Lisa Marie Basile: 33 Confessions
Photo: Lisa Marie Basile

Photo: Lisa Marie Basile

33 confessions

I grow a new body in summer; one wave and I am clean. I am sub rosa. I am every summer tumbling forever.  I never asked for this, but November gave me a summer hunger. I must tumble again until I find the light. 

I am trying so hard to inhabit the thing people see of me, but I am a girl with rotten teeth; I was born in new jersey where the trains connect to everywhere and nowhere and I wasn’t made for wings.

I was once champagne and grass; but now I’m behaving. 

I used to have a friend who knew my name. She only ever called me by another. I spent years wondering who that was supposed to be.

When I was very young, the whole precipice collapsed and I woke up with the insects in the underbelly. We lived in the woods for a few years, between the green and the blue. I remember sap. I remember fireflies. I counted stars. It was too expensive to heat the house in winter, so we left. But I remember the faces we made in the candlelit dark. There is a room inside me made of that place. 

I watched him from the back of the police car. I didn’t dare touch the door handle, in case we were locked in. My brother turned to me with a soft face and said it’s okay. I replay replay replay until my cuticles are bleeding. 

When I say I want to live, what I mean is I want to go deeper. Take me there; that’s when I stop wanting to be alive.

The man who came out of the cell is different. There’s a valley and we can’t hike it. There’s a man who doesn’t realize his own earth. 

I signed my name to 50,000 invisible dollars so that I could prove my ancestors wrong. They want poetry of the sea. They want poetry of body. They can’t understand the Institution. I thought I summoned something grand, but I only signed my name onto another rotation of a broken cycle. 

I threw my windows open and called for La Bella 'Mbriana — the air, give me the air, per favore. The air. It was meant to cleanse this space but I’m still sick.

At night I get into my skin and play music in the dark. I don’t tell anyone or wake anyone but then when I finally crawl back into bed I am a transformed thing. No one goes to the same church. 

I stood at the same water’s edge and spoke to the same sea. In three years I begged to heal three bodies. Sometimes I wonder if I’m casting spells or shackling myself to the impossible.

When you died there was black blood everywhere and my mother came to me by cab to weep. She turned back around because she thought you’d be in the living room, waiting. She couldn’t bear to leave your ghost. I asked her what she felt and then I wrote about it. Now you’re alive forever because I’m a thief of wounds.

There is a small part of my body that wilts at your name. You are the altar of my madness. The glass and garden in opera shatters. What they don’t know is how you worshipped me. It was supposed to distract me from your cruelty. 

As a child I purposefully got on the wrong bus. I wanted to get lost. My mother had auburn hair then, and it made no sense, and when she saw me in the summer sun, finally found, she wept. I have never known that love. I still want to get lost.

I watch you as you speak about her, and I lie. Oh how I have become liar. How I become the lie. 

You can’t know me until you know what it feels like to wait for insurance to approve the medicine that comes between my father’s life and death. Until you know what the inside of that black tulip looks like don’t say my name. 

On the beach I traced your name in the sand. And then the fever dream. 

When I love you I see your smallness. I can smell your lack. It’s this or nothing. 

The truth is I start to panic; in me a hundred Venetian masks running in the rain. Who moves between the rain drops? Which body is real? 

I cast spells that don’t always work because I am too feral. I can’t call on the elements because I am the elements.

I punish myself with simplicity and pink. 

In Andalucía I found myself at the top of a hill at noon. The white houses were a song I knew before birth. 

They always tell you that it gets easier. It never does; it changes shape and melody. But eventually it becomes the sort of nightfall you can sleep through.

I sprawled out on the couch next to my cat and watched the light fall from the sky onto his face. The peace. The little particles coming for my heart. Everything so slow and realized.

The night before my grandmother left forever she drank at the bar built by the man whose hands touched me. 

When you know poverty you live forever in a wind tunnel. That noise, that pull. It stretches on even when the windows are open and the room is allowed to breath.

I know what you said about me in Italy. The problem is that Italy knows it too. Watch your back at night. My ancestors prefer blood to pearls.

My mother is a Leo underneath the hunger. Slowly the lion emerges, renamed. It is not about bravery. It’s about the cowardice not killing you. 

I am behind a scrim; I am the scrim. I am the beyond. 

When I saw my spine for the first time I saw ivy. I felt the wound but I saw only god. 

Lighten your hair, they said. Convert. Come home for dinner. And the tulips and the tulips and the tulips. They were my only language. I lightened my hair and still spoke my damage. I spoke my name until my hair grew so black night fell. 

I keep a crucifix and a vial of sand. I keep my body. I keep everything from the day I was born. Who knows what I will carry tomorrow. Who knows who.

Lisa Marie Basile is most recently the author of Nympholepsy, a poetry collection, and Light Magic for Dark Times, a collection of practices and rituals for self-care. She is the founder and editor of Luna Luna Magazine, and her work can be found in The New York Times, Catapult, Entropy, Bustle, Bust, Best American Poetry, Best American Experimental Writing, The Atlas Review, and more. She received an MFA in Writing from the New School and is working on her forthcoming book, Wordcraft, which explores writing as ritual act.