You keep me safe.
I am the locket held close to someone’s chest, cherished by the illusion of being. Should I be opened and unhinged, the exposure will make the picture dry out & fade away.
An administrator at work sees the shallowness of my breath & the pools surfacing in my face. I am left alone with 200 students bursting with beautiful & untamed energy. His arm around my shoulder, he says, “Hide.”
Everything is dizzying here, but somewhere, this alternate world gets me to stop apologizing.
My grief flows, a creek spilling over its edges from small floods. I let the air hold me still.
Before I report, I cannot see through the smoke I become. “What if no one believes me?” She says, “I do.” I sink back into my body, but at least I have returned home.
I am almost twenty-three & her gentle prophecy has yet to come true
My curiosity gets the best of me and I browse through my old musings
I was so...seventeen.
My warped understanding of love with a twenty six year-old man
whose sheets I still find myself lost in from time to time.
Fights with my father were mountains
& I was climbing to the apex of his approval,
always just short before backsliding.
Okay, so I guess things haven’t changed that much.
Maybe the five year mark of graduating high school
makes me long to have accomplished something that feels worth this living
I spent so much time hating myself for.
I worry my poems will sound so...22 in five years
marked by smoking too much **** & trying to outdo myself
Even if I hate my now poems someday,
they serve as prepackaged memories
disguised as metaphors.
As parts of my trying to fall into rain,
unchanged & stop apologizing.
I feel my body’s accomplishments already.
Making it out alive counts.
When I tell my little sister I got a pet mouse
She's asks "why didn't you get a hamster like a normal person?"
Her voice poisoned with disgust
When the guy at the pet store says he didn't expect me to be a snake person
Says he didn't expect to sell a mouse to someone like me so quickly
I know he means little girl, breakable woman
Little girls are not supposed to be into snakes and scraped knees and oversized tshirts
But I, I always have been
And yet my friends who have the best intentions
Tell me if people saw my accessories they'd never assume I'm queer
But they don't say queer they say gay
But I'm not gay
But I'm not straight
And I keep teetering between too much and not enough
Always in this heat of this new game
And I was never taught how to play
I was never given a rule book to my gender
To my sexuality
Because they never tell you how to be in between
I never correct people when they mislabel me in one way or another
Because I've learned people hear what they want to believe
It means I will be wasting the already fleeting breath in my lungs
To explain something to those who will never embrace it
My gay friends debated over whether bisexual people are actually gay in front of me
And wondered why I walked out of the restaurant
They didn't see the lava bubbling with anger and shame at the back of my throat
I cannot even call myself bisexual
Because that implies too gendered
That implies too simple
For my hopelessly complexed identity
I find myself somewhere on the border
And some days this body serves its purpose
Other days it is violently trying to escape itself
Not quite enough to mention to anyone but me
Not quite enough to matter to anyone but me
But I see these binaries as a prison
And most days it seems like I am in solitary confinement
Too much, not enough
Always in between
I usually fall asleep with the light on
Because in the morning it seems like the darkness never came
My body is a perpetual light switch
Always swept up in a rapid shift from darkness to florescence
Giving someone like me mania after long spells of depression
Is like giving an alcoholic a shot of whiskey
I need it to feel like I am worth something
I need it to feel like I can get anything done
Why did God, whoever the hell they are,
Decide I needed the super power
Of dragging myself out of the pit of my bed
Only to be blindsided with some sort of dangerous drug
See, most of the time I only reach an abridged version of that mania
But when it peaks it is just that:
It is my favorite brand of tequila
And the last drag of a cigarette
The one where the backlog from the filter gets lost in your throat
But it keeps you buzzed for a while
You see, mania sends you spinning
A trip only a certain kind of acid can take you on
You are constantly carnival
With lights and sound and fire
That no one can calm down
You are never quite at home in your body
Which might be why others can make it theirs so easily
Most days you binge on ***** and **** and ***
Are manic days
Manic depression is like losing control of the car
And other days, forgetting how to drive
Mania is like ****
You don't need to sleep when it's got you
Mania after depression is an abusive lover who knew you were coming home
Knew you would be back for more
It was only a matter of time
Before you collapsed into their arms
When I came home and found you lying on the couch
Eating vanilla ice cream and watching Oprah
On a Thursday
I knew something was wrong
I always wonder if the way I taught you
To tie little pink bows at the end of your wrists
Cut off your circulation
Causing you to slice them open
Watching the blood pool beneath you in the bathtub
It rippled, so smooth and gently
So ladylike, as you have always been taught
My girl, I know you watched me in the mirror
As I synched my waist together with different diet regiments
Plucked the hairs above my brow and beneath my chin
As if my skin grew flowers beneath its surface
Now, as I find deposits of ash and *****
Hidden in the folds of your restlessness and depression
I know it is more than teenage angst
But I wait until I can longer deny your illness
I will tell you you are not sick
Even as the blood creeps up your forearm
The scabs are gasping for sunlight
As they peak beyond the seams of your sleeve
When you are sent home from school for being suicidal
We wonder why you never told us
But you did, my girl
My brilliant girl
Though your lips never formed the words
How could we not have seen this coming?
