Growing pains

When I was six years old,

I would still talk like a baby.

My mom always talked about

how much she loved their smell,

so I tried to act like one to make her happy.

When I was nine,

I had a friend

who was always begging to be older.

She started wearing make-up and short skirts at age ten.

I thought, “Nothing wrong with that,

she looks a little silly, but I that’s what makes her happy,

go for it, man.”

Then, when she was eleven, she told me she couldn’t wait to get her period

because it would man she was finally a woman.

I thought she was crazy.

Why on earth would anyone want her period?

Just the other day, at age twenty,

I made a joke to one of my friends

about how we “Shouldn’t say the double hockey sticks part.”

We spent the rest of dinner laughing like idiots at stupid jokes like

“What the he are you eating?”

“What the he are you trying to say?”

“What the he is wrong with you?”

I didn’t mean to grow up.

But then one day you came back from the doctor

who gave us the news that you,

one of the strongest women I knew,

one of the adults who molded the clay of my life into something useful,

someone who smiled through this news and every other,

you had a few months to live.

You smiled through your pain

and told your two beautiful daughters

it was gonna be alright.

But I knew it wasn’t.

And suddenly my body felt too small,

so I tried to carve my way out of it.

What the he is wrong with me?

It wasn’t my disease,

but I let it consume me anyway,

because you had a family to live for.

What did I have?

I prayed your cancer would transfer to me

as if life were little more than a bank account,

and living little more than the job that paid the bills.

I didn’t want to hurt myself, I just wanted to heal you.

I didn’t want to grow up,

didn’t want to bear the weight of your suicide as my cross,

but every pill you swallowed drove a nail deeper into my hand,

until my guilt spilled across my palm and pooled at my feet

growing deeper and deeper until it drowned me.

I avoided growing up because it hurt,

but then I came home to the news that

you were going to get the liver you so desperately needed

and so obviously deserved.

I thought, “Maybe this growing up thing is turning around,

Maybe I can do it after all.”

I woke up to the news that you had died on the table

that was supposed to save your life.

Given the track record,

I should have expected this.

And I’m sorry, but I was empty,

I had nothing left to feel.

I had exploded,

and even covered in blood,

the sticky steam coiling off me like the sunrise mist,

I still felt Nothing.

Nothing was all I had left.

Please, forgive me.

Their blue sparkles out at me, the same as my dad’s:

darker than crystal, but not quite as deep as the ocean.

You keep them glued to your children.

You smile, and blink slowly, and in that motion, I can see how tired you really are.

(Life is just a bank account and living little more than the job that pays the bills.)

Do your beautiful eyes ever feel as heavy as the rest of you?

You blink slowly. “I’m fine.” But you won’t look at me.

I woke up at 4:30 am
Because a poem was spilling out of me.
So I sliced open my palm
to let it bleed on the page
hoping i would bleed out so that I could fall back asleep.
What the hell is wrong with me?

Growing up, kids used to pick on me for everything.

My teeth, my hair, my clothes, hell, even my parents.

I was smart, but that wasn’t important until they needed

Someone’s homework to copy.

I was never good enough for boys,

Never playful enough, pretty enough, sexy enough.

Sometimes I wasn’t even good enough for my friends.

I wasn’t social enough or cool enough, or boy crazy enough.

All throughout school kids would pull all of these things to the surface,

Clouding that image in the mirror until all I could see was a scared little girl

That wasn’t worth anyone’s time.

 

Eventually, I learned to ignore the voices.

Pretend I wasn’t shattered by every jibe at my second-hand clothes,

I wasn’t broken by the fact I sat alone at the playground

Because no one else would play with me,

I didn’t consider just leaving when my parents focused on my only “B”

Amidst a page covered with “A”s.

It was easy enough, as long as I avoided the mirror.

I built a fragile wall around myself

That kept the judgments from penetrating and destroying me from the inside,

But this wall could be shattered by glass.

When those scared blue eyes found mine through the mirror,

I would break, sometimes spending an hour or more alone,

Looking into the glass, and making a list of all the things I hated

About that girl in the mirror.

My greatest fear was realized in tenth grade,

When I learned that I simply wasn’t enough.

My best friend of three years had attempted suicide.

And I blamed myself.

Why hadn’t I been a better friend?

Was there anything I should have done but didn’t,

Anything I shouldn’t have said but did?

Most importantly, was I such an awful friend, that she saw no reason to live?

I tore myself apart and spiraled into a manic depression of my own

Because I knew I was so not good enough, that someone I loved almost died.

And then I looked in the mirror.

And there she was, that scared girl

who wasn’t good enough for anything, or anyone.

I saw all the things about her that I had been hating

And I had only one word in response.

No.

No, I will not be this way.

No, I will not be scared.

No, I am not anyone’s play thing that they can cast to the side

When I am broken,

No, I am more than the glass

No! I will not be this way

I took it up as my battle cry and

Said it do myself like a prayer every morning.

And I would tell you it all changed that day,

but I don’t like to lie.

There were times when I would repeat my mantra

Through clenched teeth and drowning lungs.

But slowly, that girl in the mirror changed.

Yes her eyes were still scared but they stopped avoiding mine.

Her hands stopped fidgeting with her clothes and instead, expressed her words.

She stopped trying to hide behind old sweaters that were too big for her.

And yes it was scary, and yes, sometimes it was the hardest thing I had ever done

To look in the mirror, and say I loved the girl staring back.

But it was all worth it, when the day finally came,

She looked out at me,

And Smiled.

When I was a little girl,

I used to stand in front of the mirror and cry.

I knew all the other girls wanted to be princesses.

They would wear their frilly dresses

and their mother’s heels.

Some even went so far as to wear makeup.

But I never felt like a princess,

and never really wanted to be one.

