Over tacos and burgers, I told my friend I would do better. I’m always trying to do better. But in the face of this election season, a voice buried by years was triggered to jab, punch, react. This voice of mine has been stunted for awhile. I know the reasons why. I’m learning. I’m riding a new bike with too-big shoes on a gravel road. The anger I’ve been holding onto for so many reasons gained an outlet in the form of fear against one man and the hate he conjures. A man who reminds me of men I’ve known. Reminds me that life can be hard conversation that we don’t always have language for. My carefully managed frustration and confusion erupted on my social media page. Posts and reposts decrying people who stand for and with him. I was speaking for my beliefs. But I was also speaking from a place of having been impacted, in my own way, by men like this. This election season has been a year of being raw for so many of us. Each pushed to feel, voice, act for our own reasons.
I looked at my calm friend, sipping her hot water with lemon, and admired her balance and kind face. She’s a good, true lighthouse of a human in this storm. I told her I want to lead with my heart. A heart that is so, so buried. Yet at the same time I made this promise, I knew I couldn’t ignore the fiery, strong, and willful girl inside. She will always be there. My balance will be allowing her to speak, wonder, thrive in a way that doesn’t leave her dented and ashamed. Leave her picking gravel out of her knees when she keeps crashing. That process will come.
“So…” I said to my friend, “There is a poem I have to say out loud. It isn’t very nice.” She smiled. This piece I began last year, before our new President-elect was a realistic option. Experiences change us, break us, make us fiery, and then, hopefully, bring us back to balance.
Conservative Values Will Make Our Country Great Again
He said “Your girlfriend has nice tits.”
He said more than that.
He said more than I let stay in my brain
More than I could bear
to hear over the obedient laugh
forced from between my shoulders
suddenly pulled tight like wings,
around my breasts.
My laugh like a curveball
looking like one thing
when it’s something else.
He said “Your girlfriend has nice tits”
and the other Republican in the room
rearranged his arm around my hip,
stared down past my face
down through my chest
down to my heart
hardening like cement in the sun
of his bourbon-red face.
He is gravity
to keep me steady,
to keep me smart,
to teach me values
like fiscal responsibility and work ethic,
like sending the real rapists to prison
like drinking fine wine
on the lawns of his campaign donors
whose sun-lined faces fear
brown skin not earned
on a golf-course, but earned,
stealing jobs from their children
who do not want jobs.
My boyfriend said “Thanks, Man”
with a whiskey salute to
a body no longer a part of me.
A body not mine
but some perfect girl’s body,
some good-family-good-jokes girl,
some smile-politely-don’t-talk-back girl
who learned too late
the shotgun propped
in the bedroom closet
was not the deadly weapon
that he was.
These men were elected by the people.
Thank you, people.
Ten years later, my tits belong mostly to me.
Ten years later my ex doesn’t own my hips.
Ten years later, his best friend’s voice
fills my car and my shoulders
close over my heart. Sick.
But there he is.
Public radio guest expert.
Some kind of very important man.
So it must be true when he says
it’s about time we just get over slavery.
Harriet Tubman on the twenty
is pointless. The point is,
the founding fathers built us all,
built our money,
deserve to be the face of it.
that bought his State seat,
that bought a mistress’s abortion,
that bought a wife’s divorce,
she too young to see it coming,
boxing up the remnants
of lies that looked like living.
I picture Harriet on the money
that pays my ex,
who bought his own seat,
who wields the law like
he always did.
This time it’s not my neck
by the snake of his voice,
Not my voice stunted
by the iron in his arms.
My voice that wanted to say:
These aren’t your tits.
These aren’t my values.
These aren’t values.
These are manipulations
of socially accepted psychopaths.
we date and marry,
ply with power,
wear low cut shirts for,
break our backs for,
give ourselves away for.
Let go of our lives for,
bit by bit.
The tits, the hearts, the money,
the affordable housing,
the insurance for our mother’s cancer,
the jobs for our fathers,
the teachers for our neighbor’s kids,
the ones who wrap newspapers against the rain
and don’t get breakfast.
The ones who don’t get anything
in a sea of those men.
All of us swallowed up
the same way.
All of us carrying like stones something
called our people,
called what can we do better
called what we know better.