Little Bits of Shrapnel by Tyler Lawrence

Little Bits of Shrapnel is a collection of poems by Tyler Lawrence. 

to be a house

I don’t want this to begin
feeling less like love
and more like convenience.
can we leave this fucking apartment, please?

“oh, to be respected like a house.”

you leave your shoes on when you come over,
your mud is now my mud.
shower before you leave as to not smuggle my hair in your beard
so that she does not find it as she plucks out crumbs
lovingly in a restaurant
where we cannot go.
you are so careful upon the return.

remind me
of how small I am,
I am wet with knowing
how many of me can fit inside of you,
I am ten of your hands
you are three years of me. 

I kiss beneath your armpit,
behind your ear,
the pocket of your thumb,
the places she will not find because she does not care to kiss you here,
don’t you love me for doing this?
aren’t I kind and caring and isn’t this better? 

but each time I sit on your mouth
and you drag your face through me completely
I pray to god,
who surely doesn’t know my name,
that you will not be able to wash me fully from your eyebrows
or that my scent sticks, maybe, behind your tonsil as you swallow,
and she will smell me on your breath
when you let her kiss you goodnight
before you two drift into sleep,
something we cannot do
because we only sleep by accident
in the back of your truck
after you lose your fist in me,
after my body swallows you to the wrist
and you wake in a panic,
rushing home to your other limbs.



breaking down over some familiar spinal cord

it happened again.
the back of some stranger’s head
sent me smelling you.
almost kissed a stranger’s nape
in the middle of CVS
buying plan b for an almost that also is not yours.


build up 

and again, I think of our oiled palm prints on my bedroom wall.
I never washed them off but by now someone has,
some stranger, unknowing,
soaped ‘em down on a workday.
I have to stop. 

“You want to say it too.”
I left, after it all.
you would have married me.
it’s never long enough anyway.



picked at it

I am tired of waking up with you.
of having to explain you
in order to explain myself.
who is going to want to share such a crowded bed? 

against the advice of my sisters and my therapist
I asked you to come see me.
you owed me at least a favor, after it all.

I invited you into my house,
opened the door this time.
we sat together.
we watched a movie.
I don’t remember which one,
but I do remember laughing,
my body wanting to be close to your body –
what a betrayal. 

she wanted,
I think,
where there was once so much anger.
like if your hand could be gentle in my hand
that would forgive it for shoving my face into a bed –
like it would all feel better if it was just a bad morning, and
you were not a bad person –
we all do a lot of different things with our bodies,
don’t we? 

like if your hand could be gentle in my hand,
then maybe
you weren’t so obviously,
unmistakably monstrous.
and there hadn’t been some impossible oversight,
and there really was a reason we –
my body and I –
used to crawl
into bed with you
and beg you to stay in Boston
and nearly drown under the weight of missing you the first time you left,
and again, the begging to stay,
even after that night with your hands and my head and the bed and the screaming.
that it made sense,
at some point,
to have loved you,
that it wasn’t our fault for loving you. 

I asked you if I could sit beneath your arm,
“I was hoping you would.”
I don’t remember the movie
but I remember the relief. 

“you cannot be healed by those who broke you,”
or whichever therapeutic Bell Hooks quote
that is probably, actually, really helpful but impossible to use in moments like these
because god I wanted it,
missed who I wanted you to be for me. 

before you left,
with your hand in my hair,
“I’m remembering all the reasons I fell in love with you,”

we kissed.
we did not kiss.
you are blonde with blue eyes and that is all I know of your face anymore.

I still think of you
I think of our apartment,
before I became afraid of you,
before I was only comfortable while you were sleeping
and I was not.
I think of your lips.
how soft they were.
no one else can make me cum like you. 

I worry you’re going to kill yourself and leave me here,
the only one remembering.
please don’t.
you owe me the burden.

I still think of you,
I hope you find something soft and kind; even love.
I do not wish who you were on anyone,
but I hope you become someone good. 

I still think of you,
all the time.
I hope you die alone, unfulfilled, untouched and tortured,
I wish no version of you on anyone.

each morning when I wash my face
and catch a glimpse of the scar above my lip –
if I hadn’t picked the scab – 

Tyler Lawrence (she/her) is a poet and self-described stoop kid from Chicago. She is a chronic voyeur, naked sleeper, and is built by pasta and Sylvia.

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