Wanda Deglane is a psychology/family & human development student at Arizona State University. Her poetry has been published or is forthcoming on Rust + Moth, Anti-Heroin Chic, and elsewhere. She writes to survive. Wanda is the daughter of Peruvian immigrants, and lives with her giant family and beloved dog, Princess Leia, in Glendale, Arizona.
Only the Birds Know
My heart keeps crashing into my chest,
like thunder, like a tidal wave,
like a car crash. I rub your back in circles
until I can no longer feel my arms, until
your tears are half-dried stars glowing
from the pink sky. The radio is turned off.
The sun careens back into the soil as you
say softly I swear she was okay when I left her
This morning. She was okay. She was better.
You say this like a mantra, a half-prayer,
and I say nothing. The sun is all gone when we get home,
and my heart is still thudding, an ominous gong
growing louder and louder as we head closer
into the bedroom I want to throw up
I want to throw up I want to stop crying.
And we tiptoe into the room, soft and uncertain,
you look closer and scream wait
no no no, too soon it became too real,
and choking down vomit I tear open her tiny coffin
and find her still, lifeless body and lackluster feathers,
her once bright eyes half-closed and
never-to-be-opened. I pull her from the
shreds of paper and with shaking fingers,
I hold her limp neck in my hands, I cup
her tiny baby body and weep,
and the pinks and greens of her body slowly fade
to the dirt, to the sky, to nothing.
What the Hummingbird Told Me
This is where the angel kissed me below my knee,
a little brown splotch for good luck,
and the top of my ear, this is where the fairy pinched me,
so my ear could be pointed like hers. This scar
is from my father, often opening and reopening, and this here
is where the sun sprinkled his love onto me
when I was a little girl and I danced outside all day,
his dust made freckles that coated my cheeks. And this is
where I let the fire lick me. He spoke to me
from where he sat on the candle, begging me for a little taste,
and I was so curious and I craved sweet pain, so I let him,
and now I wear his blistered kisses on my fingers.
This line on my forehead is from a great fall when I hung
upside down one day when I was four, my mother warned me not to —
but these bruises here on my belly are from when
I would pinch myself and weep. My mother’s judging eyes
bore holes into me, she glanced at my belly with unmotherly hatred.
I always knew she hated what she got stuck with.
This is where the mermaid stroked my worried face in a dream,
and she told me how bad drowning hurts, and I believed her.
These bruises are from a lover, some around my neck –
some nights I still wake up gasping for air – and some on my hips
when those rough fingers dug into me. This is where
the hummingbird kissed me and this is what she told me
on the day where nothing seemed real, she said,
Don’t jump. Your human wings are too clumsy to fly
and you won’t make it to heaven that way.
So I let her walk me home.
This is my skin –
Kiss me Mr. Cyclops:
I’m drifting away half-dead anyway,
fingers stained forever with scarlet.
Not blood, I promise, though I hate how
I wipe and wipe my hands of them and it never comes off.
I’m no mess, I tell you, I’m a scream half-loose,
blind and sore, but just new, you see:
I was born right here, my eyes bleeding fire and fury.
Listen, you can’t just throw the blame at everyone.
So the tides turned against you,
so everyone you know is dying, so what?
I think you don’t play fair because that means
someone is always losing, and this time it doesn’t have to be you.
Mr. Cyclops, you’re due for a smile;
your one eye has looked so weary for far too long.
Consume me whole, swallowed down and buttered up.
That might turn us both around, wouldn’t it?
Maybe then my mother will take a better look
And she’ll grab my shoulders and say what has he,
What has he done – what has he been doing to you?
How to Fall Asleep, Part 2
Sleep dismally for months – years even.
Toss and turn night after night, wake up
every other hour to the sun’s weak light
starting to drip through the cracks in your
curtains like teensy droplets of blood,
going drip. drip. drip. Right onto your face.
Finally succumb to bitter exhaustion at
around 8AM. Sleep through most of the day
and wake to your concerned mother,
her dark outline in the doorway, the sunlight
now pouring onto your back. The following
night, gratefully receive the gift your mother
has brought you: melatonin, in the form
of round, red gummies. Get ready for bed,
the sharp teeth of sleep already starting to bite
behind your eyelids. Lay down, trying to get
comfortable. Take one gummy. Think twice.
Take another one, just in case. Appreciate
the surges of strawberry somnolence washing
over your mind, less like the onslaught of sun earlier,
more like a gentle wave, pushing, pulling, dousing.
Drowning. Let your thoughts wander far, far, farther,
feel them push against the sides of your head,
making your brain expand to astronomical sizes.
Fear the eyes that watch you now — you’ve never
known their presence before, but you feel them now,
stabbing and chittering against the back of your neck,
the lobes of your ears. Shift onto your side,
curled against yourself, and ignore the dark hands
continually stroking your hair, the ticking of your
clock now sounds strangely like giggles.
Send your mind out on patrol just outside your skin:
let it look around the corners of your room, the crooks
of your house, and make sure no helicopters, no birds
of prey, no strange beings fly above your head.
Permit your eyelids to fall open with a loud creak,
peer at the clock and see it’s 2AM.
Blink once, now it’s 6AM. Realize you’ve lived
a whole beautiful life in that instant your eyes were
shut. Scream and scratch for it to come back. Flop onto
your back, squeeze your eyes so tight they burn, and dream.
Open your eyes – it’s 3PM – and stretch your limbs,
eyes wider than they’ve ever been.
For more of Wanda’s poetry, click here.