Lana Grey was born and raised in Illinois, and she currently studies English/Creative Writing at Southern Illinois University. She intends to pursue an MFA and teach writing at the university level while continuing to write and publish her own poetry and prose. Her poems have appeared in Unbroken Journal, Dead Snakes, and UFO Gigolo.
Cold hands clasped in my lap,
trembling, clinging to one another to keep me
from reaching for that buzzing lifeline.
I don't need to see the screen and the thoughts
that should've stayed locked inside mental
vaults on both sides. Razorblade words.
You found the exposed vein closest to flesh
and sliced, popping makeshift stitches I'd used
to seal in insecurities, and I stole the blade.
Take it back, Instinct whispers. Self-defense is dangerous
when armed. I can't count the times I've backed down,
but I can't unread the blame you've etched in my skin.
Instinct is wrong. You've cut me too deeply, your knife
pushed through the weak spot I should've concealed, trust
punctured. I fold my hands tighter, refusing to make the next stab.
Brother, My Brother
Cork grease grenades lobbed over the saxophone section
while the band director turned the other cheek,
knowing we weren't allowed to converse outside school.
Late-night texts when we pretended to be Jedi and Sith,
locked in eternal combat, and my dad confiscated my phone,
grounding me for the inappropriate things we never said.
You were too old—"It isn't right. It isn't normal. He'll take
advantage of you." No, you never wanted me. You told me that--
remember? I cried for a week, and Dad still curses your name.
I shouldn't have asked how you felt. Then, the friendship that blossomed
over the next five years couldn't some so publicly—no secret
meetings necessitated by my haste and parental overreaction.
You called me your sister the last time we spoke, when you
bemoaned the relationship you'd been too distracted by
to remember my twentieth birthday.
What are we? Siblings don't ignore one another's existence
each time one gets a date, and if I were wise, I'd stop leaving
you voicemails when I'm in town in case I'm the best offer.
Perhaps the late-night phone calls when you pieced me back
together keep me clinging to the memories of singing "Bohemian
Rhapsody" on the bus and praying you still hear the music.
Girls and Boys
The girl who was supposed to be my maid-of-honor
Whom I stayed up with until three and held
While she cried about the boy who didn’t treat her right
And told me that he and I were all she had.
The boy who was my first real heartbreak and became my best friend
Who calls me a sister but forgot my birthday
When he was busy running back to the girl who betrayed him
And told me he’d try to do better.
The girl who was my first exposure to depression
Whom I spent years trying to persuade that she was worthy
While she swore to the world she had no friends
And told me I was the selfish one.
The boy who was my closest cousin in age
Who played with me on the swingset in his yard
When we were too young to know what divorce meant
And told me he’d teach me how to lightsaber fight with a tree limb.
“Can you drive me to the park?” asked the first. “I’m afraid to be alone with him.”
“Of course,” I said. “And I’ll take you to Dairy Queen afterward, if it’ll make you feel better.”
That’s how it began every time she wanted something.
“Of course I don’t mind. You’re like my sister. I’d do anything for you.”
“I’ll stay up late to talk to you when you’re upset and drive home from college to see you.”
“I’ll come over so much my family starts to think I hate them because I’m never home.”
At the park, I hid in a dirty bathroom with a broken lock and no toilet paper.
I crept over to the pavilion to let someone else have the room, because it had been an hour.
The girl and her boyfriend were still sitting on the hill in the sun, talking and hugging.
Suddenly, they both called out for me. He wasn’t supposed to know I was there.
“It’s okay,” she told me when I joined them. “Everything’s okay. I still have a boyfriend.”
I supposed every complaint she’d aired the night before had ceased to matter.
“He wouldn’t accept me if he knew we were different religions.”
“I’m not happy. We fight all the time.”
“No, it’s not okay that he ignores you; my boyfriend isn’t allowed to treat my best friend badly.”
Her house caught fire in September. I didn’t answer any of the seven calls because I was asleep.
I called her mother back the next morning and cried even though everyone was fine.
Her mother said to call the girl after she’d had a few hours to rest.
I said I didn’t know if the girl would want to talk to me because we’d fought the night before.
Someone can only bend so far when they’re the only one bending.
“Of course she’ll want to talk to you. She almost died.”
And because she almost died, I tried to forget every promise she’d broken.
I drove home to visit her while they stayed in a hotel, and I talked to her every day.
Maybe that was too much. She said I asked for too much.
I said it was no more than I’d given her. I wanted her to want to fix us. I wanted her to try.
But getting harassed at work and fighting with my father weren’t important.
“Whatever you’re dealing with,” she said, “my problems are a hell of a lot worse.”
The second often gets an unfair rap.
We’d known each other for only a few weeks
When I, the uneducated high school sophomore,
Told him I liked him as more than a friend.
I’d misread the signs of politeness as guideposts.
He didn’t have feelings for me, and he never would.
I was devastated because I was an idiot.
I got over it, and in the years that followed,
I came to trust him more than any other friend
And find myself grateful I hadn’t wasted the chance
To have his friendship by clinging to the past.
Five years later, my dad still sees the boy I cried over.
The third took the train to visit me, and I spent a night
walking around campus trying to distract her after she’d
told me she didn’t think God wanted her to live. She’d decided
she wouldn’t, and she didn’t want me to ‘freak out’ or tell
anyone. Still, I spent the night awake, afraid to leave her,
and made sure friends were in town when she returned, ready
to make sure she knew she was loved. When she called me
from the train tracks she’d walked onto, she told me she wanted
to go like her sister, and I borrowed another phone to call
someone to go find her while I kept her talking and protesting
through tears exactly how much I loved her. I listened
every time she told me the same boy she’d held an unrequited
crush on for years had hurt her, and then I read her Facebook posts
about how he was her only friend. I turned to her after the first
girl deserted me, and this one said she accepted me as I was,
with my pain and my differences from the people around us. Good,
I thought. You’ll be there for me like I’ve always been for you. Then,
she told everyone we knew that she was distancing herself from me
because my religion scared her and I only cared about myself.
I miss the fourth.
His parents divorced a few years ago,
And he’s stopped speaking with his dad’s side of the family.
I’m collateral damage.
I know it isn’t me he’s angry with,
But my phone number hasn’t changed, and neither has my mind.
He’s still my cousin.
I wasn’t there--
At his wedding last week.
I probably shouldn’t have expected an invitation to congratulate him.