if we talked about anxiety then,
the way we do now,
in our separate lives,
in different cities;
with our separate pals,
in different threads,
would our worlds have continued
instead of disrupting over
not for the letters at the end of your name,
but for the self-reflection and questions:
“why does this experience cause me _____?”
blame. shame. pain. gain.
is it still “giving up”
if the choice is made
with good intention?
hands clasped in prayer,
right at the heart.
innocence and religious,
hoping something greater is listening,
somewhere above us,
hidden in the pink-grey clouds
at golden hour.
holding an opal crystal,
tracing a bracelet,
repeating an affirmation,
talking to the one you lost too soon.
whether organized or personalized,
hope is defined by the hopeful,
dreams by the dreamer
and wishes by the wishful.
alive, dead or in-between.
how do you become confident in a name?
one you were assigned at birth?
how do you allow it to roll off your tongue.
without the fear of how others
will automatically perceive you?
i don’t know what that’s like.
crying doesn’t make me a sissy,
it just makes you uncomfortable.
when you should be addressing my upset,
you shame my actions, instead.
untouched and stale,
crusty and undesirable.
hard pink icing
on chalky chocolate-chips.
cream cheese filling, once gooey,
a bold, cold contrast,
now smushed like the
moody clementine peel
renting the space
at the bottom of your bag.
this is what you sound and feel like,
when you don’t invest in
an unwanted, deserted cake.
a slab of dry, choking dough.
a wall of rotting egg yolks.
you had the potential to empower,
until you let it slip:
you prefer titles and looks,
like sprinkles and candles,
you prefer the sound of your voice,
like a singing, cringing hallmark card,
over growth and working smart.
still, even though you’re deep,
in the shallow cardboard box,
opened by colleagues just curious
enough to see what you are,
you’re a mockery of a treat,
and yet the system says
you’ll forever make more than me.
gender pay gap.
“on which nights are you restless,
tuned into every toc of the clock
and every scratch of the cat?”
well, on the nights my eyes are closed,
but i can see through the lids
and listen to every crack and creek.
well, on the nights when i can feel
the draft from the vent
like waves from the sea.
well, on the nights when i am laying,
but my brain is moving
on its own two feet.
i thought i wouldn’t get through you.
i was stuck at the start, in a pool of hot
tub water, stuck to one of those water jets.
you were attacking me —
or was i letting other people do that?
my friends said, “your eyes are dark,”
and, “i’ve never seen you this low.”
i was drowning in that pool of hot water,
i was stuck there,
dreading the air free from my bed.
i learned: i have to be strategic
about what i give myself to.
i love so hard and so deep that
when i’m forced to give something up,
i crack more than a broken joint.
i learned: i define, “career,”
and my job doesn’t define me.
i learned: i can still do good and do well,
without being hollowed in hell,
surrounded by people who won’t lift me up,
who will tell me i’m failing, only because
it will guarantee them the raise
and me: the same job with bad pay.
i learned: you’re just a year and you aren’t forever,
but with lessons
and journeys uncovered.
once, a boy told our classmates we had done things we hadn’t
because i broke up with him.
he said i was good with my tongue;
though my tongue had never touched him
or his greasy braces.
we “dated” for a few weeks; i don’t count it.
when his lies didn’t catch on as fast as they could’ve,
he started telling people things that were really true:
“she has hairy arms. really hairy arms.”
someone pushed up the left arm of my green fleece uniform sweater
and said, “woah, he’s right.”
i waxed my arms for a long time,
naired them and scarred them,
got grounded for making the house smell like chemicals;
never wore t-shirts, either.
do you see what happens when we automatically
give boys more power?