this is not a poem. this needs to be said.

A reaction to the #metoo campaign on social media:

If social media is the only way to get through to you, I hope that you can see how deep an issue this truly is.

If you knew me in high school, you might know part of this story.

This is not something that I have talked about quite this publicly before, but I feel that the time is right. I am safe. I am okay. I am ready to hold people accountable for their actions. When I was 16 years old, I was sexually assaulted by someone I was dating, and I was the first person to not believe that it had happened. I took three hot showers after it happened, wept, and didn’t speak of it for a year. After that year, I began having flashbacks. I remembered what I was wearing, where it had happened, what I was thinking.

The first time I tried to reclaim my voice, my assaulter outed this story to everyone we knew, telling them that I was crazy and a liar. All of a sudden, people looked at me differently than they had before. I could hear the whispers. I was completely alone, and very few people believed me.

I have spent too long making excuses for my assaulter. The truth is, there is no excuse for what happened to me. There is no excuse that anyone can make that will make anyone’s rape or assault okay. So I’m here now. I’m ready to talk about this. The way that we make change is by holding these people accountable, and by believing those who come forward.

To those of you who believed me, thank you.

To those of you who share in “me too,” I see you. I believe you.

And, my god, you are loved. You are so, so loved.

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this is just to say

tw: sexual assault

I hate you

but

when I say I hate you

I really mean

you’re okay

but

when I say you’re okay

I really mean

I like you

I like you a whole lot

and when I say I like you a whole lot

I really mean

I love you

but

when I say I love you

I mean

I adore you

I adore you with every fiber of my being

I feel you when you’re away

as if I have another heart beating outside of my body

the strings I have yet to sever

 

And when I say I have yet to sever them

I really mean

you have not let me go

 

And when I say you have not let me go

I really mean

I can still feel your hands around my throat

I mean

I can still see the bruise in the shape of a hand on my left wrist

I mean

I can’t remember why I didn’t yell for your grandmother in the next room

I mean

I wore combat boots that day

I mean

I haven’t let anyone touch me like that

I mean

When I see you I am 15

I mean

I am still yours

 

This is just to say

when I say you let me down

you did not break me

 

This is just to say

when I say no

I really mean

no

if you want to talk about stereotypes (a love letter)

The first time I can remember falling in love, I was sitting on the floor of my father’s office, pounding furiously on the keys of an old typewriter my mother had pulled from the basement. There was something so beautiful about the clicking and the fresh ink on the page. There was something so authentic about not being able to fix your mistakes. It was inexplicably human. I was only six years old at the time, but I can still remember the satisfaction I got from rambling on and on about whatever nonsense was in my head that day.

The funny thing is, I can remember being six and meeting a typewriter for the first time as if it was yesterday, but I cannot remember writing my first love letter. This is something I’ve always done – sometimes I send them, but most of the time I don’t. This first letter was addressed to my middle school best friend, after she stopped talking to me. I had moved across the country, and she seemed to have thrown in the towel on our friendship. I wrote about my grief, the things that happened when she left, and the person that I was because she had been in my life. I could still see the love in the situation. I have the letter, locked in a box in my parent’s house that I hardly open, but I cannot remember writing it.

In this box are dozens of unsent letters addressed to various people. Some of the people are still in my life, and others have left. This has become somewhat of a habit of mine. I’ve always had a tender soul, but this world is not accepting of this trait. I’ve had to lock so many feelings inside this box, some never to be seen by the eyes of another. I’d like to think of them all as love letters – regardless of the contents, each one is addressed to someone I have loved in some form.

The first time I wrote her a love letter, I hadn’t gotten any sleep. She has a way of keeping me up long after she has left, even in the early hours of the morning.

It’s 5:39. I’ve slept for an hour tonight. I’m lying in a new friend’s bed, waiting for the sun to rise so I can walk home. I remember everything, but a familiar haze is covering the edges and seams of everything that happened. I don’t remember how it started, but I remember regretting leaving you behind.

I walked home at 6:55. I remember the exact time – it was September and the sun was rising later than I would’ve liked it to. I left the building, feeling the judgmental stare from the man guarding the front desk. I would’ve liked to say, “it’s not what you think,” or “fuck off,” but I was too tired to do anything and instead, I walked right past the man, out the front door, and into the morning air.

Maybe I shouldn’t take this town for granted. The world looked so incredibly beautiful in my hazy state. I took pictures of everything that morning – the creek as I walked past it, the flowers blooming, and the leaves that were just beginning to turn from green to a shade of pale yellow.

