the family arsonist

by Beth May

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Some of these poems are old; some of these poems are new. All of these poems are for you (but probably not your grandmother as I use some foul-ass language).

*Right now I’m selling this album for $5. If that seems high to you or whatever, I will totally come down. Just shoot me a message. Poetry should be available for whatever you can afford.


released February 10, 2015



all rights reserved


Beth May Phoenix, Arizona

I'm a writer/actor living in Phoenix, AZ with an additional poetry habit...Sorry that my voice creaks.

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Track Name: L train L word
I am a railroad romantic, because
I have fallen in love with too many strangers on subways and L trains
I don’t refrain from making puns about cabooses. You see,
You have seduced me away from the privacy of my crossword puzzle
And potato chips
While I swallow spit because shit. Your eyes.
Your eyes are like the bruised plums in my brown-bag lunch

I need a four-letter word for “let’s start a VHS porn collection.”

Let’s takes pretentious Polaroids of our marriage – invite no one
Because I never loved the moon before someone held my hand and showed it to me through a telescope, like distant, crumbling brie.
And I never needed coffee before I had someone to wake up to
And I never said my good mornings with a hand over my morning breath
And I never had another hand to pull that hand away and give me Saturday kisses on a Tuesday

I rub my sleeves between my thumbs and my fingers,
Telepathically telling you not to look up at me.
It’s weird, I’m really good at telepathy, expect when I’m not.
I’m young, but I’ve already stopped punching my friend’s arms for
Slug bugs
And telling people they have cute dogs
And they say shit like love can’t change that, but
the old lady next to you has a cute-ass cocker spaniel
and I’m going to ask her to pet it.

I watch the veins in your hands move against your bones like snakes on sand, slithering in time with your penciled-in answers on the paper,
And I wonder if those same snakes would slither in time with post-it notes and birthday cards, becoming more prominent with age as the sand erodes
And I wonder, if that same sand would accompany us on beach trips,
The kind where we didn’t mean to stay all night, but we packed a blanket just in case
And can that blanket
Be our honeymoon?
Because a beach is a horrible thing to waste
Chasing seagulls into an infinite rumble of green.
I love you.

I watch you collect your crossword at Monroe. You’re gone by Adams, leaving a page of the paper. It’s probably the obits.
It’s probably for the best.
And if someone asks me if I knew you, and a billion memories flash before me like runaway photons, and I’m borrowing your eyes. I see brittle scaffolding in Chicago winters, lonely strangers dancing in Brooklyn to the beat of their own sweat
Flip flops half melted to the Phoenix asphalt
As if to say we were too hot to say "hi" anyway.
Track Name: deepest sympathies
In Hallmark the other day
marching the aisles like a grocery shopper with a long list and no cart
I tried to find a deepest sympathies card that rhymed.
I noticed how the cheerful cadence had been dutifully adapted to fit
birthdays, anniversaries, congratulations cards, and even get well soons
and how the sentiment
of vowels howling along with their gloopy-eyed readers
would suit your humor well in this difficult time.

There were none to be found
just an assortment of macro-fonted cursive well wishes,
plenty of blank space for me to add a little penned-in TLC but then knowing me
I’ll probably write about shoddy CPR,
gloved medic hands on a bare chest pumping away
I’ll scribble down some plagiarisms of my own inner monologue

Like “Can you tell your Dad to leave the gates of Heaven open for me
‘cause I don’t think I can get in without some serious help P.S. I’m sorry this poem doesn’t rhyme.”
Track Name: blue
“I can’t sleep”
reads a text message
autocorrecting “without you” for blank space in my bed
suggesting insomnia without sexual subtext is crazy

But come on Siri, sometimes these eyes don’t close
And these bones ache too tiredly to lie calmly next to you
And don’t think I don’t know
You’re drowning in this quicksand too

It’s up to our necks now
I’m sucking the air from your lungs as you follow me into the bog
And don’t think I don’t know
You’ve got hands and not vines.
Don’t think I don’t know
I can’t keep using you for the climb
Don’t think I don’t know
I’m fine I’m fine I’m fine it’s just

