Content warning: self-harm 

After the argument,

I attack the clutter in the kitchen

until I am sweating

and out of breath.

Because all I know how to do

is to throw my entire body

at a problem,

exhaust myself,

keep pushing.

Perhaps it is my new form

of cutting:

toxic productivity.

A socially acceptable way

to destroy myself.

Like my sister

the schoolteacher

who goes for

three or four days

without sleep

in the summer

as she prepares her room

for the students’ return.

My response to overwhelm

is to sacrifice my body.

I am already readying

the altar

for the huge work project

at the end of the month.


but secretly anticipating

how I will martyr myself.

Alchemize my stress.

Turn emotional pain

into physical pain,

something I can deal with.


I only return to her

when I am spent

and exhausted

beyond words.