set it off

“What sets it off?”
“Can you tell me?”
he asks me to
list things.
I say,
“funny things.”

funny things

the taste of sugar in my mouth.
the sensation of letting go of something, accidentally.
the feeling of clothing that is too tight and too constricting.

or maybe not tight enough.

the burning of embarrassment.
the thought–

—you know the one, I told you already.

“Yes I know the one.
What else?”

the numbers of things that I remember
the numbers of things that make me sad


the SAT score, the phone number,
the address , the license plate,
the amount of times I saw it happen,
the combination, the calendar,
the password I guessed right, the first time,
the weight I get to, occasionally.

or, more generally
number associations.

often it’s mundane, however:

a beautiful face
a confident face
a shy but confident face, a secretly a-ok face.
the worst kind of face.
an impostor.

“That’s it I guess,”
I say it and kind of mean it.
The rest are too much, even
for him.

But tonight I want answers too.
I ask him to list things.
I push.

“what do I look like to you?”
“how do you take me in?”
“do I read as tall?
a real piece of work?
or just a meek slumping
woman, about ready to melt
into the floor at the first
chance of rain?”
“can you draw me?”
“I need to know.”

he tries.
he sets it off.

“I’ll add this to the list.”

I’m all grins though,
I’m made up of
grins and I swallow
the taste of
sugar in my mouth.

For now.
I’ll see you next week, Ted.


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