1. I will not tell you
you are pretty.
How can the halls and angles of such honest humanity
be so pinched between sounds as elementary as these?
2. You need not be two stringent boughs of syllables
nor weave your viney bones abreast these five petty letters,
whirling in the fire of the river
Do not attempt to peel yourself layer for layer,
leaving all the disgust behind.
Do not tally your body six lines
too short, hemming the holes into
puckers red as those volcanoes of strength
bursting at the base of your hips.
3. Blood is not satisfaction.
Blood is not patience, waiting for the rooms to empty and the faucet
to coat and cover the silence.
Blood is red cells breathing and white soldiers fighting
and platelets healing,
tugging sleeves back to illuminate the signs.
It is not weakness nor relapse nor short-sightedness
beleaguered within a tarnished state of mind.
It is life peaking up through the concrete,
like a(n) (in)carnation breaching the vine.
4. Tell yourself recovery is more than a pipe dream.
Tell yourself ribs are the trophies of the emaciated masses
and the blatantly dying; collarbones the handles on reality
that will eventually snap.
Tell yourself you are separate;
you are alive.
You are not dying unless you relinquish your body to the jackals,
refusing freedom even as it is spooned before you,
not running but allowing yourself to be dragged, toe first,
straight into the fire. You are not burning unless you
forget how to feel the flame.
5. Fight back, even against me.
Fight for the choice.
Because you are not dying unless you lay your hands down,
and even then
I will lay my bones down beside yours,
I have seen the things you have seen
6. I will not tell you
you are pretty.
7. I will tell you to fight your way back to just barely breathing
and then a little beyond sleepy and a fraction beneath sick. Linger
if you must, but fight for the centimeter
and the ounce
and the word(s).
I will take those words,
package them, send them, bless them with crooked handwriting.
I will remind you
8. "you are
But you will never be, merely,