I learned to cradle
my body in my own arms,
to keep my distance,
stifle yawns and sneezes.
I never knew my ribs were involved
in every movement until they hurt,
until she decided the best way
to my heart would be straight
through my chest.
She told me once she heard it snap.
She said this like my rib breaking
was something that just happened,
like I could have prevented it
if I had been less fragile, if I’d answered
her knocking on my sternum
by opening my ribcage like a door
and inviting her inside.
I don’t remember how it happened.
My mind misplaces things sometimes.
What I remember is leaving,
reaching for my seatbelt, the sudden,
absolute pain that emptied me
of thought and breath, driving myself home.
I stood shirtless in front of my bathroom mirror,
studied the layers of bruises on my collarbones:
sick yellow, deep
crimson, throbbing purple.
I counted her teeth in them.