Poem: We, the Rapists (trigger warning)

Rape,
The fair and just punishment
For being.

A righteous consequence

For those short skirts
And that drunk blood
And being out late
And letting me pay
And being alone
And the friendzone
And the needs of
Your fellow man.

What I see belongs to me.

And if you show too much
I’ll touch.
If you show too little
I’ll touch.
If you’re too loud
If you’re too quiet
If you’re too young
Or too old

If you don’t say no
I’ll touch.
I’ll touch.
I’ll touch.

What I see belongs to me.

These your repercussions for
Wanting too much
Trying to be equal
Ignoring my advances
Denying my rights.

Tame the bitch
Remind her

“I am man.”

Let us poke and prod the daughters
Of our families and friends.

“Not all men,”

But with stats like 1 in 6,
there must be more than 1 man.

Is it shame that ties our tongues
Or guilt that makes us scream?

If he is guilty, why not I?
What I did was worse than he,
but I’m a good guy,
So that can’t be.

I didn’t know it was rape
I didn’t bother asking.

I didn’t know it was assault
I just wanted to get lucky.

I didn’t know it was molestation.
Her eyes were shut, so she must want it.

I didn’t know it wasn’t wanted
she was too drunk to speak up.

She made me wait so long
she owed me so.

She said we’d have sex long ago
But didn’t want to too many times.

Her words were hushed
No “no” was mentioned, though
I admit her knees were stiff
And womanhood was tight.
I thought that just meant she liked it

We laughed and drank stiff tequila
Until she passed out in my car
When she woke with my head between her legs.
I thought that’s what she wanted.

She tried to pull away but
God it felt so good, So
I held on a little tighter ‘til
I was good and ready to let go.

It’s not my fault,
They’ll tell you so.
We’ll blame it on my alcohol
Or hurl guilt onto the media
Or maybe I’ll just curse the porn
Filling up my browser history.

Protect our sons
And fuck our daughters.
Don’t let lying whores
Ruin the lives of growing boys.

We all make mistakes
Let us forgive
And be damned to
Any consequence.

My body is a right and privilege,
And all yours belong to me.
I’d never say that aloud,
But my action declare that belief.

My needs are all your problems.
And my ego, your damnation.
It’s not dark corners
you need fear, my loves.

It’s me and my good intentions,
it’s nice guys and blurred lines.

Poem: Your Name

Like a dirty word,
Like an accusation,
Like an insult,
Like a crime.
I hear it, and
it’s like being punched
in the throat,
Like being slit from
breast to navel,
Like being startled to
A heart attack,
Like having someone leap
From around a corner.
How my entire body Jolts,
Intestines to stomach
and lungs to heart.
Like each part of my body
Can’t bear to stay in place,
Can’t handle the immobility.
Your name makes every
molecule of me,
desperate to flee.
The contents of my stomach,
Rebel against its tract,
Against the weight of your
Secrets coming to attack.
They revolt against the pressure.
They demand to purify,
To eat away at my esophagus.
Expelling what I’d eaten to
Cleanse me from the inside.

Poem: A Most Fitting Cliche

The final cut:

Like fresh shaven legs

Or the snip-snip of a “new do”

Or a new dye job

Or trashing an entire wardrobe

Like wanting everything to be different

Wanting nothing to recognize

And no memories to ache

Or photos to caress

No name badge to don

And no ducking behind walls

No working in silence because if I speak

I will scream

Because seeing their face is enough—

Enough to swallow an ocean

Enough to warm the entire globe

To melt the ice caps

To bring hell on earth

 

Only severing will do

Only axes will do

Only chain saws and hacking away at the future

And the broken promises

And the hope that brought me back

Again and again.

 

My eyes will not see

So the scabs will flake off

And the pink flesh beneath

will prove me a victor.

And I will make new promises

that I will keep.

 

The comfort I sought

But no longer need

No longer benefit

And maybe no longer healthy.

 

The saying goodbye to what was

And welcoming a new me

And promising myself

 

That it is mine.

This change

This year and

 

The finality of change

is the change I choose for myself.

 

I am the decision maker

And no longer the captive to time

No longer captive to being disappointed

By other people

By myself

But by deciding that I am worth more.

So much more.

 

It is the closed door I will not open.

But through the window I will climb. 

