dress yourself in all black
no bright colors
that draw wandering eyes.
Wear the only baseball cap you own
position your pony tail
so the brim shields most of your face
but you still have enough peripheral vision
to look over your shoulder.
Move the ring you have worn on your right hand
since you were 16,
to the left ring finger.
You cannot tell the difference
between those who will leave
when there is a shadow of another man
and those who will see it as a challenge.
Tie your small pocket knife into the waistband of your shorts,
last resort first.
Clip your keys to your bra
and tuck your mace canister
in the space between your *******
along with all the promises
of men who have loved you
and promised to protect you.
text your sister
tell her where you are going
and ask her to check on you
if you have not replied in an hour.
Keep one earbud out,
and do not get lost in the strains
of Tracy Chapman's voice, no matter how beautiful.
***** up your ears
the way you have seen a deer's twitch in twilight,
You both know what it is to be prey.
In your apartment complex
as you run across the green space,
there are children laughing,
and you feel safe enough.
Do not let this last.
When you reach the road
feel the power of your thighs beneath you
as you sprint across,
controlled sinew and muscle
you always wanted them to be strong enough
to kick a hole in brick.
slip your mace out of your bra
and into your fist
while you sprint through the wooded drive.
In your mind, practice screaming
FIRE! HELP! GET THE **** AWAY FROM ME!
until your vocal chords are in imagined shreds.
You know if you are too tired,
you cannot outrun someone.
Your lungs will give out before your legs do,
breathe deep, and pull your shoulders back.
You have never swung a punch
at another human
but you imagine what it would be like,
the bones of your knuckles
breaking across a zygomatic arch.
When you pass others
do not meet their eyes, do not smile.
Under the imagined safety of your hat brim
keep your eyes on the sidewalk and their feet,
in case they turn toward you.
Remember where the parents with children are walking
because they will be a safe haven to run to.
When there is no one in front of you,
look over your shoulder.
On your way back through the wooded drive
when Judges 19:25
the news reports of gang rapes on buses,
Kitty Genovese, and the voices of all the women you know
who have been harassed and *****, flash through your mind
text your sister that you are safe
only when you are back in your apartment
and the door is locked,
and you are sure no one has come in
while you were out.
Kiss the salt from your skin
and thank your body