Too Late for Saint Jude

by Brittany Sando

nails in Your headboard, nails
across Your bathroom tile, nails
down Your tattoo smothered back, Your lips
to my ear, cracked, whisper:

you’ll take me to the grave with you.

& i heard you, loud, loud
as your smoke-stained knuckles rapping on the kitchen table,
not the same sound they made against my skull-
that was louder, like
the slam of your old screen door or
the crash of your empty scotch glass
striking tile.

you used the light in your eyes to ignite cigarettes
until it burned out completely
& then you used mine-
i became your two-in-one ash-tray matchbox,
a new invention by your scarred fingertips,
by your smoke clouded mind-
i was proud to be an object of your creation.
unfortunately for me, nothing stays new forever-
time came over me like lung cancer
as i watched you find new toys to play with,
as i waited for you to come home,
vomiting blood & scotch into your kitchen sink-
you smelled like scotch & cheap perfume
& you slapped the color back into my face
when i told you this.

i want you to know:

it was my calloused hands that shattered
your empty scotch glass-
i didn’t want to be the only broken toy in your house anymore
so i left the blood-stained shards on the tile floor
& curled into a ball on the couch,
waiting for you to come home,
drowning myself in the patched-up fabric,
letting the styrofoam soak into my bones.

you separated my body from cushion
to throw it into shattered glass-
the shards tore open every line in my palms
as i tried in vain to straighten the knees
your gorilla fists hardwired to bend-
i apologized until my words didn’t make sense anymore,
& what little i had left of my voice
dissolved into the walls of your house
with the rest of me.

the next time i broke a glass,
i locked myself inside your beat up blue mustang
& turned on the ignition-
the smoke cloud around the windows screamed my name
with your voice
as my thinning bones became the gasoline
that would fuel what was left
of my blown out fire.

i woke up alone in your basement
in a pile of your old blankets,
a broken spring scratching coils into my spine,
leaving a treasure map of bloody dash marks-
i prayed to saint jude that it would lead me
away from you.

when my scorched lungs scabbed over,
i used the voice you thought you buried to scream your name
until a sound came out
until my hands shook & my knees buckled
& my eyes burned of the smoke your lips blew into them
as you held my collar in your gorilla fists
& kicked my legs out from underneath me.

i want you to know:

black and blue aren’t my favorite colors anymore,
not after i became the reusable canvas
for an angry finger painter-
a child you are,
an unmatched temper, or so you thought-
but my head isn’t hollow like your kitchen table
& my lungs have inhaled enough smoke
to set my body on fire.

nicotine and nocello are not excuses
for the bruises that encase my skin like chokeweed-
i am not here for your benefit, i am not here
to become another one of your broken toys
& i will burn this house to the ground
with the next cigarette scar you give me-
i am not your cracked flatscreen, i am not
your couch, your car, your ash-tray-
i come with a pronoun.

My nails in your headboard, My nails
across your bathroom tile, My nails
down your tattoo smothered back, My nails
around the black handle of your hunting knife.

i want you to know:

i think about the       push
more than i think about you, but
sometimes, i can still feel your lips
against my ear, cracked, whisper:

you’ll take me to the grave with you.

you were wrong,
& now you are nothing
but a headstone, a dull, grey rock
surrounded by hundreds of other dull, grey rocks
that get the flowers & family & love
you never will. 

Author Biography: Brittany Sando is currently a student at Interlochen Arts Academy. As well as poetry, she enjoys writing screenplays and novels. When she was in seventh grade, Brittany had her original one act play performed by her middle school’s theatre department, and won third place in the Philadelphia Young Playwright’s competition for it. Outside of writing, Brittany spends most of her time watching movies, doing makeup art, and having fun with friends.