Poem: I hate this poem 

I was once a little girl
Spinning in circles, eyes cast down
Watching my dress bloom around me
from my waist, detaching at the knees
reaching out, around and
around until the galaxies kept in my brain
Exploded, and I fell to the ground in ecstasy,
while the earth reminded me that She is indeed
round. She makes me her center, and I am
the sun about which the living room rotates.
I cling to the brown carpet digging my short,
dirt marred fingernails into its fibers
And smile.

I was once a little girl
Who dreamt of the life I would have
And the woman I would be. And for
the little girl who slept with sadness
and knew much more of her own brain
than the interests and personalities
of fellow children, I dreamt of happiness.
The kind I must one day know as a woman.
And the companion who would know my brain
like I did. And I would know his like my own.

I was once a little girl
who–by no means of my family or an
ill-childhood to speak of–knew my soul
was deep as an ocean and the depths
with its unknown darkness was the place
I was most comfortable. I believed in the
universes contained in the brain, partitioned
chaos that made life have meaning–People
were good because there can’t be
so much expanse in one being without
the possibility of goodness.

How I wish to be that little girl 
and believe so much in everything.

Poem: The Inadequecy of Words

How do you explain something that does not exist anywhere but your head?
How do you form words for feelings impossible?
How do you talk about the cracks in your brain caused by no weapons?

13 new countries, 16 new homes, 60 interviews, 500 new friends, 459 good-byes, and 1 lie: “Yes, I’ll come back”–because the truth would break those quick-beating hearts more than my absence ever could–$15,000 USD, 22 plane rides, 1 lost forever, and a singular trauma drawn out seven months.

Caged like a bird, imprisoned in a church, and
A palpable loneliness as my mind swallowed itself whole.

“Why don’t you talk about your trip?”

Because I lived it alone and there are not enough words to explain the nothingness and everything that it was.
A lifetime of languages could not articulate the forever in those 18,396,020 seconds of my life.
Because if I tried to tell you what it meant to me and what happened you wouldn’t understand.
There was no other body nor witness to my experience–no validation of how wonderful and terrible it was, and no one to help me unearth the words I need to make it matter to you.

Memories come back to me in snippets–like dancing in the rain while my sketchbook was stolen in the hotel of Bangkok, and the shop in Macedonia on a corner in Skopje where I picked out a set of graphite pencils perfect for practicing a new hobby, and sitting on a plane careening toward New Delhi where I drew my seatmate on the first page of that sketchbook.

And the PTSD that kept me awake at night tucked in with my bedfellow nightmares, soaking in my sweet sweat.

How do I explain what I saw in the darkness?

How do I give voice to the demons that pursued me in the night, caressing me with the promise of silence and the release of my grave–a tombstone defined by a dash that declared that I should be happy?

When my mental illness became so much more than a monster–my best friend–intertwining her fingers in the neurons of my mind, creating synapses drenched in hopelessness deep enough to drown the whole earth.

I was alone, and in those months, that was all I knew–haunted for years by the person I once was who believed so much in everything–but now could barely believe in the promise of tomorrow.

How do I tell you these things without falling back into the darkness that I once wore as clothing?
 

 

 

 

Micro Story: Memories

From before my birth, my mother ran a daycare. My early memories are laced with the faded faces of children I barely remember or speak to anymore. Daycare was conducted in the garage-turned playroom of the single story home of my early childhood and planted on the corner of Second and Vicky.

It seemed so large to me, like walls running on for miles. I felt like a gold fish swimming in a backyard pool. The air was stale and flat, smelling of cement and car oil. Swamp coolers were the only relief from dead, garage air. The walls were the color of sea shells, with just as many imperfections. To the far back and on the right side, a white door let out to the grass land beside the small house.

Inside the room, I sit on a small translucent chair, a color a bright as snow white’s lips. There are cartoon faces on the seats, faded and scratched from jean pockets and constant stacking and unstacking.

A dirty-blonde haired girl I don’t like stalks toward me. Her curly hair nearly covers half of her round, chubby face. She starts to squat onto the chair next to me.

“You can’t seet here. It’s for summun else,” I stutter out. A feeling I don’t recognize pangs in my stomach. It feels like I could throw up, but not quite. I furrow my eyebrows at her. I’d do anything to not have her sit by me.  

“Oh,” she says. She walks away. A mix of pride and shame stir in my chest.

I am not quite four, and I have just told my very first lie.