Your father will get defensive
His armor raised as you become child yet again
Fifteen, not girl, not yet woman
It will be hard for me to ignore you during an episode
But baby, I only do this because I love you
There were no training wheels before we were dropped
Into unfamiliar terrain
This sickness is a battlefield for us, too
But we still fear the untapped power of those little white pills
It is not that we do not want you to get better
We just don't want to lose
The little girl we have always known.
I love you
written from my mother's perspective
After he leaves me in the parking lot
I walk back to my dorm and **** half a handle of *****
I become as sweet as the peach tea I chase it with
While as pungent as the burn in the back of my throat
I needed to leave my body for a minute
Because no one ever taught me this could be ****
So I am calling in sick from reality.
I wonder how the fourth time a boy takes advantage of me
It can still not be my fault
So I am trying to drown myself again
Only this time,
I am swimming in the middle of my floor
I am a transcendent drunk
I can be anything you want me to be
Because right now
Victim is sticky and wet against my bones
Gnawing tension, turning me to dust
But I can smile for you
Flip my hair and laugh
You and I will both know how shallow this is
We will both silently acknowledge its insincerity
But neither of us will say anything
Good dog, play your part
After all, if a woman is ***** in private
And no one is around to see it
Does she make a sound?
Will anyone believe her?
Did it ever really happen
to begin with?
To Brock Turner
Who they call "ex-swimmer"
Who I call ******
I know they've made excuses for you
For your entire life
You're a daddy's boy, Brock
As he didn't think twenty minutes of action
Constitutes twenty years of punishment
But when the one you hunted wakes up
Choking on the memories you planted in her head
When she still feels the pine needles stabbing her neck
Even once they are gone
Will your father defend her?
You see, she doesn't have the luxury to get off for good behavior
In five, or ten, or twenty years
Or in your case, six months
No jury decides her fate
You already did that, Brock
And I'm sure she was not the only one
Who else's life sentence was issued by you?
How many other women were ripped from their bodies
By your hungry hands and shredding teeth?
When I get angry that you
And my own attacker
Had excuses handed to you like face cards
Because you both were young
Because you were smarter than this
Because you made a mistake
Because your future is more important than mine
I am told to stop being an angry feminist *****
Stop burning my bra and burning bridges
With men who might actually want me close.
I, the angry feminist *****, push people away
I , the angry feminist *****,
am tired of men going to feminist rallies and making **** jokes in the same 24 hours
am tired of men who I've known for years trapping me in a stairwell because I will be their next piece of prey
am tired of men who are the face of male feminism treating women like clothing they can throw away when they get bored
I am reminded that it is a man's world
and I am no more than a passerby
My outrage cannot change how someone feels about my experience
about their experience
about her experience
My outrage will not cause people to hate you, Brock
My outrage can ignite a spark in someone
who is already *******
My outrage can inspire someone to use their voice
My outrage can become another voice in a sea of fire that consumes the system which allows
to mean more than your victim.
My outrage is bursting
and it does not end here.