This is the poem I can't write. I've never hit the backspace so many times, never scribbled out so many lines. This is the ball of yarn I'm not sure I'll ever untangle. The knot I've left unbrushed since childhood, but now it's so matted, it breaks all my scissors and combs. Look at me hiding behind metaphors because I'm afraid I'll cut my fingers on the point. Because the point is that I use other women to determine my self-worth. That I'm never sure if I'm good enough unless I'm the best and there is always someone better isn't there? That another women's success feels like a personal attack, and shit I don't want to talk about this but I think we need to talk about this, because every time I see a provocative woman I hate myself, and I hate her a little bit too. And I get the feeling I'm not the only one who uses an outdated rubric to determine their grade. The only one who needs a grade to feel they have value. God I want to scrub this off so hard that it stings. This inky stain ignored for so long it's become a tattoo so ugly I'd rather pretend it's a birthmark. Like envy was the sin assigned to me by God. Some days I look in the mirror and think I'm beautiful, not despite, not in comparison to. Just truth. And then I hear an old coworker telling me the hottest women are the ones who don't know it. A chorus of lamentation about my fat thighs. All the careful reminders that boys will jump when offered something better. And there's always something better isn't there? Now I've taken you down to the bottom of the well. This is where the echoes live, the place where I point fingers at corpses. Where I use other women's bodies as stepping stones to try to escape. Because we all want to escape. But this isn't a birthmark. And I don't believe in sin. Or God. Or unsolvable problems. So why the hell do I believe that anyone could be better? Or worse? And I think I'm scared to write because I don't know how it ends. I wish I knew how to translate thought into feeling. To transfigure conviction into belief. But I don't. I don't.
Just in case.
We should have said goodbye, but "I'll see you soon" inflates the hours like balloons and softens our fall. I think we all know the movies are a lie: goodbye is taboo for all but happy endings. So we just pretend we'll see each other again, and even on a deathbed we'll say goodbye without the punctuation just in case. Just in case. Can you hear it too? The phantom ringing of a phone we set to silent? Weren't we taught that unlocked doors are dangerous? But then again, what hope isn't?
Why do you write?
Because I’ve never enjoyed a meal that wasn’t shared. Because I feel lighter without shedding a pound. Because all of my heroes are storytellers and if I am to meet them, I would have it on even ground. Because it’s the safest kind of revenge. Because taking your clothes off in public is illegal. Because I fall in love with half a dozen strangers every time I leave the house. Because every kitchen glimpsed through a well-lit window has a table I’ll never sit at. Because no one tells me secrets anymore. Because I am too greedy to live just one life. Because my skin fits so poorly that I find my insides spilling out of my mouth. Because right now I am a whisper inside your skull. Because I like the feeling of my fingers tangled in your heartstrings. Because I can make your emotions dance like marionettes. Because I want attention. Because it’s the only way I know how to do good while still feeling bad. Because I am hungry, thirsty, greedy, bored. Because writing is the power to turn that black hole into a sun. Because if that isn’t magic, I don’t know what is. @amnotpoetry
My Favorite Weapon
The United States Supreme Court just overturned Roe v Wade and people are mourning their own bodies while others celebrate. The only sense I can make is that line: "you're beating with a book everyone the book told you to love," but then I remember that Jesse Lacey groomed two teenage girls and I remember that we were probably the same age when my best friend was groomed by her high school internship supervisor and she told me he was just so lonely and his wife was cheating on him until she found out he had kids and maybe the age gap was more canyon than creek. And then I remember our religion group project on abortion when I looked my former-preacher-now-teacher in the eye and asked him if he was sure it was always wrong. Read him the article I found about the little nine-year old girl forced to carry the spawn of incest. Read him the words she said when asked how she felt about having a baby: "Will I have to share my toys?" He told me it would still be a sin. He slashed our final grade and any tenuous thread I believed connected faith and morality. It would take another year before I would learn that my body produced natural lubricant when sexually aroused, probably another three before I learned what a clitoris was, five more before realizing it's normal for women to feel sexually aroused. I learned all of these things in bedrooms from nice boys who knew more about my body than I did and what if they hadn't been nice? Would I even know how to judge? Do I now? And all I can think is how much my body has had to rely on the niceness of men when my daughter asks me: "What are you thinking about?" I'm thinking thank god you live in a country with the right to abortion (for now). A country with decent sex-ed. Thank god your daddy is nice. Thank god you were born to a family who will teach you so you don't have to rely on the capricious charity of men. But then I remember that I don't owe my gratitude to a deity who can drown his misbehaving children and somehow retain the right to condemn a person for deciding not to have them in the first place. Instead I give her the sharpest weapon I have. Instead, I give her the truth.
