She says the thumbtacks aren’t there.
Wake up in a cold sweat. With clammy hands
and sharp nails, grip your ankles
and curl into yourself.
The inky black fingers of nightmare
dip out of your mouth
and crush you back into shocks of sleep.
Your psychology teacher lists your symptoms and chuckles.
The class is laughing and they shouldn't be laughing
shouldn't be laughing laughing at you laughing at—
dig parentheses into your palms.
Your fingers become ice while your skin catches flame.
Grow pale. Tell your teacher that you’re okay.
The pool is safe. Count to three with your strokes. Go slow.
It is safe. You are alone.
Pull your dripping self from the water. Stagger
to the locker room and rummage for your towel.
Every bone in your body is screaming to be clean again.
Focus on the trembling towel.
Try not to touch anything. It will turn you to filth.
Do not touch yourself. Spread your fingers and toes, do not
let your thighs touch, do not let anything
touch. Hold your breath. Do not let your lungs touch
your charcoal ribs.
When you get home, wash your hair three times. Unclean.
Scrub your body until it bleeds. Unclean.
Do not look at yourself. Unclean.
Peel yourself from the bathroom after an hour.
Flick on the strands of light in your bedroom.
There is your soiled carpet, your trembling, filthy fingers,
your dirty hair, dirty feet, dirty, dirty, dirty. Return
to the bathroom. Whittle your dirty fingers away.
Remember you are faking it.
The thumbtacks will always be here.