Poem: Brave

I found her again.
The fearless traveler and the independent woman.
The unafraid to explore the unknown, unafraid of being lost, and unafraid of being alone woman.
The flirt and the extrovert—the confident and ready for anything woman.
The yes woman and the go-getter.
The sitting in a café enjoying every last drop of her Americano woman.
The I’ll-take-a-left-here-because-that’s-how-I-feel woman.
The not recognizing a thing but breathing easy anyway woman.
The dance in the rain and don’t give a damn woman.
The take a deep breath and exhale the panic woman.
The smiling at unrecognized streets and unabashedly disoriented woman.
T
he sit with strangers just to start conversation woman.
The peering out the window of a train, lost in thought woman.
The headphones creating a soundtrack to new memories woman.
The feeling small, looking at the skyline of a cathedral woman.
The future unplanned and spontaneous trips to Italy woman.
The yes to strangers and no to fear woman.

The unashamed of her broken past woman. 

The gleefully in tune with curiosity and abandoned restraint woman. 

The stripping layers of an old coat because it’s finally grown too big woman.

The woman I have dearly missed.
And the woman who turned out exactly as I always hoped she would.

Poem: Infinite Soul

It was a hot summer day in a small room in my even smaller town when I first understood that I did not belong to myself, that my body was not my own, and that I was inherently limited. Fifteen of us middle schoolers and our group leader sat in a circle, fidgeting in white fold-up chairs. The air hung heavy with premature body heat and Axe spray so strong a cloud loomed over our heads.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20. “My body is a temple,” says the Lord. And my youth pastor.

Our group leader plowed through an impassioned speech, beating this idea into the core of my being. And so, I believed.

With each action on this earth and impurity I committed, a stone was removed from my house of the Lord, leaving me more and more unwhole and unholy. And soon enough, everything I did and everyone I spoke to and every placed I went made little bits of me fall like a trail leading to an archeological destination.

Explorers came to my desolate building, seeking evidence that I once existed. They brushed away at the dirt and grime, rejoicing at the miniscule pieces still left to discover.

After twenty-two years on earth, I was hallow. I was finite—a shell and a limited soul. I took too many stones given to too many people and placed in too many homes. Those stones represented a name and when I had no stones left to give, I was forced to steal from the people I loved to give away to another. Love gives while supplies last, and when supplies ran out, I became used and damaged goods to my newcomers.

I sat at my computer at twenty-two, staring into the abyss of an endless Internet when a phrase once again passed before me. “My body is a temple.” There it was again, but new words formed after this dead horse, “But I am the god for whom it is devoted.” This unknown author pierced the deepest part of me, and new seeds were sown, watered over the next years by chance meetings and prophetic words. I reaped a new conscience, unblinded by previous misinformation.

Soon, I learned that my body belongs to me and I adorn her however I please. My temple isn’t set in stone. My existence isn’t limited by four walls and a carcass only meant to dissipate and die.

Love does not pick at the parts of who I am. Love becomes.

I become. I am infinite.

Every day with every interaction, I expand like the grass and the trees covering a fertile Earth. I discover new clay and form new stones and create new buildings. Little by little, I grow. I create love and give it as desired. I am reincarnated and multiplied. I transform and evolve.

My body isn’t a temple. It’s a city.

Poem(ish): Volatile

 I walk out of my favorite coffee shop and before my eyes walks this beautiful woman–swollen at the belly. I look to the man beside her, and your face rips through the barriers of my mind, emptying out the memories I’d purposefully hid away. And suddenly, the pain and heartbreak of letting you go comes back like cancer. 

 Toxicity is a powerful drug, and your hits made me higher than the atmosphere afforded. You left me a whirlwind of hopes and expectations,  unreasonable. Even now, with your careless and callous care of my heart, I can only pass the blame so far. 

 It’s foolish and selfish to believe you’d change and to believed you’d leave them for me when time after time again, your actions spoke Truth. But stupid little girls tell themselves it’s acceptable to be misused. Like a paddle board, you came and went, beating my heart with every reappearance. Blissfully unaware of my own delusions, I’d rock myself to sleep with the lullabies of, “This is fine. He loves me. He just shows it differently.”

 After all these years, I didn’t think it was possible to still mourn what we had and lost. But I mourn the pieces of me you took away. I mourn the little girl who loved you and the little girl who gave up everything waiting for your love, requited. 

 Only to receive it when you were gone and out of reach. Only to receive it when I moved on and you had a family of your own to love. I waited a lifetime for something so disappointing. “I love you. I always have.”

Liar. 

 You haunted my dreams and every love after yours, waiting for the chaos to fall and the gun to fire. The shape of my heart redefined, full but different–like a size-nine shoe print left from years of you walking all over me.

