it’s such a waste that you’re gay,
she said, pulling me aside
men would really love what you’ve got going on
well i think that women could- no no, honey,
men are very visual, visual you see?
but mom, women can be visual too- no no, honey,
men would just die for you, your look
but, mom, maybe women could die for me-
no no, honey, you just
tell me again
what don’t i understand
what are you trying to say
that i am too pretty to be a lesbian?
that i should have been straight
because men would appreciate, what,
my breasts, my hips- my ass?
no no, honey, that’s not what i meant
really? because that’s what i heard
you said that i was a piece of meat, between the lines
maybe, but i’ve gotten good at hearing the things people
are too polite to say out loud
i’m grown, mom
so this doesn’t have to stay pg-13 say what you mean
you think it’s a shame that my body is
no longer available for male consumption
for “normal” reproduction
i’m sorry that is no longer my function
there isn’t some hidden switch i can flip
activated only by guilt trips and pointed looks
let me tell you something- men are looking
they look me up and down when i walk across streets
when i lean across tables men are looking
and i can feel them consume me
i feel smaller with every glance, they pull me apart
and take what they want i try to piece together
the leftovers at night alone in my room
finally alone with my own skin is it any wonder
i feel more comfortable with my own kin
with someone who knows the danger of dressing up
the possibility of showing too much
who knows how it feels to constantly be on display, okay,
you’re wrong mom men can still enjoy me
they can have me whenever they want, no strings attached,
no questions asked, all they have to do is exist
and suddenly i no longer own my body
no matter how hard i resist, i am unfit
thanks for reminding me of this losing custody battle
no one would take up in court
it’s such a waste that i’m gay
you could just say
honey, you’re looking nice today
You taught me to walk softly at night, to look behind corners, stay by lamplight and always hold hands when I cross the street. You taught me that strangers are not new souls to explore but the reason you lock your doors at night, the reason we check them, twice.
You taught me to love others before myself selfless above all else, to put family first, remember where I come from and how many steps it takes to get back home. I count them in my head on days when I’ve forgotten how the sky looks from our kitchen window, on days when I’ve only seen the ground, head down head down don’t look up you’re not safe out in the open.
You taught me to be soft spoken to think before I speak and if I have nothing nice to say don’t say it at all, so I stopped speaking about anything that mattered. I locked up shut down and carved my thoughts into my skin wrote novels with my nails and signed ‘the end’ in blood because my thoughts were never nice, my mind never kind, my words cut short and deep.
You taught me how to dress- never too short watch that hem never too low watch that chest. You told me the reason we do these things is that when you walk in a room the first thing men see is your lips, then your breasts and then they have seen all they need to, that your bosses kept you for late nights and I needed to learn how to say no how to scream no with my clothes with my walk with my glare I needed to learn how to dress because no one had taught you how.
You taught me how to break hearts and it wasn’t when you wrote the ABCs of boys and shared all your tips and tricks, it was when I saw you cry for the first time I could remember. My heart broke for you and your broken body, the bandage on your chest, the breast that you had kept, the years that you might not have left. I learned what you meant when you said you never wanted to be our best friend- you didn’t want our life to end with yours.
But you taught me about the mother I want to be, the woman I want to marry, the daughter I want to raise. I want to walk softly at night. It’s Christmas Eve I have presents to leave and I don’t want to wake her- she deserves to believe in magic like I did when I was her age. You taught me that too, decorating the house in green purple blue streamers before I woke up and when I woke up said, birthday girl, it’s all for you. I want to love this woman more than myself. I haven’t met her yet but I know she’ll be more precious than anything else and I’ll count the steps til I am at her side looking at the sky from our kitchen window. I want my daughter to be soft spoken but never silent. To whisper secrets and shout injustices, to write novels on pages instead of skin and always be able to chose to keep it in.
I want to thank you for all your life lessons for sharing your life with me in every way you knew how and Mom, my life will not end with yours because you taught me, above all else, life is for living and that a life with love will never stop giving.
i want you to cut yourself on my teeth
and taste the blood for days
remember the pain you bring
from all the words you say
my neck is tired of standing up straight
and tall and graceful
it needs a rest
so i will hang my head low
not out of shame
but to better bear the world
i am not the jiggle of my stomach
or the shake of my thighs
but the eyes of those who watch
the glide of my hips
the flex of my muscles
watch me walk away from you
and wish your body could move
don’t give up on me now
not when i am finally trying
to stop failing myself and others around me
it will be hard to stay, hard to watch but just
close your eyes and hold my hand
let me find the strength to stand
and love you face to face
paint your scars white
paint them for every minute you should have
stood up for yourself
for every hour you fell down and cried
for every scar that was once red
for every time you tried to die
paint your scars white
because today, you’re still alive
Do not love me like a book.
Do not try to pore over my words and phrases;
they will choke you and I cannot stop them.
Do not try to stroke my pages and edges;
they will cut you and I am out of bandages.
Do not try to take me out in public or introduce me to your friends;
I will embarrass you and me both.
I am not a book, your favorite novel.
I am not a diary or a journal, you cannot write me
right of wrongs in the margins. I am not a book.
But if I were a book, you would not love me.
I have no sequel, only cliffhanger endings
that leave me breathless and afraid.
I am missing pages and words and punctuation marks
If I were a book, you would not love me because you are not in my story.
You are a footnote, a line in the bibliography,
but I never understood parenthetical documentation
so it turns out I never mentioned you- sorry for that.
People say I am not an easy read, and I say to them
I did not ask to be read. I am not a book, I want only to exist.
I say to them, to you, do not try to love me like a book.
Just try to love me, love me.