one-hundred-fifty-four.

how hard it must be for you
to dress yourself in your best,
each day,
thinking your charm, broad shoulders
and your expensive taste
will make the world bend their knees,
let go of personal beliefs
and fall into you and over you,
fall for whatever
you want us to believe is truth.

how hard it must be for you
to laugh and flirt out of error,
to give up your seat,
and be the “gentleman,”
simply to bypass glass ceilings,
that were never even installed
for people like you.

you’re not used to people like me,
questioning your activities,
encouraging humility,
so you spend more time wishing me
a good morning, a lovely weekend,
thinking it’s working,
thinking you’re as smart as your suit.

a crooked smile,
a few shiny teeth,
but you still haven’t figured out
that while i’m sipping on tea,
saying, “have a good night,”
i’m furiously analyzing
how you secured a job
at a higher level than me.

you invest in your business relationships
the same way you buy your belts,
leather stitched together
by an underpaid worker
in a third world country,
all to make you feel important.

and you’ve never had to use your brain
to succeed.

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one-hundred-fifty-three.

crying doesn’t make me a sissy,
it just makes you uncomfortable.
when you should be addressing my upset,
you shame my actions, instead.

one-hundred-fifty-one.

untouched and stale,
crusty and undesirable.
hard pink icing
bulking,
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
connection, representation.
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,
over impact.

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.

one-hundred-forty-six.

definitions seem static.
they’re published in stocky books,
collecting dust at the back of my shelf.
but what defines someone as
rich, beautiful, strong on paper
is not equivalent to anecdotes,
lived experiences
or personal identification.
definitions are meant to be applied
not literalized.

one-hundred-forty-four.

a dark room,
morning light through the skylight.
branches peaking, brittle and still,
it smells like muffins and old bookcases.
a cobweb dangles from the highest point on the chandelier,
the free-standing coat rack could be from a movie.

a bed and breakfast, small town dreaming.

one-hundred-forty-three.

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 hurdles
and journeys uncovered.

one-hundred-forty-two.

spending money and time
on a white gold never-ending circle,
a symbol of everlasting eternity,
wrapped around the finger
most connected to the heart,
should not be a one-sided
purchase or decision,
regardless of how big the diamond.

one-hundred-forty.

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?