it if i wanted.

i think i still am. let's puncture the porcelain and find out.

V. FROSTY FIELD DAYS

you never pressed your bare hands to aquarium tanks--you didn't want to leave fingerprints. you understood the hopeless hugeness of the world and appreciated the tiny nook of space you hid inside of. honey-blown fear silenced the static roar in your head; affection stamped your forehead and wrapped you in a mink blanket.

you returned to something flushed, cold. you spread out your arms and fell into light, shot dawn from your skin. radiated love and ache and loss. the raspberries were never stain-red enough. your words were never sweet enough. the wind made it impossible to read.

Do you love me? Do you still think my hair smells like winter-spring?

VI. IT DIDN'T HURT AT ALL

i often consider the time i sat pensively in a nearby bodega,holding a coffee cup with both hands and slouching in the tall stool. my feet dangled over the tile and i stared out the frosted window, watching the storm bloom. cozy in my self-imposed isolation, i blew the steam off the top of my paper cup, willing myself to blow away just as easily.

i had abandoned my final project, a still life drawing, at the studio down the street. had wandered into the shop. didn't know where i was or what i wanted. dazedly sat and watched moved life, water spilling.

a wayward ghost, a vacant stare, a stilted apology, a cold wave. gabriel, michael, raphael, uriel. i swallowed it. count to four; hop over the sidewalk crack. i walked into the rain. it did not make me clean.