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

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.

the virtue of tenderness

Sometimes I wonder if you remember the snow globe

that I broke in your room when I was four years old,

curious, and desperate to see the world it held.

 

I had cried for hours that day,

Feeling such guilt and shame at my clumsy fingertips

as they attempted to pull it from your shelves.

 

It was a glorious shatter.

 

Afraid as I was, you were not mad.

You wanted to know why it had happened,

and when you did,

you told me that

you would have taken it down for me if I had asked.

 

It’s no wonder that your favorite things nowadays

revolve around

understanding.

 

***

 

You and I were born wildflowers in a field of thorns.

 

I’d like to understand the mindset of a man,

the twists and turns of ego,

rage.

 

I can feel some of it within me,

but I was born tender.

 

I cannot understand how gifted scarves

can turn to nooses

in mere moments.

 

Nor can I understand the piercing pain I felt last December.

 

When you break, I break.

 

I suppose.

 

***

 

When they ask you why your body wafts roses –

your face lavender, lemon, and honeydew,

please remember that their words mean nothing.

 

You were spawned from the soil of the Garden of Eden,

the fruits of Eve’s labors.

 

You were born into this world to be tender,

so please,

when they come questioning,

do not let the snakes that bind your wrists control you.

 

The image of Minerva that hangs from a chain around your neck

cannot match your strength,

your vigor.

 

You are the culmination of the cosmos,

the epitome of

 

Woman.

 

Hold that title with pride,

for your scars show that you have earned it.

 

You have bled,

wept,

rejoiced,

loved,

understood,

and for this;

 

You deserve nothing less than the world itself.

haikus for girls i’ve loved

Afternoons spent of dirty floors

stained carpets and rain on windshields

you pretended to cry

I pretended to love you

 

I was never told

you can’t make homes

out of people

 

You taught me

to climb barbed wire

without scratching my palms

 

You said you’d met god

at 3am

and he hated you

 

I could write novels

about each one

of your faces

 

How peculiar it is

to love nothing

and everything

all at once

 

How nice it is to be wanted

she thought

even at such a cost