Jesslyn Whittell

ASMR 99% of You Will Fall Asleep to This Confessional Poem

           Posit climate change as the hand from a person’s warmth taken out 
           of context and uploaded as healing over several types of distance.

           The instructions are as follows: Relax. 
           Be hypothetical. 
           Her touch is the best metric for tired. 
                                                                                 Her mouth is a bubble ceaselessly replayed. I know
                                                                       everything she could tell me. 
           Thank god I have a body to tell me that nothing has changed
           and nothing changes, 

           empathy as ambient noise 
           in a video game 

           trauma as compulsive

                                                                  on the couch with a please-touch-the ache, tracing the dotty
                                                                  lines that are everywhere, things inter-measurable and
                                                                  commiserating. I say body but that’s never what I mean.

You could substitute other abstractions for it, make a variable of me, make gaping that explicit verbal arrangement we have to write about each other while our clothes and sheets dry. This is not a love poem because I have a sense of my body as both a solid object and a vulnerability, it’s a love poem because I kinda love it, the rapid simplicity of unit, of my atomic aura hovering around me like a factual tractor beam, and then the miracle of a hypothetical touch dissolves it all, dissolves me, distance refracted into dissonance of lazy invocations, an association who’s heels get stuck in the fresh-mowed neurons patrolled by the cop in my head, my mouth slack with its own sweet pollution, pollination of literal garbage in the sewers of the cities in my Brita water filter called “low-grade euphoria.”

I didn’t think I’d like being healed but I do. It’s surprising because there is no curse on my lips or stone in my eyes or any other clear demarcation of before and after. I am clotted full of thresholds that don’t lock, cured and recovered. Updated. You can measure the damage, but first you’ll have to coax it out of hiding. It cowers in the weeds of infinite growth, it trembles with deceptively original timing. 

This is a terrible confessional, I’m sorry. I haven’t done this in a while. What else should I tell you? Someone builds houses, and the rent goes up. I’m fumbling the format for intimacy: it looks so like exhaustion here.


Jesslyn Whittell is a grad student in English at UCLA. Her writing has appeared in or is forthcoming from Black Warrior Review, Lammargeier, b l u s h, and The Rambling.