I got a case of the empties and no I don't mean a box of two dozen bottles smelling of stale beer waiting to be returned to be filled with fresh beer or shattered and melted forged into shiny new bottles maybe crafted to carry something different I mean the single empty bottle forgotten in the basement or under the patio or by the creek behind your house I mean the case of twenty-three waiting by the door until it's full enough to move on I mean the case of eleven also waiting because it was scavenged to add up to twenty-four I mean the case of five eleven twenty-three again case after case after case dangerously rattling for a gap that keeps opening up until you finally go digging in the basement under the patio by the creek but all you find are the bottles in old photos of your dead grandparents and the friends you never see and you can't recycle a memory so you keep searching through the places you used to drink together laugh together be together and nothing ever gets filled or broken down into anything that can carry something new I got a case of the empties a glass-sharp rattle begging to move on while I wait inside the door in case that single bottle decides to show up @amnotpoetry
Do you recall the moment you were introduced to the ladder? Maybe you were sat on the ground, forced to squint against the sun while they pointed out some lofty goal. Or maybe you were placed on a rung, lifted by loving arms while you judged the distance you'd have to fall if you took just one wrong step. No wonder you want to defend it, all the hours you climbed and fretted, the blistered hands from grasping and lifting, bruised shins from slipping. No wonder your fingers instinctively curl when I tell you: that ladder never existed. No wonder you cling so tightly that your nails press false woodgrain into your flesh until that imaginary position is as identifying as your own handprint. If only you'd look around you'd see those cuts and scrapes weren't in vain; it's no shame to trip on the uneven ground, and so much easier to get up again. Without the dizzying vertigo of ascent you'll see how far you've come compared not to everyone walking by your side, but to that unique place you started from. @amnotpoetry
It's that time of year again to stash away the modesty and go digging through the neatly (ha!) folded t-shirts, tank tops, and shorts. One by one I extract them, slide each sundress down the line, but this year I cannot find that confidence I swear I had last year, although I know it must be here somewhere. Ah! There it is, sidled next to that one-piece bathing suit. Too bad it seems that neither fits quite the way I remember. Like stubborn children, my thighs cling at the fabric, begging: "Please don't let us go." And though I promise: "You'll do fine," I cant help but second guess, maybe, it'd be best if we just hide here inside these jeans a little longer. @amnotpoetry
depression to-do list:
keep yourself distracted do your CBT be on alert for distortions tune into reality have some self compassion make yourself a tea lock the bathroom door while the kids watch tv prioritize your committments schedule in a break sneak away when daddy's home and walk down to the lake see the violent dancing waves frothing as they crest imagine the water rushing in to fill the hollow in your chest blink away temptation and watch the swallows soar carefully count your breaths as you balance along the shore walk that tightrope line all around the bay see it stretched beneath your feet every single day kiss the kids goodnight get ready for tomorrow journal all your gratitudes into guilts for your sorrow wake with the dawn smile and try your best do it all again eventually there'll be rest write another poem but try hard not to whine tack on a clever ending and everything will turn out fine
we do not birth stones all things born must bend like stubborn weeds through concrete young sapling hearts pliable and tender dancing bending bowing fragile and resilient but charcoal was once a tree whose dancing was burned away we must not forget that hardened hearts are manufactured that the flames they spread started not with them nor will they be their end but charcoal when not alight can also soften into an artist's pen there is no hardness stronger than our ability to bend
Once more the venomous refrain comes to plague my weary brain: I am nothing. I am nothing. I am nothing. But I have found within each poison note lies concealed the antidote: I am I am I am So if upon your ears alight her onerous whispers in the night: You are nothing. You are nothing. You are nothing. Find the truth within the lie and perchance upon your lullaby: You are You are You are @amnotpoetry
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