I can’t sleep beats my jackrabbit heart
Bleeding into my sidewinder brain
Because you are insane you should go
And don’t think I don’t know you are crazy to stay
We are crazy

I can’t sleep
When it’s dark outside
And inside’s no better
Inside’s not buttercups
Inside I’ve got guts and for similes I’m using nooses not jumpropes
The hopes abandoning my loves quick, too
Like how I am raced into bed by the moon
And this is because there is no metaphor for depression

And don’t think I don’t know
You’d like to call it something else.
I guess that’s why they call it the blues.
Track Name: giving my resume to my future husbands, don't give a fuck
I was performing poetry at open mics long before people my age thought it was edgy but long after it gripped the edges of mainstream culture
I am always the last to know, the first to act
It is detrimental to my cool, It is influential to my ego, which I keep in check on a chess set made of glass but the aim of the game is to kill your king so wait I think I got off topic

This is my resume I guess you already know that by now, hahahaha
My objective is to get hired at a place that manufactures and distributes a fine meat product. P.S. Thank you McDonald’s for your time.

My shift manager asked me what my five year plan was. I do not have a five minute plan. I have five minute smoke breaks that I have wasted by not taking up smoking. My dad walked in on me smoking a cigarette and made me smoke a whole pack and now every time I have sex, I fuck a guy like my dad will walk in and make me fuck 25 more I’m both tired and adventurous I am loud and so scared I am cold to the touch and if you hold me too long please don’t please don’t I get lonely at night but I wouldn’t have it any other way and when you hire me I won’t mean to make you jealous I just like to brag about places I may have never been things I may never do let me do them with you.

I have a skill set as particular as Liam Neeson in Taken I am a humorist I am a downer. Sometimes at night my thoughts are like skittish dogs that cross my path, I know that if I try to call them back they will not come. I like to rollerblade, bike, box, hike, be with my friends and family, write thank you notes, and lie.

I will not consume any of the food product. I am little sensitive about my weight.

I have taken on my grandma in the boxing ring when she mentions how big I am getting because I am not her little girl around the middle anymore ding ding I’m just a south paw black sheep I will never be able to explain the way my brain sometimes feels like it is on fire the way I am, I am this family’s personal arsonist the way that when my head is damp and cool underwater, the whole world seems to want the fire again you want the fire yeah please hire me.

You want letters of recommendation? You want a cover letter? I got you covered.

I wrote a letter to my parents when I was six saying I was running away, that very day and it was all their fault because time outs aren’t for good little girls.
I packed a teddy bear named Squirrel in a Barbie backpack that I strapped over my armpits like a turtle shell. I yelled, “Looking for a new family!” up and down our suburban block trotting along for 50 yards before I got homesick and hungry for pudding and when I shuffled back through the front door I’d forgotten what I was punished for in the first place. Mom and Dad, those doo doo heads, they never did read that letter.

I wrote a letter to Oprah when I was thirteen asking her to invite me over and make me as famous as Meryl Streep. I wrote, you don’t understand, lady, this is my destiny. I am too frequently a liar to not make it a career. She didn’t write back. And her tongue never clutched the vowel letters of my name in BETH MAY. There are 7 letters in my name if you cut out the one my parents gave me.

I wrote a letter to a boy I had a crush on in the eighth grade to tell him I had a crush on him. I intercepted a letter from a girl with the same first name as his last name which informed me I had no chance. I wrote a suicide letter that night to practice writing suicide letters.

I wrote a letter to UCLA accompanied by a letter of recommendation I wrote myself, juxtaposing my smarts and struggles because privilege had turned me evil because evil is an anagram for live because you can’t live in my nice house with nice parents and not be evil for wanting a college application-worthy struggle because that night I sat down to write my evil suicide note if they rejected me, update: they did, and I fell asleep because I had a bed to fall asleep in.

