I Felt My Chest Collapse

Jackson Burgess

Angeline Woo Delatorre


I kick the dog in my dream and wake up
to no dog, I carve my initials
in an old dead tree, and though the tree
is wreathed in leaves, the leaves
are really toilet paper, the ice
throws me down the hill
outside my apartment, to the bottom
of another hill, one with grass
that won’t freeze sheet-solid,
Goddamn that drip won’t go down
with the coffee or smog, my friend says
she’s got a bobcat in her bed
but she won’t let me near him,
she’s going to wait it out in the tub,
my brother says he’s figured out
how exactly the world is flat,
there are no hills to get thrown down,
my ex-girlfriend says nothing, nothing
at all, I soak my feet in turpentine
and leave tracks for no one to follow,
I toss a chair through a window, stomp
on orange plastic bottles, make a scene,
this barista winks as she passes me
my fishbowl mug, I fry my eggs
in bacon grease, drive in circles
around the bottom of the hill, I know
there’s love somehow draped
in all this toilet paper, its cursive sprawl,
there’s always love, it never
really stops, does it?



So once again I’m plucking the lint
from your old jacket, kicking back
the dregs from your flask. I keep
expecting one of these calls
to be you, but it’s always Telecom,
Greenpeace, discount Tupperware.
On the last night I saw you
you were mumbling blackout
on a La-Z-Boy in a part of town
I’d never been, but somehow still
didn’t regret leaving you. I regret
it now, my friend, but since then
the mirrors are all empty, the walls
conceal studs, the only solace
I find in bottles is watching them
sail skyward, half-drunk or not.
I’d like you to know everyone
still asks about you, as if
I’m the authority, but nowadays
I just shrug and demur, stuff
my hand into your sleeve, hoping
maybe it’ll come out as yours.



Like that time you snuck up behind me
and pinched my ass in the middle of the party. Or
that night in the roofless garage when you called the moon
diazepam and I called you cherry bomb eyes,
eternal return. I’ll write you
a proper love letter if you’ll promise to never
talk to me again. I’ll superglue my palms
together so I can’t hold anyone else, I swear,
but don’t you think there’s something
uncanny about how well we reflect
each other’s burns? My mom
keeps having dreams about you and I think that’s
the sweetest thing even if my friends
call me a sap. I was just wondering
what’s the best joke you’ve heard lately? Can you tell
when I’m calling your name? But here we are—
I’ll be the crack to your mirror, I’ll be the kernel
to your teeth, call me cadmium red
and I’ll Glen Hansard your heart for hours, baby,
right up until you tell me to stop.



I feel like I wouldn’t like me now
if I crossed my path in an alley
or accidentally swiped my drink—
if I dug myself out of the cushions
like a quarter or a lost house key,
I’d probably grimace and put me back.
And more than that, I feel like you
must have known you’d cut ties
at some point, self-ingest in a pile
of pillows and hair, swallow my quarters,
chuck my house key into the fountain
we once toasted to in our 4am
hysterics—do you remember?
We knocked holes in those walls, crashed
in bushes, in dumpster beds, we saw
the red wings of the world and laughed,
fists up, Fuck them all, and there
was some peace in the trash fire,
some truth in the take-out and spliffs,
and I still smoke Reds because we agreed to,
that way we could bum each other one
if the other was in a pinch—do you remember
when things were simple like that, when we loved
each other like some people long to die?



You and I, we move among pillars
of sage smoke and sky, we carve
form out of absence and pretend
the horizon is more gateway
and less closed door, in deserts
with sand traps and brush,
we blow kisses to invisible lovers
navigating the clouds, we know
shadows hold their own weight,
we understand the sun’s crush,
so we fumigate our lungs
and hide in folds of feral blank.



I can tell by the shake in my hands—you’ve relapsed and you’re laugh-sobbing to a soundtrack of choppers and rain. And yes, I’m still a sucker for stockings and gloves, I still chainsmoke on the peripheries even without you here, and yes, you’ve still got a grip on my frontal lobe, you’re still stubbornly clutching wasp nests, but I’ll be damned if this time I don’t watch from afar. In my dream you were dancing on a table, and the table was loaded with orchids, all snug in slim vases, and you wouldn’t rest until you’d knocked every flower free. But your bad knee gave out, your plummet took a year, and still I didn’t catch you, I bumped the music to drown your crash.



It’s embarrassing how often I lose
against gravity, how many times
I leap only to return to earth. I’ve been
thinking on the miles between
my fingertips and yours and watching
the horizon for a sign, some
green flash, some fleet of clouds
marching like wind-up soldiers,
but again and again I end up
picking at my stitches, ladling
bathwater in foul streams.
First the skies turned to snow,
then the snow turned to dirty rain,
and the miles in my sneakers
grew too heavy to lug, so I wrote
you a dozen letters, only to watch
them drift into the tub, pulp
imposed on apologies, your name
and mine melding in this bowl
of skin and suds. I’m running out
of ways to say it:
please don’t leave me here alone.


Jackson Burgess

Jackson Burgess is the author of Pocket Full of Glass, winner of the 2014 Clockwise Chapbook Competition (2017, Tebot Bach). He has placed work in The Los Angeles Review, The Cincinnati Review, Rattle, Cimarron Review, Hobart, and elsewhere, and is an MFA Candidate at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

Angeline Woo Delatorre

Angeline Woo Delatorre is a Korean-American photographer and visual artist based in Los Angeles. Her clients include Ace Hotel, LA Dance Project, Mad Decent and her images have been featured in MOOD Magazine and GOOD Magazine. She is currently working on projects through Ghood Ghangs, a sight and sound production company.