When I played dress up,

I would grab my dad’s old bow and a pair of boots,

and pretend I was the one saving princes.

The only time I ever wore makeup

was when I covered myself in blush,

pretending to be a Native American warrior.

(I didn’t know it was racist back then,

I just knew they were fierce and strong and everything I wanted to be,

so I tried to be like them.)

Then one day, a little boy caught me playing,

and informed me girls weren’t supposed to like those things.

We weren’t supposed to be good at archery,

We weren’t supposed to be saving people,

And most importantly, we weren’t supposed to climb trees.

(I realize now that he was just angry that I beat him to the top)

But I was confused.

I asked him

If I’m not supposed to do the things I like,

Then what am I supposed to do?

I learned that day that I was supposed to cook,

I was supposed to clean,

And I was supposed to let men do everything else.

I stood in front of the mirror and cried,

because I thought something was wrong with me.

I still wanted to get married and be held and kissed,

but how would anyone fall in love with me,

when I expected them to do as much cooking and cleaning and saving as I did?

All the other girls seemed perfectly happy to cook and clean and be saved,

while I was little more than a broken toy that boys wanted to send back to the factory

because I wasn’t any fun.

 

And then I grew up,

And “not supposed to” became “can’t”

There was a list of things I wasn’t supposed to and couldn’t do

But the one that made me question them all

Was when I was told I couldn’t be friend-zoned.

I hung out with my guy friends because they were all I had

And they had been complaining about how they had been friend-zoned by all these girls

And I tried to identify and said “Me too!”

Every single eye looked at me

And one of them said, “Girls can’t be friend-zoned.”

I didn’t understand,

If I had been rejected by more guys than they had been girls

Why did the term not apply to me?

Why did they act like their loneliness and rejection was so catastrophic,

Then act like mine was just a plea for attention?

And why on earth wasn’t the girl’s friendship enough?

I took a good look at the list of “can’t”s

I can’t be smarter than boys

I can’t throw a football as well as any of them

I can’t shoot with the best of them

I can’t love video games

I can’t be as big of a geek

I can’t be as hurt, as lonely, as afraid as boys

Essentially, it came down to this.

I was not as important as them

I can’t be their equal.

The next time a boy told me I couldn’t do something

I calmly turned, looked him square in the eye and said,

Watch me.

Watch me.

Watch me hit the bull’s-eye every time,

Watch me climb to the top of every tree I can set my eyes on

Watch me save myself

Watch me look in the mirror and smile

Because I don’t need a man to tell me I’m beautiful.

Watch me as I climb and claw my way to the top

And when I get there,

Watch, as I reach down to help you up

Because I realize we are equal

I understand we are all human,

Even if you can’t.

I’ve been there.

When you in the mirror and all you see is this broken thing,

This broken thing, this broken animal,

angry and snapping, sad and decrepit.

It snarls out at you

and the only way to keep it caged

is to hide.

But I’m telling you,

Shatter the glass.

You are more than a wild animal, 

you are nature itself.

You are the wind in the leaves,

the waves breaking on the sand,

and the stars people look to for hope.

And you never,

you never,

you NEVER need to bow

because someone else is too weak to handle the sea

and the raw force and beauty that comes with it.

They cannot tame nature and they cannot tame you

because you don’t need to be tamed.

You need to grow and flourish

because there will come a day

when people look to you and say,

"She is the one.

The one that inspired me to grow,

the one that inspired me to create,

the one that inspired me to stay alive.”

And that is worth more than any broken mirror.

So I eat my own heart

because the grind of my teeth against my flesh,

the feel of my own muscle tearing through my body,

and the bitter taste it leaves in my mouth,

could never compare to the pain of you losing me.

I will devour myself so that no one else can

and I will stake my claim because no one else deserves

to claim me.

I am not your anchor.

I can barely keep myself at bay,

I can’t keep you grounded, too.

What is Beauty?

You say, “Beauty is when you realize something important.”

So then, Beauty is tax season?

Every year I realize I have no money;

I’d say that’s pretty important.

He says,

“Beauty is something that stirs something up.”

Beauty, then, must be a spoon

Or, if you’re the technological sort,

An electric mixer.

She says, “Beauty is dependent on people.”

Apparently, Beauty is a toddler,

Seemingly one that requires

Hourly diaper changes.

You try again, “Beauty is something that provokes thought.”

All these times I’d seen Star Wars,

I assumed Obi-wan was using celestial energy,

When really, he was just smacking Stormtroopers upside the head with Beauty.

One last shot in the dark, “Beauty is something that captures people’s attention.”

I’m sorry, but what I’m hearing is,

Beauty is a fart?

When gas is passed,

Everybody knows,

One way or another.

No, Beauty is a thing that is not a thing,

A science that cannot be measured,

Abstract, yet concrete.

Beauty is a contradiction.

A zombie, if you will.

I am not fragile

I am not a princess hiding behind 

slithering dresses and frilly words.

You cannot impress me with strength and brutality.

You cannot fight for my honor because

I am perfectly capable of doing it myself.

I am not meek and mild and respectable

and I don’t need you to fight for me.

I am a warrior,

and I need you to fight with me.

My hands are bloodied from the

demons I fight every day,

but still I am surrounded,

so grab your sword and fight with me.

Stand by my side.

Bandage my skin when it bleeds,

wrap up my mind when it breaks,

encase my heart when it shatters.

I don’t need a hero, I need a healer.

I am fierce, unbent and unbroken.

So please, be gentle, unwavering and unrelenting.

The Child

Blue foil floating with helium

A bloated star

Stark against the snow,

Given to a young boy by adoring parents

With whom he’d spent long hours.

Talked. Laughed. Played.

His blue balloon carries the dreams

He no longer can.

Its silver string tied to the flowers

At the foot of his tombstone.

HW