Counting

By: L. T.  

My life is a chronic counting of encounters
Of how many times he wandered into my dreams last night
How many bathroom panic attacks and awkward run-ins
A day is a countdown to the next time I think of him and
I wonder if there will be days that he does not consume
Because I define my days like we define our centuries
My life is a history book marked by the chapters of Before Him and After Him
I walk my therapist through the roadmap of my brain with the landmarks of
There was a time that I didn’t know and ever since has been this time of constant knowing
Growing accustomed to this incomprehensible truth that maybe there will never be a time when I don’t wake up thinking of his name first

You see, I don’t collect beanie babies,
My brain collects bad memories
It replays them in nightmares and loves to recall the way his feet looked on my bedroom floor
I do not know how to press the stop button so I give myself five seconds to remember
Five He is in my hair, in between my fingers, in my mouth, in my chest, curled around my shoulder blades
Four I am drowning drowning drowning when did hell become an ocean without a life boat
Three Every night like clockwork I hold a vigil for the part of myself you took, I am still mourning
Two I can’t have an open casket but my only solace is that I don’t recognize the girl you stole
One the day after they said I looked happier
Zero

How do you comprehend the incomprehensible?
How do you explain the colors bruises make on a soul?
How do you answer “how are you” when your life is this science experiment
And you feel like yesterday’s lunch left in the Texas heat to figure out what would grow
Because I am both the rat being dissected and the girl taking notes in my high school freshman biology class (Before Him)
And I write down these five observable facts that
One I don’t date men who text without capital letters and punctuation
Because my anxiety calls for a consistent beginning and ending of things
That two my body shakes with remembrances when I see men wearing suit jackets
And I end up contemplating their sleeves
Wondering if anything is hidden there
He dealt me sweet lies masked in the name of Jesus
That three I found pens underneath my bed last night and figured maybe if I threw them out the memory of you would finally shake off of me
But when I slept I found the dust of you on the bookshelves of my nightmares
In my dreams I am still with you, silent, compliant…silent
That four maybe there are two people living inside of me
Do people stay a person when they become your parasite?
And five I have been living in a vacuum for so long but I am one voice crying out in the wilderness
Crying out that I am worth more than five seconds of brokenness

I–I am
One even on my car-wreck days I am still worth late night phone calls and the friends that sit by my side to whisper the glass out of my chest because
Two some days breathing is a battle but who ever goes to war alone
And God, I am three a blossoming, a garden planted in scars and watered by salt and water, a sacred strength, a fierce nature built on a fight
Four a butterfly still unfolding its wings but coming out of my cage was the only way I could ever be strong enough to fly
Five

I have been stolen three times
I was reborn twice
I am broken stained glass before you
And I do believe that with every five second breakdown
I am gluing together a better picture

Safety in Numbers

By: Anonymous

Disgust. Shame. Terror. Triumph. Compassion. Secrets. Denial. Clarity. Resistance.

Unlikely cohorts. But sisters all the same.

You made me an unwilling member to a club I still refuse. The stench of your hair grease and cigarettes, wet lips and touch are memories seared into my soul that I will carry to my grave.

But

Unspeakable shame has met noiseless triumph my world knows nothing of. What a secret I hold!

In those last 8 years, I befriended my enemy. As you lay dying, I understood the horror in your eyes. What destiny awaited you? I wanted nothing more than to assure you that you “did right by us.” Maybe if I said it out loud, you’d take comfort in my pardon. “Oh, Sugar, I tried!” you exclaimed. The memory of your desperation still catches my breath.

Who can tell me I was wrong to befriend my terrorizer? Who can say they too loved someone rotten- maybe to the core?
When I was 12 I prayed to God and begged for you to die on that operating table.

You always hear “there’s safety in numbers.” Well? I knew you for 22 years. Lived with you for 5. You traveled 500 miles to see me and we visited 3 towns while you were there. When we were separated by 2000 miles we talked on the phone every Monday and before 6th grade you made sure I had 100 beanie babies, 8 nano pets and 3 talking giga pets. You built me 1 Mickey Mouse dollhouse, 1 swing set. You taught me how to ride a bike 2 different times. We talked to 3 dealerships before you bought me my first car. It took you 2 weeks to pick out the perfect DSLR camera for me when I was 19.

You always hear “there’s safety in numbers.” Well? I don’t think about you every day but I think about some part of what you did 365 days a year. The memories are a constant shadow awakened in quiet moments. So, as far as shadows go, I have 2. I walk past my worst memory at least 15 times a day and I actually don’t think of it- every single time. What’s the number for shame that is too big to utter a single word of?