I wrote a suicide letter on my 23rd birthday. In that letter I wrote a letter to explain to the boy that I no longer loved that I had run out of metaphors for the texture of his hair. I wrote, please do not consider yourself broken, you are just a mirror with a crack that I see every time I look at my reflection. I wrote a letter to my mom and dad, please do not consider yourselves failures, you raised a child who made decisions independent of you. What successes you are. I wrote a letter to my brother. Please do not consider me gone. Please do not consider me gone. Please. Please.

Please note I’ve attached a phone number at the bottom of the page so you may reach me for an interview. I hope you can reach me. I have no area code, I am just defending this area below my collar bones. I am building up my contacts like making any human connection is a contact sport please contact me please follow up please check to make sure my ribs rise and fall with my breaths sinking into old fault lines like enemies that fall back into this familiar bedroom every time, please hire me so I can claim experience and wealth please fire me so I can claim experience and wisdom, please look at this resume so I can know I’m alive I’m alive I’m alive I was the last one to know but the first one to apply. I’m alive. Please consider me.
Track Name: the break up poem
I wanted to write you a break-up poem
Spill tubs of ice cream on to paper
With a rom-com lighting up my computer screen with a laugh track
Knowing you’d never call back
So I can pretend that I am the protagonist of the life I’m living
Instead of just the asshole compiling her eulogy

And I thought that we would fight constantly
Pull the car off to the side of the road where we could get out and still have doors to slam
Shut-up each others arguments with witty cracks on our downfalls
Faulting nights we didn’t want to share a bed
The I love yous I never said
And the ones you said too much
I am sad I love you I am busy I love you I am falling out of love with you I love you still
Because you know that all love is scarred by every skin we’ve ever touched.
And I live to blame you for making me love you so much that I cannot leave.

Yeah, ‘cause I have been your first impression Thanksgiving disaster
Announcing that I am straight edge between courses of casserole
After snorting power from straight razors

I have been your 4 AM cup of coffee, black
Attacked with mental illness so fluid I’ve gotten speeding tickets on a bicycle
And I’ve called you at the crack of dawn from places I’ve never been.
I get the blues so bad I think death is less serious than losing my favorite pen

And I have been your zero-hit writing blog
Popping poetry into silences so violent one day they will tip over our table for two
I have been your mirror
wiping water out of my eyes upon looking you in the face
I have been your footrace
Making you want to run someplace else and think fast

Because the world is big, but it’s still too small to ever call you a foreigner
So I speak your language when I say that
I have been your everything bad
And you are still mine