 It repaired after what I’d later refer to as “us.” But there was no such thing as Us. You were a figment of my desperation, and to you I was the fuel to your wounded soul. And somewhere we lost our humanity in the hopes that we might matter. After we parted, I found mine again. Where’s yours?

 You held my heart at gun point, but I your willing victim. Loving you mere feet away from certain peril, ready to destroy. I trusted you. I kissed that gun and made love to its sweet metal, until the day it fired and engulfed every part of who I was. Its powder still covers my should-be corpse like a blanket I pretend is Comfort. 

 I remember where I stood when I learned you finally planned your future, that you finally got brave and decided what you wanted—Under the presence of God in the church I grew up, in the church I believed I’d be married, and the marriage I believed between you and I.

 I looked over at you from what felt like a lifetime away, but really only separated by green velvet pews and church-goers. Your hand in hers and a ring on her finger. 

 Your mother whispered, “he finally proposed.” I nodded and mumble my congratulations—her only son, finally evolving into the man he long foretold but once refused to become–of course she beamed with pride. Of course she’d excitedly tell the family friend–the girl her son grew up with. She didn’t know, but how could she? She had no idea what she had done.

 I walked away and up to the front of the church and took my place in the choir. In shame, I whispered praises I didn’t deserve to utter. I inhaled at the right moments and I mouthed the right words. 

 But my eyes stung and my heart felt like stone, useless and heavy in my chest. I found you in the crowd and saw her sitting next to you. She glowed, but she didn’t know. How could she? She had no idea what you had done. 

 My mind flashed back to the month before–a warm November night–in my living room with the glow of Avatar on the TV and the soundtrack of my heavy breaths. I kissed your neck and you kissed my mouth. You proclaimed you needed me–couldn’t live without my deepest touch.

 And in December, standing on that stage in front of those worshippers, I knew I didn’t belong. Because where a love of God should have been, your soul filled mine instead. I had no idea, how could I? I had no idea what I had done. 

 Months later, I received the invitation to your wedding with bile in my throat that burned as it spewed from my mouth. My family went to bless your love, but I stayed behind. I couldn’t watch you lie. I couldn’t watch you vow promises I knew you couldn’t keep. Your blissful bride, she had no idea. How could she? She had no idea what we had done. 

 These are the memories that drown me as I watched you stand beside your wife, expecting another child, walking the downtown streets together. So I avert my eyes and rush to my car. Away from the coffee shop and away from the woman I once thought would be me.

  We were the secret you’d take to your grave, but I can’t live with your ghost anymore. It’s been years now since, and here I am writing you another poem. 

Poem: My Life

My life is an unmade bed, empty and still warm.
Sitting on the floor, waiting for the soft footsteps on brown 70’s carpet,
Hoping he’d come back to me.

My life is the silence, save the VHS player, clicking clicking clicking, in the other room.
“Be Kind Rewind” says the tape.
But there’s no reverse button for my story.

My life is somewhere at the top of my closet next to the varsity letter for a sport I made up
and academic letters for grades I realized were irrelevant,
but still I cling to them like old lovers and friends.

My life is a hallway, lit in fluorescent decay with endless doors,
And a burnt out lightbulb at the end, never replaced,
And stains from a bad glass of wine.

My life is a table that sits alone in the corner of the room with
a half eaten sandwich, a backpack, and two chairs.
The second blue, plastic chair is empty.

My life is a razor blade taped to the inside of a bathroom cabinet drawer,
barely out of sight, but quickly accessed, and hours talking to a stranger,
paid to fix all my problems, and paid to care.

My life is a carryon suitcase with clothes I would later throw away,
And souvenirs I would give away, and the sanity I left somewhere in
Bangladesh, or maybe Malawi, or Peru. Maybe all three.

My life is the empty shot glass that would make the taste of tequila
churn in my stomach, and the back of a yellow mustang and
lying about an emergency that wasn’t real, so I could get away.

My life is a long list of people who walked away and an even longer
list of “what if’s” and “should haves”
and what could I have done to change their minds?

My life is a love affair with a porcelain toilet bowl and the fresh taste of stomach acid
And lucky charms and pants that are too small
then too big and then too small again.

My life is being “too much” and too depressed, too touchy,
too happy, too sad, too needy, too emotional and too hard to love.
And deciding that I am too fucking tired to care what anyone else believes.

My life is a blank page, untouched, un-smudged,
and a white so bright it illuminates the room, and a pen,
poised at the ready, about to write the most fantastic story.