Original Art by Katelin Jaegers

I am not a garden

by Bella Ziade

I am going to keep the dead flowers in my room until I feel better
That way I won't see my bed as a graveyard but rather as something that gives and lets go
Blooms and buries

And though the smell of decay is not sweet
Nor is it sour
Perhaps it will serve as a reminder that I will always be followed by this stench that is my sadness
And that there must be another place to mourn that isn't this body
I am not a garden I am just a girl 
I cannot water the trees if I am thirsty too 
I often think back to when I began to thaw in the summer  
When the light forced itself onto my face 
And the grass in my backyard reached my knees 
I would sit in it for hours writing the same poem over and over 
A manifestation I hoped to plant within me   
Believing that I could write you out of existence with sentences that grew to overcome me 
And I would try to pick out the weeds next to my feet 
But end up with handfuls of dandelions and other beautiful things  
So when I realised  I was hurting, and that there was nothing I could do to make it go  away, I forced myself to stare at the naked body in my mirror  
All skin without soul  
All hands that don’t want to let go 
I felt you between my wrinkles  
And in the far corners of my eye 
I depersonalised into an existence where I forgave you  
Who am I if I don’t love you? 
My body is growing more secular every day  
And I can see that in my reflection 
So, I run myself a bath 
And watch my fingers prune until it I believe that they are just skin and not anything more than that  
And I hear silly things in my meditations 
Affirmations like the way I love myself is the way I let others love me 
And only I can allow myself to let go 
But still, I grip the rough edges of the amethyst in my left palm 
My receiving hand has let go more than it has held 
Until I feel my muscles swell around the crooked rock 
Now my heartbeat is felt in each breath 
This is now the only way I know it’s still there  
This is the only way I know I am feeling 
I have no more hiding spots  
No more parks or rosemary bushes to sit in 
And so I go to empty car parks with dirt in my hands 
Trying to see myself as the garden they say I am  
Instead I am settling into this self that others’ use as a temporary home 
Where the guests lick their plates clean and always ask for more 
And I know that goodbyes are hard 
So, I don’t ask them for one when they leave 
Instead, I frame photos of them on the walls I keep having to build 
Now my mind is a long hallway of faces I will never forget  
I’m a haunted house with the windows open 
And the lights always on  
I’m a house fire waiting to burn 
A warmth is inside me that cannot be touched  
I have tried to decorate the absence I live with 
Fairy lights and candles and art 
I have tried to find beauty in grief 
But it sits on the windowsill next to my dying flowers  
I’m still learning how to not love you 
When my hair gets oily and I leave it for a few days in a bun 
All grease and pillow sheets 
Kept secrets and chipped nail polish 
This is when I think of you the most  
And with the mirrors steamed in my bathroom 
I fingerpaint a smile on my face  
And I watch myself bleach every strand on my hair that you may have touched  
Unloving you is messy 
Tonight, I am the dirty laundry sitting in the corner of my room 
But I’m telling myself it’s okay 
I don’t need to be clean right now 
I have nowhere to go 
I have no one to see 
I can’t leave without a mask on anyways 
I can paint my skin  
I can hide this 
I am so used to trying on new faces to keep up with the people I’m becoming 
I know I’m not a garden because my soil is poisoned 
Nothing grows where I live 
I have never loved without getting hurt 
Even if I burn my skin in the sun just so that the light feeds you 
I will still have to carve and cut your roots out of me when you leave 
And stick band aids on the wounds that bleed   
I am in an introverted war  
And I think I might lose 
But I know that I will remake myself tomorrow morning 
I am planting seeds in the part of me that I have never met before 
I will fold myself into origami and avoid the rain  
Just to hide the self that is too scared to face you 

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