And I hate you for forgiving me, every time
And I know that one day you’re going to stop holding doors open for me,
Because I only know how to close them.
So I will be your final break-up poem when you are ready to write it
But I will also be yours when I am ready to admit it.
Track Name: white girl facebook profile
I am an explorer.
I have climbed Mt Everest three and a half times.
I just updated my status from a pub in Amsterdam. Check out these eats, man. Check out that man in the whiskey tumbler telling me he loves my accent.
I have built houses for children in, uh, that one African country. They shared porridge with me. I shared every moment on Instagram. They call me no filter philanthropy.
I swam in the Bering Sea, tottering out of a crab boat to retrieve my Go Pro, emerged from the water all grey like a ghost and I got a selfie with the Coast Guard as they treated me for hypothermia.
People never need to ask me where I’ll be. It’s all over my phone and computer screens it seeps into conversations with every Walmart greater I meet I am Atlas, carrying the weight of the world on every tweet.
And so what if my pretty lofty philosophy is more than 140 characters?
Try touching 140 lives. A day. I am an explorer.
My profile pic was never as happening as the time I enjoyed a diet coke on the Great Barrier Reef. Forgot the can. Saved the memories.
By the way, save the dolphins!
I got arrested for keeping a bottlenose on a leash and now I hate cops even more than when I got a warning for going 30 over in a school zone. Yeah, fuck the police I am a rebel explorer.
Please give me another tragic three word hashtag to post on my blog and let me edit it to benefit my skin color.
Because I view all races and genders as equal, but separate in their equality.
So I am letting my friends watch me donate dollars to inner city youth
At night, I am rolling my car windows up at the first sign of a large sweatshirt
But that last part’s just between you and me.
I don’t just explore to see; I explore to feel
Claps on the back and the guilt of my ancestors,
because that’s the only thing I have to atone for
I see less through a lens; it’s an excuse not to do more
And I’ve checked my Tumblr twice since I picked up this mic
I am a culturally aware explorer.
I have chanted along with protesters so loudly I’ve forgotten what they, I mean, we, were fighting for.
I am a political explorer.
I have marked ballots because of something I read on HuffPost or was it FOX or was it The Onion. That candidate had a cooler name anyway.
I am an artistic explorer.
I have read this poem at the last six job interviews I attended by the way is anyone hiring?
I am an explorer. I care about the world. I care about society. I care about you. Almost as much as I care about me.
I am an explorer. Like this status if you agree.
Track Name: electric
Word up to One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest
‘cause doc, I fucking soar
wings wide for the horrors of 1960’s electroshock therapy
Given to the sick by sicker practitioners
And I wasn’t alive yet, just heard it was barbarism
Strapped up to old sparky to zap your spark out
It seems outta whack that I sold my brain out for it, not 50 years later
Some manic depressive kid looking for a late street drug called ECT
But me, I’ve always loved electricity
Me, I barged into a stranger’s party like a good-time halting policeman
the first time I felt it, electric
The full bottle of jager in my fist that buzzed with me until it was half gone
And I was full gone and I never realized until I stumbled into the streets sans ID and far from home
I was a little old to be playing cops and robbers
They call it mania
I felt like a mariachi band
And you can rob the night with electric maracas
Let ‘em know I’m owning it in this charro outfit that is not my own
On a strangers porch circling the drain circa 2008
So goodbye Phoenix
Hello Blythe, California
Just, electric, again
Running by road signs at 100 down I-10 to a mid-nowhere Mickey-D’s
That’s what the gods tell you to do
When you’re on the roof
Passing out pressured speech like scalped tickets
In a city with no home team but me
And always, the electricity
I’m rekindling that love as they’re hooking up my EKG leads
Like these ECT sparks might dull down these pure diamond-cut highs so I can’t see my reflection any more, bright and electric like the tallest of buildings in the wildest of cities like, yeah, that’s it, I built that with booze and coke and sex and there was no sleep and no medication required
They called me manic
I called me The Messiah
I thought others were odd for refraining
When restlessness nested in me
Nothing to be sorry for
God, after all, I’m Goded up, I’m the one and only, mania is love
Burning bridges faster than I could build them up
With thoughts that race at night like sunburnt kids running in rain
And is it bragging when they’re diagnosed as delusions
Because I’ve got an electric history
of ripping tags off hairdryers and dipping my future in water
I have stolen so many of my best moments by having a good time
Until they set me aflame
Until they set me aflame
Until this repetition of up/down is just lame freedom’s ghost and I can call it insane
Until depression’s got me by the throat again and
breathing’s a slow dance dream
Call it barbaric but
I am bored of the seesaw
Just give me up
Just hook me up
to 1960
Zap a brain but not a heart to be
always electric
Hook me up to that ECT
Hook me up to that ECT
So I can lay eggs in my cukoos nest
Smile for the birdy
Hook me up to that ECT
So I can meet me.
Because it can’t be barbaric to want to be

Track Name: i wrote this poem for you
My name is Beth May and I’m a little nervous right now
because I wrote this poem for you
Yes, you, who despite your best efforts
Have gotten the squeaky wheel on a suave looking shopping cart,
The rare sans boogers and bugs shopping cart, and then you,
thinking you were making a clean getaway until you peeled around the produce and heard it
The slow whine that pulled you out of denial
Don’t look at the ground,
This heart-pounded poet is spinning a love yarn for you
Because I love all tryers, I am one myself, and I’m writing a quick love poem
For the moment of contemplation of taking that cart back,
Half filled with healthy carrots and cheater no-nos,
Lord knows there should be
a self help group for anyone who has ever mixed oreos and peanut butter
I know that we should probably eat a little better,
Glaring into a once promising cart of wonders
But shut up Beth, nutella ain’t death, and this isn’t a poem about me

