Submission: Hashtag Times 26

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Submitted by Claire Phelan // New York. Check out her site for more pieces- you won’t regret it.

my mouth still tastes like metal, which strangers on the internet
reassure me is normal for a body living through starvation.

i am beginning to look like i am kidding every time i try to put on clothes
the fat folds of extra fabric remind me of jellyfish- and then
of course i have to take them off quickly while pretending
to my conscious self this is not the reason

like when i am scared of the dark and insist to myself
i need exercise, very suddenly and urgently, hence the sprint
from the last streetlight down our cold driveway and to where
it’s only coincidence, really, that brings me then
to a room with a door that locks.

hunger has become a # # # #,
a craving for attention better off a hamburger.

i can’t remember the last time i ate what you might call a meal.
(i am as hungry as birth, swallowing
strings of heartbeats whole.)

for memories of hunger, this especially:
i have been as hungry as loneliness in a shopping mall.
(this relies on precise timing, the definition is that captured
in the very last moment before this):

yet another woman reaching to touch my elbow-
this gentle familiarity clearly introduction to painless cult recruitment 101
(have you heard of The Sacred Mother?

the vulnerable are honing signals to people eager to break down others. 

familiar with the Sacred Mother ditty and similar weirdness even
before those daily walks to and from the train station in jersey city.
this through-the-mall walk was from the second level of dreary shops
to the first level of dreary shops. the trains waited a few yards beyond
the exit near the ground floor mcdonald’s. remember, now this exit is also

near that guy who shines shoes (supposedly) but is far more recognizable
sprawled across the worn seats, playing candy crush on his phone.
i hope you’re beginning to find this tedious. i hope you’re almost
just now remembering you forgot to take the trash out which seems
right now like an emergency to you. still i hope this does not hurt.)


at least dulls the senses to that stream of the uselessly wide-eyed
and their old paper coffee cup props. back then, i still had hope.

they can always smell it on you.

it’s as it was with my cousin still, since we kidnapped him back,
right under the sun, off the street and into my uncle’s van
// months of missing person posters obscured the metamorphosis,
an evolving of the mind past boot-camp into full-range-rage brainwash.

until finally, worthy enough means street corner salesmanship to pay dues.
we watched him reeling around with his flower basket with a brave sort of emptiness.
a muting, heavy relief from his finally, forever satisfied thirst.
as is their way, he too held up in his hands only one stem at a time,
an offer out to the world passing him by.

appetites are nothing. they are nothing and nothing but deep wells.
plunging into them is not poetic but murder by drowning.

the real measure of appetite
is not eavesdropping but putting on the kettle for tea.
appetite comes of age in the quiet repression of your yearning,
as your imaginary interventions feed you into a secret starvation.

hunger is and is not (is not a way of taking on the world, so cannot live alone).
pretense splays out hunger with a few deep cuts, feeds you layers of inference.
pretense is denying the despair of losing everything you “know” is good-
pretense is refusal to acknowledge hunger conflicting with an inevitable future:
the despair of relearning you knew nothing then and know nothing now.

(# # # # means no secret exists that could keep you safe.)

my uncle tried to train him out of it but still then and really always
his energy drew in strangers, approaching full of purpose.

(hunger then and now is #blood in the air.)
this becomes a scent trail, a teaser before the hunt.

hunger takes on its own body over time.
even before it firmly grasps ahold of us, we begin wasting away,
wondering if souls can rot inside the breathing body.

but over time, the ones of us leftover are the living.
this can create change and so we become bursting onto radars,
rallying without fear-

nothing more can happen that is not nourishment
the ache of the empty has become an accustomed want
there is nothing else that can be done to us.

so then, we move, things are moving and we will move with them.
we together are moving now. this is breathing and dirt which together
have become the internet. we are science,

we are a map together and in pieces-

this is only a hope but even a hope of eventually finding food.

we collect ourselves- you are here, too, don’t forget

like pieces of a bird for burial,
after all,

it meant no harm.

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