Survival Guide

(1) when your friends become stops on the CTA
let earbuds take their place
learn the lyrics so that
when you pass childhood’s second homes
you’ll have something to say
when the games you played in alleyways
steal the words from your vocabulary
rewrite your definition of “OK”
to be something less like “content”
and more like “persisting”
(2) you don’t need to be either
you’re allowed to cry
but survival means pretending
so learn to be an actor
to force your features slack
as soon as they turn to look at you
let them think that the moisture
crisscrossing capillaries on cheekbones
is a trick of the light
standing in spots of sunshine
disguises the dark
it doesn’t hurt to try
and it just might chase some of the midnight from your mind
next step; swallowing sorrows
this is the greatest hurt
though i’ve learned to bare it after years of “overreacting”
i’ve forgotten the line that separates these pains:
physical and emotional
i promise you
it’s not perpetual
(3) quiet places are not supposed to be lonely
be alone with a
backdrop of bodies
like trees,
allow strangers to create your oxygen
remember you need air to breath
(4) be unafraid to exhale
suspending worries until the next breeze shifts
undress in front of a mirror
watch the rise and fall of stomach and shoulders
—soldiers that fight each day so that you may
(5) live
day by day
listen when your head and heart are haphazardly happy
to do or be or see
loving something is almost like loving yourself
(x) these are your instructions
written between missteps and heartbreaks
through burning red cheeks and tentative contentment
written for a past and future and present
for when you are dragged ‘round a ticking clock
and find yourself alone on the other side
this is a survival guide

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