his arms do hold me

his arms do hold me,
but not to keep me
safe or possessed or
protected

rather, to offer me
his warmth and to
share in some of
mine

-A

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healing

TRIGGER WARNING: sexual assault

i find it in music
and self-expression

singing
crimson lipstick
mint nail polish, always chipping

still, i won’t wash my hair
*******
you are one thing, they say
you are a body
you must obey
and brush, shave, primp
tweeze, curl, straighten
cut, paint, dye, wax
apply, wash
scrub, blend

woman, you must
bleed
quietly
and
remain hidden
*******
i am a body,
for now
*******
in the background
at my desk
i fell asleep to the drone of
obsolete ideas

the old testament teaches
an eye for an eye
and Jesus said
thou shall not
steal

my catholic school uniform
white prep school collar, yellow pit stains
weekly mass,
asleep

amen, the body of Christ rose from the dead
I believe,
for now
*******
i am seventeen

please,
teach me how to say
No, I’m not ready
Respect Me
Leave Me The Fuck Alone
when he is pulling at my jeans
belittling my body with words as sharp as knives

and all I have left in me is breathing,
in and out
in and out
*******
i am twenty

please,
teach me how to sleep after
my friend tells me
she repeated no, no
over and over
*******
i am twenty-three

please,
teach me how to console
my roommate
who is still living in the past
as she came to and saw his shadow above her
through the darkness
******
i am twenty-five

please,
teach me how to explain
to my boyfriend’s friend
that it is not up to him to decide
how a person feels about their body, their pronouns,
their own self-expression
******
i’ve seen my sisters’ bodies
torn apart by expectations
and cruel, irreverent hands

i’ve seen tears
enough to
drink in our sorrow for
the rest of my days

hearts strewn, but our hands together
i’ve watched us
rise from the dead

not quiet, not hidden
open, bleeding, wounded

healing

Womankind

I can tell you what it means to be a woman today –

bell hooks taught me
the personal is political
maybe I rebel
by staying single
I cut my hair shorter
wear my glasses bigger
and I will get that tattoo
because they tell me not to
I met a man once
just once
with a tattoo
read bell hooks
they tell me a crescent moon
would look trashy
like they actually know the things
that have shaped and changed me:

They started calling her Cocaine Girl.
Hot mess. So sad.
How were you ever friends with her?
How do I explain that she has saved me so many times?
Maybe they have never had to
Quietly admit that what he did was assault
And have “Cocaine Girl” be one of the
Only ones to believe them.

And then there’s my cousin
Who when driving sometimes
Considered crashing into the guardrail
So sincerely that it scared her
And she called me in a panic
Because she was sure it was the medicine
But she needed the medicine
To live with what he did.

Like Walt Whitman
I think I could turn and live with the animals
Because then maybe I would not have to
Be asked to justify
Why I wore a hat
Why I said no to the date
Why I chose that dress
Why I (we)
Women are constantly evolving!

(I used to wear flowery bandanas
Every day to class
Like a hippie would
And my best friend loved it
So I posted our photo
As a testament to female friendship
But then I was asked to justify
Why I was comfortable looking like a lesbian
As if that were a bad thing.)

I just think that
Maybe
If they listened
More bluegrass
Less rap
They would see
There is more to life
Than relationships and sex,

Ask me about my
Travels
Writing
Language learning
Cooking
What book I am reading
Instead!

It is like I am an
Alien Girl
But I will continue being an
Alien Girl
For womankind.

-L

To My Sister

I try so hard to protect you but you need to know the truth.
I am sorry for that day at the beach when I laughed after that stranger put his hand on my leg.
You asked me why he did that and I said he probably didn’t mean anything by it,
but instead I should have told you what I know:
that you were right to think it was uncomfortable because it was uncomfortable
and you should never question how you feel.

I wish I could make the feeling you felt that day disappear.
The truth though is that your stomach will churn like that so many times that it will start to feel routine.
You might wonder if it’s just you or if you are somehow the cause but trust me you are not,
and it will never feel better only worse:
from a boy staring at you in gym class to a man squeezing your butt on the metro home
so you get off at the next stop and walk.

I feel like I should save you from discovering these dark things.
However I am a strong believer in knowledge as power so although you’ll suffer you should know.
By recognizing these wrongs you can give voice to pain and call for society to change,
but it will definitely not be easy:
mostly women will come to the meetings and the discussions will be mostly male panels
just remember “mostly” used to be “all”.

-L

did you know

woman,

did you know you are much more than
the brittle bones beneath your skin?
than the sun’s illuminated freckles
splashed across the bridge of your nose?

and that each time you cry out,
the stars remain
burning through
the night sky,
if only for you to
stand at peace with
yourself?
*
digging
through the dirt

stuck in my nails
thick on my skin,
my scalp
*
the truth sought after
the colors of
a spring wind storm in the desert
the smell of bread dough rising

dust, flour
dirt
grit between my fingers
inhaling

and i’m digging
and i’m digging
*
the process toward peace is,
they say,
a lengthy one

i’ll sit patiently
listen to her tell me her woes
tell her i love her
speak of her knowledge and
inner beauty

when i look in the mirror,
though
i tell her
to shut up
and get on with it
*
woman,
did you know
you are so much more than

-A

Soulmates

I met my soulmate unexpectedly
of course but I think it was fate, not chance.
People say there is someone for us all
but I never really believed in that
until I saw my own reflection in
someone else’s soul. Soulmate does not mean
romantic you know – my soulmate is the
sister I never knew I had. It was
fate that I found someone across the world
who understands why I am who I am.
Trust me it is a relief for someone
to know you well inside and out, so go
seek soulmates not just in lovers but friends.

-L

Sketch: This is a rose bush waiting to bloom.

My hands
remember the weight of charcoal
and what it takes to keep
the image from smearing.
I sketch a rose bush in early spring
when it wants to be blooming
but can’t, yet.

My eyes
capture details like they are new
as if I have just seen
bare limbs for the first time.
With each stroke they become more alive
til I understand they are
just waiting.

I finish sketching
as the day grows cold,
and as I pack up my things
I know:
roses
do not blossom into being overnight
but rather
survive the winter
to triumph in the spring,
and this knowledge that
the beauty
is in the details
calms me.

IMG_6554

-L