You always hear “there’s safety in numbers.”
Please… show me the safety in my numbers.

motherfucker grief

By: A. M.

this grief is so ugly
i don’t go out in public much
it is wailing
heaving sobs
that end in
violent vomiting
so many meals
i can’t keep down

how do i explain
i didn’t finish that project
couldn’t go to that meeting
bailed on hanging out
because on my way
grief interrupted
and i
was useless

this is the fiercest
agony-rage cocktail
i’ve ever known
i want to break shit
i want to set it on fire
i want to
tear
the sky in
two
with deafening screams
because my body
cannot contain the energy
the sheer force
of this grief

i don’t know where to put it
it’s too big for my heart
too heavy for my shoulders
too vast for this room
too loud for this page
too vivid for this city
too vulgar for this state
too deep for the ocean
too blue for the sky
too much
too much
too much
for me to bear

it hurts
like a motherfucker
i can’t stop it
it doesn’t diminish
it stole my joy
and all of my poems
i can’t breathe
under its weight
i can’t breathe
through these choking cries
i can’t breathe
in this darkness
i am exhausted
drowning
body trembling
with the tumult of this sorrow
every time i think
i am put back together
i unravel
completely

i want to lay down
and let it consume me
hungry waves
devouring
my body

spitting me out
on the shore

don’t say a word

By: A. M. 

don’t tell me
to quiet down
because the sound of truth
makes you uncomfortable
rocks your foundation
allows doubt to trickle in
making you question
everything you thought you knew

don’t tell me
to lighten up
not be so sensitive
not take everything so personally
because this
is personal
it is me balling hands into fists
purging tears
coaxing myself back from the edge of
the hell you created
it is me picking up the pieces of
what you shattered
it is we working to change
what has always been
so this next generation of babies can
survive their adolescence
without being beaten
or shot
or twisted into darkness
by those protecting and serving
only themselves

don’t tell me
to smile ‘cause:
I’d be a whole lot prettier, baby
because when I do
when I let my joy shine
some see it as an invitation
as consent
as their cue to take
and to rape
because they were taught
always to prey
they were indoctrinated
to expect compliance
because they were trained
that nobody
tells them no

don’t tell me
not to get so involved
because the political is personal
when the agony of being present
being vulnerable
being conscious
rips through me
I don’t just imagine
I feel it
we are all connected
when another is hurting
my tears are flowing
I didn’t ask, to be an empath

don’t tell me
it was just a joke
because
I used to have the quickest wit
the sharpest blade of a tongue
I know what kind of truth lurks
behind every sarcastic remark
and laughing barb
That what we tear down most ferociously in others
is the very thing within ourselves
that we hate most

don’t tell me
to just get over it
that,
“boys will be boys”
“that’s just how men are”
“that’s just how the world is”
‘cause I refuse to believe we’re all
that helpless
that powerless to
become
unblind
uncalloused
unbound
I refuse to buy in to the notion
that violence
and greed
and lust
and complete and utter disregard for
the personhood of others
is a just natural state of being

don’t tell me
not to get so angry and impassioned
because angry doesn’t even begin to describe
the depth
and
breadth
of my rage mixed with sorrow
sack-cloth and ashes
my screams would
rend the very fabric of the universe
were I to unleash
this storm within me
uncensored

don’t tell me
to calm down
not to get so worked up

don’t tell me
how to feel
about a world
so upside down
so selfish
so misguided
that we have criminalized the destitute
the hungry
the orphaned
the refugees
the survivors

don’t tell me
anything
until you are right here
in the rank
in the filth
in the injustice
the grief
the pain
the margin
this nightmare

do not
say a word

what if…

By: A. M. 

what if I said it out loud
what if I post it on my status
what if I spit it into this mic

what if I said how much I hurt
what if I said how tired I am
what if I said how little hope I have
what if I said how afraid I am
what if I said how often I think about dying

what if I told how you pillaged and plundered
what if I told how you never protected me
what if I told how you lied and manipulated
what if I told how you made me feel crazy
what if I told how you taught me to loathe myself

what if I said how I kept up the act
what if I said how I’d always make excuses
what if I said how you’re not so charming
what if I said how your words are poison
what if I said how fucking angry I am

what if I told the truth
what if I told how you slandered my name
what if I told how you turned my family against me
what if I told how you shattered my trust
what if I told how the echo of your fist lingers on my skin

and

what if I said, “Enough.”
what if I said, “Never again”
what if I said, “I will not be bound by shame”
what if I said, “I deserve love”
what if I said, “I will not stay silent”

what if I said it out loud
what if I post it on my status
what if I spit it into this mic