It’s a poem about you
Yes, you, you’ve got the mindfulness to still smile
when ideas pop into your head miles away from these speakers
So I’ll write a poem about how your smile isn’t exactly dead on symmetrical
It’s cool, nobody’s is. But isn’t it a wonder how you wear it even when you’re wearing thin?
When the sides of your throat tighten to let your eyes know it’s okay to give in
Glistening, but you let your teeth shine instead.
We try so hard to be fine sometimes, you and I.
Which is not to say that you aren’t fine. Poetically, I would shove the curves of our bodies together like my bare back against a fine Ikea reclining chair, but I’m spoken for and maybe so are you, so that’s why our love lives in a poem
I wrote this poem for you, yes you, when I was a little drunk, so that you’d know that even despite my dilated pupils I could envision you out of a crowd, how your laugh is one outta a crowd, and don’t think that applies to just anyone (laugh).
I wrote this for you because if I didn’t, somebody else would. Who am I kidding, somebody else has, and that’s what makes me nervous. Who can put you on paper? It’s like recounting a miraculous extinct mammal in your diary of daily activities. It’s like studiously keeping a diary of daily activities, for years without cheating days and that’s how Mr. Rogers special you are.
But don’t worry about them. The folks that have poetryed you before, poetryed you better. This is our poem. You may not give a damn but my sweat’s on this stage for you, I stuttered into blurry papers trying to learn this poem for you, I pray to the universe that this is the one that really gets to you, but even still I’ll always write poetry for me.
Track Name: pheminism
When I was 14, my mom told me that had I been a boy, she would have named me Stephen with a PH.
I thought, Jesus H, I’m glad the 50% fell in my favor
You know alls well that ends with an extra X chromosome
Until I was in the checkout zone at Walgreens with a box of tampons, staring at my 8th grade crush.
Jimmy Chavez
Saw me with my Tampex Pearl Lights, because I couldn’t handle the regulars
Never asked me in English how many S’s were in Embarrassment again
I doubted that Stephen with a PH would have that problem

And I asked Mom, do you think that Stephen would have cried over a broken bone skiing that one February? Right arm jarred and crooked after a tumble on the bunny slope?
I guess you’d hope boys
Would be on the double black by now
But I think things would have turned out differently
If I got blue balloons –not pink the 10th of January.
Like say the keychain on my belt weren’t all that dangled off me.
I guess I never wonder how much prouder Mom would be
if I were captain of the football team instead of writing poetry.

But Stephen could do ‘em both
And maybe people would question it
Say that poetry’s for pussies
They’d be wrong, but they don’t live like us
See the thing you wouldn’t hear
The thing that girls hear all the time—
“Man, you’re great at writing, especially for a guy”

See that extra X chromosome it gives us
Child bearing hips
that fit perfectly into every pair of jeans we cannot remember buying
I mean we’ve got less muscle mass
But more grouchy days
See that’s where evolution starts to get a little hazy but
The extra X gives us breasts like the gods
I wasn’t blessed with this, but then, what are the odds

When 50-50 I could have been Stephen with the PH
Judged not for my heart but what’s below my waist
And in middle school, they gave me grief
Because I had pale cheeks and didn’t wear lipstick
I had nothing to hold up my low-cut top
I will have nothing to hold up my low cut tops
Will I ever make it to the top
Will they say I slept my way to the top

Not if I was Stephen with a PH
With a genetic guarantee of domination
And of course I know it’s not that simple
But I’d like to think it’d be easier to be him

So Mom, you think Stephen would be a nice white boy
Vote for white boy things, ignore the rest of us
Do you think he’d be kind, would he help the helpless
Because I don’t want to put words in his mouth
I don’t want to ride ponyboys just to make the gold stay
Not when everyone’s so keen to tell you what you are
Putting on nametags, looking for places to stick it
Like hello my name is tired of the bullshit

But mostly I go by Stephen with the PH
The son that mother always wanted
The daughter that realized this too late
When folks in college started asking what my major was
“Writing huh? Better get yourself a wealthy husband”
And I get compliments on a dress with hands already on my thigh
As if I’m already claimed as property before a man says hi

Because all Stephens are asses
And all Beths are whores
Pass this poem around on paper and forget the sound of my voice
Make the author anonymous
And lose the shes and hes
Maybe then I’ll remember who I was really supposed to be.