When I finally reached my apartment, I fell straight into bed and fell asleep until two in the afternoon, when my sister came into my room to ask where I had been last night, who I had been with, where I had stayed. I told her I was at a party with Calvin and Sophie, and had stayed with Sophie. I didn’t mention her.

I can’t say I see a future with you, but I can see a present. I can see you waking up next to me, rubbing your ocean-blue eyes in the morning. I can imagine how it would feel to kiss the sides of your neck and run my fingers along the small of your back. I already know how it feels to kiss you, but I want to know how it feels to kiss you when the rest of the world is silent and I want to know what you’re thinking. I want to understand the way your beautiful mind works.

My mental state died right along with the yellow leaves in September, and I fell into a bout of seasonal depression unlike anything I had experienced. I spent days in bed, unable to cope with the outside world, and nights etching black charcoal across pristine white paper. I distanced myself from everyone around me, creating a wall between myself and anything that could hurt me. I wrote letters to the people I had met, but mostly I wrote them to myself. I told myself to remember to breathe, to go to my classes, and to try to keep people close. I kept my sister, Sophie, and Calvin, but I dared not keep her. The monsters had already taken my joy; I dared not let them take her too.

In the following months, I slowly emerged from the depression, forcing myself to interact with the world. I took up dancing again. I started using color in my art after the longest time of seeing things only in black and white. I started talking to her. We became close friends as soon as I could allow her into my life. Despite all of our differences, we got along as well as any two people could. Sometimes she would send me poetry in the late hours of the night. We talked about her friends, her ex, her difficult relationship with being in college.

I worked to plan a formal event, and had invited someone I had been seeing for a few weeks to be my date. As these things sometimes go, I was blown off and left dateless, but among friends. She was there, late, with her blonde hair and blue eyes, looking as nervous as anyone could in a room of strangers. She picked me up in her mother’s old car, moving a canteen and a softball mitt off the front seat. I told her that there wasn’t anything more stereotypical that she could’ve done. She just laughed.

That night, I brought her to my friend’s apartment, frequented by so many people. I can’t tell you exactly how it happened, but it was in the brush of my hand against hers, in the way that she danced with me. It was in her crooked smile and the way her eyes glinted as she spoke. We stayed up together until four, talking about everything that we could, until she fell asleep. Like I said, she has a way of keeping me up for hours on end. I didn’t sleep at all.

The morning was filled with our unwillingness to leave the comfort of the bed.

“Thank you for letting me stay,” she said, wrapping her arm around my waist and kissing my neck.

“Thank you for staying.”

It was the first time she had kissed me in the daylight, the first time we had touched since that first night. It was the first time that I had felt so at peace with another person in the better part of a year.

I think I fell a little in love with you last night. I know it’s too soon to be thinking like that, and I have no idea how you’re feeling of if you’ll ever feel the same way. I already know your kind heart, and the weight that you carry. I know that you talk in your sleep, and that you hadn’t ever had hot tea until you met me. Everything that you do seems beautiful to me, even the little things. The way that you hook your thumbs through your belt loops, the way that you brush your hair behind your ear. I’ve spent so long thinking that I could never connect with anyone. It’s like there’s a jar over my head like in “The Bell Jar,” and how’s that for stereotypes. But it disappears when I’m with you, so I know that because of this we can understand each other.

Remember the night that we met when we sat on the edge of that bathtub and talked? I remember you talking about engineering and math and thinking that we couldn’t be more different. I was wrong. We have so much in common that I don’t really know how to function when I’m around you, let alone tell you exactly how you make me feel, so I’m left to tell you all of the things you do that make me feel this way.­

the peony

They didn’t notice the vultures overhead until it was too late, and ran panting from the house of Rocco’s mother, passing all the things they used to love; the red brick, the black cat that she had grown so fond of, and the blue stain that had manifested after Jane’s last visit. He had tried to be sweet, not asking questions, and simply taking her hand and leading her towards the ice cream shop down the street. She hid the fear behind her ice cream sandwich that day.

Rocco stopped outside of the Robertson’s house when he noticed the blossoms, their pink and white heads shining in the mid-July sunlight. He reached out and plucked one from the bush. As he handed the pink peony to the lovely brunette standing to his side, he noticed her lip quivering. She looked up at him through her glassy brown eyes. I suppose he can’t hear the screams, she thought.

“Thank you,” she smiled through her grimace, and let him wrap his arms around her waist.

“It’s almost as beautiful as you,” he stated matter-of-factly. His façade of sweetness had faded in her eyes, and she winced. When he asked her if she was okay, she replied with a quick “I’m fine,” and turned her face to the ground. How awful, she thought, to give someone a dying thing, especially when it was not yours to begin with.

