When I Dreamed – Marysa Lee


I had a dream the other night that I had a book of everyone I’d ever met.
Each page was another face,
Preserved by time, just the way I saw them in my mind when I looked
At the memories I had lovingly hung on the walls of my ribs.
My ribs, they tighten every time I see that face again and I hold my breath too long
I crave the blackness that suffocation grants, allowing me to numb myself just one more
I didn’t know the past would burn this badly, but this is a forest fire.
I’d rather a flower on fire than a heart though, for flowers grow back with time, but a
heart will scatter in ashes… as mine is right now.
Right now, as I thumb through pages every one of them found a way to break the bonds,
hoped that we would laugh about it but instead
They too became fractals in the gray, windowless world I slumber in.
Another dog-eared page to read each morning.
Another dog-eared page and I pour myself out again, staining the pages with my bloody
I think about how I am slipping on my own blood, drinking my tears, smoking my
thoughts these days.
How these days, every reflection looks different, every face a void of the unsung future
we never grasped.
Stories I am afraid of, stories I thought I wouldn’t survive, stories I’d give anything to relive,
Pages of more people I miss, people who miss me and people who scare me.
People I wish I never lost and people I wish I never met.
How these days, every effervescent memory swirls around my white ankles like the
ocean in march.

I had a dream the other night that I had a book of everyone I’d ever met.
Each page was another face,
A flame illuminating another locked chamber of my mind,
All the strangest tapestries lining the darkened corridors, woven from features I had
Frayed by rats clawing at the past, tangible once again under dusty chandeliers
In an empty castle echoing with bittersweet laughter.
I turn the pages faster so there is wind blowing from the kingdom on a hill to my face.
I see more faces, and the wasps that live inside my chest rattle in their paper nests
Irritated by my sentimentality they begin to sting- pins and needles! Pins and needles!
My memory is the antithesis of asleep.

I pause on your page.
I recall how I used to make you smile at night.
You had the loveliest smile, even my mother agreed.
How we had imagined fake constellations out of the glow in the dark stars on my
bedroom ceiling,
How I picked up your shattered glass bones and glued them back together with
everything I had.
I forgot that while a skeleton stays put, the ghost is sure to wander. I never thought I’d
lose you that way.
And then I turned the page, discarded the pain, held my breath again.
I see more faces, more moonlit adventures and forsythia branches and mornings as the
first ones on the beach.
I see more wrinkles, more kind eyes, the first person who said they loved me and meant it.
I see mountaintops and Crayola crayons and sick days with chicken soup and Scooby Doo.
I see stained glass choir concerts and trick or treating and chairlifts in a blizzard.
I see Oreos with the frosting eaten out, Gucci cologne, teapot wallpaper, the last words
she ever said to me:
“That’s every sweet of you.”
I see bus drivers, lovers, camp counselors, cashiers, Raabis, librarians, friends, teachers
I see my city from an airplane window and I see my best friend hugging me tight
I see blurry basements and street signs and concerts and favorite sweaters and
I see the Grand Canyon, breaking and entering, secrets weighing down the bags under her eyes
I see a funeral, city rooftops, his slanted ceilings, her beloved rubber tree plant
I see him crying and I see hurricane clouds blowing over a choppy ocean
I see hazel eyes, Christmas ornaments, the bracelet she always wore
I see pearl earrings and lighthouses and old records and a black and white pony
I see chiffon dresses, a four leaf clover, a dock drifting in a lake
I see fireworks, gravestones, dimples, her beloved orange cat: Moth
I see clippings from her favorite book, the Breakfast Club, a hidden tattoo:
“It’s from this poem” she had said.
I see lemon tea with honey, snowmen, his crooked smile, the dream catcher hanging
from the rearview mirror
I see beat up red converse, a homemade piercing, his face when I asked what
happened to us:
“What do you mean?” He had said.
I see the bed of a pickup truck, wet leaves on a winding lane, a tree swing, paw prints
I see the heartlines on palms, endings that never happened, plans that we never carried out
I see sunrises we missed because we were still asleep, dreaming
I don’t dream that often anymore, perhaps I have scared myself with the nostalgia of my
Perhaps I would rather be numb than feel pins and needles up my spine, in my mind, emotional puppeteers.

But I had a dream the other night that I had a book of everyone I’d ever met.
And when I woke up I realized that it is not years I shared with each face but the moment
The moments are what had stuck in my cobwebbed memory, light enough filter the
sunlight for years
Unforgettable idiosyncrasies, bad ideas, favorite things floating in the galaxy above my shoulders
I breathe the past into the present, orbiting a lifetime of faces that form a constellation
My name in the stars.


Poems by Carmen Ye

Carmen Ye is a 23-year-old living in Washington, DC and missing Hong Kong.

Note from the author:  I write to share my experiences as a woman of color learning to love self and community. These are my stories of diaspora, relationships, identity, healing, and reclamation. I hope you find home in these words. 

You can find more of Carmen at wordsileftbehind.tumblr.com

Small Talk

I don’t want to make small talk
I don’t want to know your favorite food
I want to know what your kitchen smells like when you’re lonely
Do you fill it with cinnamon
To remind yourself of the last latte she drank there
Or do you let the pizza and beer take hold
Until you can’t remember
Which spoons have been desecrated by her lips

I don’t want to know your mother’s name
I want to know if your insides curled
And whether you could look her in the eye
The first time you told her a lie
I don’t want to know what you do for a living
I want to know how you spend your time dreaming

I want to know who broke your heart
And why you let them
I want to know what grief looks like scattered on the floor
And how you picked up the pieces
To stand before me, all soul and fire and hope, still
I want to know what you would ink over that fragile muscle
What you carry close enough to you
That you would risk it bleeding into your lifeline

I want to know what anchors you to this earth
And whether you could lose it
And start all over again tomorrow

I Am The Best Liar I Know

The guy I drunkenly kissed last night
Told me my nose ring was cute
I didn’t tell him
My mother thinks I should stop
Desecrating my body

He picked me up as his mouth found mine
I didn’t tell him
You used to do the same thing
So could he please put me down

He said he was in town for the weekend
And we should stay in touch

I didn’t tell him
This was all I wanted
Not a last name or a hometown
Or an invitation to pretend
I am anything but difficult to hold

Letter to Your Next

This is how it goes
He will tell you
He is not ready for a relationship

In the night
Wedged between the curves of your waist
And every good-bye he has said
He tells himself it is better this way

He will reassure you
You are more than a warm body
This is not commitment
But it is not rejection, either
He has become a master
Of walking fine lines

You think, maybe
If you give enough
You can wear him down
We are all trying to fix cracks
Not of our own making

Despite your best efforts
Everything inside you
To turn around
Before you short-circuit another nerve
You keep falling

I wonder if you will know better
Than to let him call you babe
He has wrapped his mouth around the word
With my name, too

He lets people believe
There is nothing to be scared of
With his firm hands
And gentle ways

One day, he will tell you he loves you
Sweetie, he even lets himself believe it

When he says this
You do not have to worry that he still loves me
He forgets easily