Whether it was Stephen with the PH
Or Beth with the Th
Someone lost in irrelevance
Out to change the world
Invent discrete tampons for girls, be the president, solve hunger, be stronger
I don’t cry over broken bones and I don’t fret jobs that don’t fly
Yet I talk about Stephen like we’re two different people,
But I’m just jealous mom, because in the womb we were equal.
Track Name: secret confessions to my mommy
Confessions to My Mother Now That We’re Both Old Enough to Handle Them

1. I tried pot once
And like 84 times after that, but just to, you know, try it
And they say that it’s calming, but I wouldn’t know
being just a bystander to badness
blazed…more off the experience of young illicit dealings than
the actual pillars of smoke billowing from the bong to my lungs
no excuse, but maybe you could give it a go too before you read number two.

2. All that gin that you and dad have but never drink has been replaced by water
But before it was, it greeted the back of my throat, and my friends’ throats with a familiar burn, speed-bagging my uvula with the fumes of exotic priciness until I just couldn’t help but share the good time with the toilet bowl in the guest bedroom.

3. There’s a reason I take long showers but still have hairy legs
and it’s Ryan Reynolds riding me like a prized racehorse until we pass the finish line and gallop some more
You like Seabiscuit? You wouldn’t believe this shit
You can laugh, but as Dumbledore told Harry Potter, “Of course it’s happening in your head, but why does that mean it can’t be real?”

4. Yes, I’ve started my period.
Where else would that hole in your nice sheets come from but 13 year-old me, shocked from sleep by a bedroom murder scene etched on my thighs, trying pitifully to hide the evidence with a pair of lefty scissors and three heavy-load washes while I stole the pads/diapers from under your sink?

5. No, I’m not a virgin
Also this is just to make anyone listening to my poetry think I’m cool,
And I know it seems as unlikely as a direct to DVD Spielberg production
That someone would want to see me, yes me
As unclothed as my original birthday give or take a few pounds
Wriggling untamed on a mattress of missed opportunity
But Atlantis is a mystery too

6. I’m not the biggest fan of your macaroni and cheese
Only the way you spell out “you’re home” with the recipe
Aged and crumbling and bitter, in need of update from its cookbook source material
It sticks to my plate like a bad pun worth keeping when we are at the dinner table
But I’m tired of things getting mushy between us, mostly our lies and our carbs
I love you mom. Please buy Spongebob mac and cheese next time.
Track Name: ampersand
No bad breakup ever ended in an ampersand
We take our last breaths in ellipses
We wait and we gasp
Because you were asking me if we could last during that last conversation on my parent’s driveway, as if to put our relationship in a coma over spring break.
I paused, put a comma between hell and no and I don’t know if I’m taking the easy way out,
But I know that no bad break up ever ended in an ampersand
And I’m not standing for your last name on my mailbox,
Our mismatched initials packed tightly on soap dispensers and kitchen towels,
Your oxford commas on a list that only required hyphens, and it’s high time to tell you that you’re not my antagonist. I don’t care that much.

So take time and a semi colon: image you were the villain,
Taking exit from my heart before you entered paper,
Quoting a haughty mug as it crashes to linoleum in a fight that wrinkles your knuckles and raises your voice and leaves your personalized beer glass intact, lets say that.
It’d be a lot easier to think about you. Period.

But you, you know me.
And I fall into lust so easily
Likening my short attention span to the long days of spring
When really I just get chilly feet

So give me poems and paragraphs to explain why
No ex is ever worth six stitches in my wrist
No lie is worth answering the doc’s question mark
When he’s gluing up the veins I minced
And good lust for bad love aren’t concepts worth mixing
Just like good grammar and spelling aren’t meant to be tricky
But I guess I only found that true until I had to use them
Until I had to use you
No bad break up ever ended in an ampersand
No bad break up ever ends