She held the soft, pink flower in her right hand until the car ride home, when she placed it on the seat next to her. She could feel its eyes burning holes in her body.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered to the blossom, “I wish I could’ve stopped him.”

When at last she reached the kitchen, she took the blue and red porcelain teacup from the cupboard, filled it with water, and, as gently as she could, placed the peony inside. She knew it was too late as soon as she heard the screaming. The once beautiful petals began to dry and crack. The water turned a sickly brown color. The girl stood looking at the blossom until it was dark outside, and she set it on the windowsill, hesitant to throw it out.

She was startled by the ringing of the landline, and she picked up after the first ring. It was Rocco, as expected, calling to say that he already missed her. She was glad that he couldn’t see her shaking, and she ran her index finger over the petals of the blossom.

“It died,” she said in her soft voice.

“What died?”

“The peony. I put it in a cup of water but it died. I tried to save it.”

“Why not dry it?”

“Isn’t that a little morbid,” she took her finger off the blossom, “to let a thing die and keep its corpse?”

“No, love. That’s what forever looks like.”

how to find heaven without leaving the suburbs (conversations with straight men)

“Have you ever been with a girl?” he asks.

Yes. She was beautiful. She was almost holy. She looked at the world with eyes full of wonder that resembled nothing less than moonstone. We spent days sharing mittens when the snow came. Nights were spent on top of stained quilts, close, but never touching. She sang like a robin in spring, and created worlds with the touch of her index finger. She made videos of me singing to musical theatre soundtracks, and laughed at my ridiculous mannerisms. She held my hand once in the dark. When the winter came for us once again, she took her things in her father’s car and drove towards New Mexico, shedding pieces of me out the window. Interstate 25. 434. 376. Santa Fe.

 


 

“Have you ever been with a girl?” he asks.

No, but we’ve watched hundreds of films, and I’ve thought about kissing her hundreds of times. She makes my skin itch. We were never closer than a head on a shoulder or a kiss on the cheek. We never did. We never have, and I’ve danced on the edge of action with her so many times that I’m afraid she might break if I touch her. I think it’s possible to love a girl too much to kiss her.

 


 

“Have you ever been with a girl?” he asks.

Briefly, in high school. She was stony-faced but straight laced. She wore combat boots but always did her math homework. She self-identified as ‘butch’ but loved winged eyeliner. She lived her life on the in between’s, a perfect balancing act of can’s and can’t’s, should’s and shouldn’t’s. All of my fears burned up in her atmosphere. She taught me how to climb barbed wire without scratching my palms, that fear is pointless, and that there isn’t a thing that can’t be solved with rumpled sheets, cups of earl grey, and David Bowie. She forgot how to love me. She was everything, and then she was nothing.

 


 

“Have you ever been with a girl?” he asks.

On a date, once. She was bathed in swirling lights; pink, yellow, lavender. We danced in a crowded room of strangers. Her hands were smaller than mine, and when she kissed me I lost track of time. She shielded me from the eyes of strangers. We talked about her plants, her ex, her brother. There was mold growing in her lungs, destroying her from within. She took pride in becoming nothing.

 


 

“Have you ever been with a girl?” he asks.

“Yeah,” I reply.

“That’s hot.”

love was here

We fell in Love here

Beneath string-light stars and white drywall.

Cracked palms on smooth skin,

decaying kisses.

 

We fell in Love here

above grass as green as the sea.

Kisses in darkened closets,

Love on

living room floors.

 

We fell in Love here

within forts of crumpled sheets.

Quiet whistles,

guitar picks.

 

Love came

With short brown hair

and an easy smile.

With long legs,

pearlescent skin.

 

Love came

with desire,

hope.

 

Love came,

and Love left.

 

We fell in Love here,

and out of love,

in an 8 month

migration.

 

I fell in Love here,

and I watched you leave

like a housewife

in wartime.

 

For you have battles to fight

and I cannot fend off the monsters

for long.

 

Darkened closets

and forts of crumpled sheets

can only provide so much shelter.

 

For they will come,

baring teeth,

clenched palms,

and they will try to take you.

 

But dear,

if nothing else,

do not let them take

your tenderness.

 

Remember that it is a virtue,

Love on living room floors,

in darkened closets,

is a virtue.

 

Remember to find tenderness

in the darkest corners,

to climb the barbed wire

and stand with your face in the sunlight.

 

And when you find it

in the nape of another’s neck

remember me.

 

There was a time before,

And there will be a time after.

 

And when you think of this,

remember:

 

Love was here.