Empty space

“Dear survivor, healing is not a destination but a practice.” – Amita Swadhin

I’ve come to the conclusion that trauma might take up negative space | I leave pain in places I have been like a breadcrumb trail | I always find my way back to collapsing | healing asks me to take my medicine | says stability is more important than the poem | sometimes the line between artist and self destruction gets so blurry | I say I am a history of bad habits | healing says no | you are a history of breaking them | healing looks at me through inked over scars | says look how with every self destructive break your body keeps saving you and saving you | another version of this poem goes like this | last night I had a dream that I lost all my fingers | gone with whatever I was holding on to | the more I learned to live without fingers the faster they grew back | sometimes surviving trauma is not recovery it is just acceptance

Our Joy is All We Have to Fight With

I bite my tongue every time a man calls sexual assault victims “liars.”

This is not a metaphor.

I have literally been spitting out blood

ever since men learned how to speak.

When the sun sets

you are all the men in dark alleys

I was warned about.

Somedays you lurk in the concrete and street

lights of my own bed.

 

I keep having the same nightmare.  

Here, men listen to me like they do in waking hours

which is to say they don’t.

 

Once, I was drunk at a high school party

and a boy said he would kiss me if he didn’t

respect my boyfriend so much.

 

Once, I was drunk at a high school party

and I did not have a boyfriend

so the boy did not ask.

 

I have journeyed to the edges of myself and back

to satisfy insatiable men.

Here is to all the hours I have spent

crying to nobody.

Men don’t seem to understand that the messes they leave
do not magically disappear.

I am tired of cleaning up both dirty laundry on the floor

and the pieces of myself men have decided were inconvenient.

 

To be human is to take up space.

To be woman is to be more than the times I’ve said yes.

I mean, when I am not there for your consumption,
I still exist.

 

Today, my presence is bull in a china shop

and I am embracing every shatter.

I am every time I was told to be quiet

but I have forgotten how to take commands.

I am so tempted to believe in a world where I am not afraid

that today, just for a minute, I am not.

 

Years ago, a man sucked the word “no”

from my mouth, and hid it in today.

As in, I just re-learned my own self worth.

 

I will be an interruption of this tragedy.

Our joy is all we have to fight with

so lets be so happy

lets own our own bodies

so damn loud

we drown out the ignorance

with all this freedom.

I’m holding our memories alone, and suddenly they are so heavy

We stopped talking in the same way I quit smoking; eventually you must outgrow the toxic thing. I don’t think of cigarettes much since quitting, but sometimes when walking by someone who is smoking, I breathe deeply. In other words, I still love you, but at times when you weren’t around, I forgot you ever were. If I have to be a type of lonely, this is as good as any. And, if someone had to die, lord knows you tried hard enough. When I found out, the first thing I did was smoke, and I haven’t stopped since. What I mean is: my head is still spinning, and I am tired of breathing you in. Grief is less how I imagined it would be, more hysterical laughter. Sometimes it is smiling at apologies and saying “we weren’t that close,” and sometimes it is collapsing. It is no explanation. It is picturing what your body must look like now, and wondering if it is any different than the ghost I used to know.