Trigger Warning: some of the content might cause triggers for readers.
Please consider your self-care.
L I P S T I C K & O T H E R S E R V I T U D E S
Passing the Gift of Accommodation
The next time I fail my niece,
we are in line at an ice cream shop,
waiting to place our order.
My hands rest on her shoulders,
guiding her to the window to look
at all the options before her.
We gaze and we sample,
laughing easily as we
take note of the best ones,
the top two on our list.
And a man approaches the window.
He does not announce his presence,
does not excuse himself for encroaching on our space,
does not do anything other than dismiss our existence as
he reaches in front of my niece in my arms.
Instinctively, I guide her out of his way,
a detour sign that allows him to have the road before her, always,
because at twelve years old,
she is learning to yield first, always.
When I walk down the street,
I shrink to accommodate the man on the NYC sidewalk.
I press my body against walls and windows
to make passage easier
for a ship called patriarchy.
They call it a gift,
the right to vote
that we died for,
the right to run in a race
we were beaten out of,
if, and only if, we shrink.
And because this is so deeply ingrained in me,
before I can think of what I’m doing,
I hand my niece this gift.
It’s Not Like You’d Have A Choice
After a long day
you come to bed and drape a casual arm around me.
For the last two years,
I have been exploring the boundaries of consent
because I grew up thinking my body was barbed wired
and it turned out the defense was paper filled with blood.
You kiss me on the mouth
the way I like
the way that my bones turn into raindrops
and pool on to your tongue.
When I caution,
I’m not in the mood tonight,
you lay back down
and I thank you for your consideration.
And as night crawls into the window
through the open blinds and turned off TV
I’m stronger than you.
It’s not like you really get a choice here.
When Leaving Looks Like A Body Bag
And now we keep count
of how many times in one breath
he can call me a bitch
while standing in my yard
facing a locked door
My dogs, hearing the rage outside the window
stiffen, bodies coiled and ready,
waiting to see if they’ll need to intervene
and I worry how I can protect all of us.
He screams that I’m making a mistake
that it doesn’t matter because his family didn’t like me, anyway.
And then as he yells about how much of a bitch cunt I am,
how I am probably fucking someone else already,
how terrible I am.
And then like the power button
to the Xbox he smashed
after losing a game,
and tells me
he loves me.
They say the most dangerous time for a woman to exist
is just after she’s ended a relationship.
That one in four will be a victim of domestic violence
and far too many will be murdered by the partner
they’re trying to leave.
My therapist and I have braced for this moment,
talked it through and through,
“You work in the field” she said,You know the risks.”
And I do.
I have read stories about the neighbors who called the
cops after the woman stopped screaming,the woman who was
on the phone with her parents when she was taken,
the woman shot in the head,
the woman thrown from a balcony….
All the beautiful dead girls.
I can take steps to file a restraining order
that will be rejected because he hasn’t actually
I can tell my university what he looks like,
caution my job not to let him in or forward his calls,
review how the statistics change when your partner
has access to firearms.
I can take all these steps,
and my body can still be found a few days later.
When my neighbors come,
the frat boy left overs who block my car in,
party too late,
and get angry when I don’t move my car for their friends,
they see this man in my yard
and I silently pray they will step in.
He’s screaming about how he knows to card the locks
to my doorstep because I taught him how to.
Screaming about how much of a whore I am,
outside my window.
And as my neighbors walk to their
apartments,safe in the confines of their white male bodies
they tell him,
“She’s such a bitch, isn’t she?”
I have sat with Eve,
who whispered that her body
was not made for man
am complete on my own.
And you tell me to repent,
list my sins like a Sunday shopping list
Eve, the original sinner,
who cursed all of humanity
with the bite of an apple,
and was punished via childbirth;
wasn’t persuaded or manipulated,
she already knew
as many of us already do.
You say I should be ashamed,
of the choices I’ve made,
as you force your manufactured grief
down my throat
and I wonder,
if I vomit this back,
would it matter?
You tell me
you’ll be my guide
you’ll lead me to the light,
the way Judas lead Christ to the cross.
So I took some time
and communed with Mary:
she wasn’t given a choice
that consent didn’t matter back then,
that the angels didn’t care if she cried.
And in some company
you call her Medusa.
You offer to stitch my legs together
to form a mermaid
and drown me in case I’m a witch.
You forget I know how to swim, while begging
Your soul is at stake!
And so this light you beg me to walk down
I set fire to
so my nieces
are safe to
walk a different path.
“It’s Not Like You Had A Choice” was previously published as Honorable Mention, for the Doug Draime Award, through RAW Art Review