Performance Anxiety: Two Poems by Ruby Brunton


i’m gonna pretend everything’s ok

behind that mustache lie lies

i’m going to pretend i believe you

because i don’t like fighting

i say i’m a pacifist

but this kind of shit is liable to

turn me murderous

i heard about girls with baseball bats

i heard about girls with gangs

i heard about girls who just won’t take it

my fangs are in the teething stage

growing in the background somewhere

getting sharper concealed by lips

when i say i like you i mean tolerate

when i say this is a date i mean meeting

hanging out doesn’t have to lead to it

i have a boyfriend now i say

but i just said that to avoid the gleam of

boys teeth like stars like

there are people out there in the streets

there are so many things to concern ourselves with and girl you chose this

what’s your take, share it with me

share it with the whole world hurry tho

that shit’s getting icy

i feel we’ve reached a new era

but maybe i’m just wildly optimistic

looking for some honesty in this sea of performativity

is like looking for a condom in the trash when you know he didn’t use one

where are you going girl you said this was your home

and yet you said you don’t want to be alone no more

what do you want from me why are you following me who’s that calling you

what number shows up when you roll the dice when you vibrate so suddenly

are we getting a drink or nah

did you block her number or nah

are you liking pics again or nah

i’m sitting on the edge of the universe

waiting for you to say you’re here too

when i first met you girl i thought we could be something

we’re something but not without influence


Performance Anxiety

frank doesn’t want to fly

he’s worried about his carbon footprint

or so he says

yet he flies 24 hours around the world

just to complain about me

to another man

frank doesn’t believe talking

is worthwhile

unless he gets to pick who

he’s talking to

you tell me to be more gentle

with myself as i breathe my

neuroses into your neck

we’re kissing where kissing means pain

i want to bring home accolades

instead i guzzle bitterness

like it’s lemon juice. i should

just take the vitamin C & run

frank’s the kind of guy to think

your subtweets are all about him

kind to at you out of the blue

forcing some demonic battle

to erupt inside your head

frank wants to take things public

so the whole world can see

what a silly little girl you’re being

the moon is one thing

your face is another

you retracted your invite last week

this week we’ll start all over again

i invite your knees between mine

knowing violence begets more violence

knowing violence begets results

i ask frank to go easy on me

to go easy on my friends

frank laughs & says i know nothing

of struggle i couldn’t

possibly comprehend

it’s nothing personal he says

he just wants me to leave

him & his moods in peace

I will bury my hands in your skull

feel the knuckles crack as you pull

me closer like you want to own me

sometimes on the way to the subway

I think I’ll collapse I think I’ll stop breathing

there are only a handful of people

I can say “I want to die” to without fear


Ruby Brunton is a New Zealand-raised poet and performer who now lives in Brooklyn.
She spends a lot of time thinking about intimacy, how to create community and
education alternatives. Find her on twitter & tumblr @rubybrunton

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