Generous Reflections by Marisa Salvia

We speak through our vomit in bathroom stalls

a language most people don’t understand

a language some wish they do,

whispering sad songs to one another as we heave,

chunks of broken hearts floating in the toilet water,

chunks of bad memories dribbling down our chins—

we smile crookedly in cracked mirrors after the silence slips in…


The skinny spells start with a mistake,

and then we push one, two, three fingers past our tongues

down our esophagus

and into the wasteland of our broken bones,

though its not our bodies that are breaking:

it’s these out-of-order minds clogged with falsified fantasies.


We know how special you are if we can see your ribs;

we count them like blessings, like number lines, like calories—

if they protrude like playgrounds or precipices…

We dissect the hollowness of your eyes

and discover if your desire burns within dieting, delirium, or death;

we can tell by your breaths, and if they’re quieting…


The bruises painted across your skin are precious,

Watercolors on a ceramic canvas,

Porcelain against purple is our favorite—

If they’re blue then you’re adequate,

Yellow, you’re not dedicated.


Our throats are so close to rupturing,

Voices ragged from the abuse they accept—

Food is a sin we carve into our chests;

Our hearts are engraved by a thousand moments spent worthless

And we…

We still try…

We still strive for perfection for him, for her, for you…

We live, breathe, speak, puke for you,

For him, for her, for you, for you—


We can’t stop thinking about you

Your face takes on our reflection in the rippling water, in the foggy glass mirror;

These glowing eyes are silver

These empty sockets are deadly

They are the void you left us to hollow into.


Most of us didn’t choose this nation;

Most of us didn’t want to die…

We thought that this state of mind would be satisfactory;

We thought these thinning walls would be concrete—

We love you,

We miss you,

We need you—

And we cry these thick droplets of bloody tears that burst at our feet,

that bud from our wrists,

As we tuck our hair back in braids

As we lean over the toilet hoping this time will be our last

As we, by chance, by force, by fate, repeat the same nightmare across the calendar.


What we used to worship we disdain,

Too many miserable moments spent in the bathroom,

Locked—collapsed next to the sink,

Melting to the tile…

These fingerprints are pressed against the black and white ground like gold,

Like idyllic ideologies,

Gilded voices: they’ve brainwashed me.


Our wax bodies are sculpted like kings and queens

But we have no crown

No land to rule over;

We have no dignity to straighten our postures

No life to lighten our beating hearts

No melodies to swing, step, slow dance to…


We don’t talk to cute boys,

We listen to the echoes of our retching;

We don’t kiss pretty girls,

We swallow the taste of acid—


We’ve got ourselves,

and dark corners,

and broken mirrors,

We have our universal sound of silence,

We have time wasted as our nails scratch against our teeth

As our tongues flick against the roofs of our mouths

As we taste our mistakes in the back of our throats

As we watch it float in the crystal clean water:

We accept these generous reflections from the toilet.