We Were Children Once

When I was 6
you taught me to check under cars
in back seats
to not wear my shorts too short
to not get caught alone
with my grandfather
and his relentless hands.

You taught me that men leave scars,
maps for other men to trace with their fingers
and carve back open
until the swollen tissue
becomes a wall
rising up and out.

You taught me to swallow stress that screams sandstorms,
leaves everything covered in dirt,
to sit in civility until the world changes
and is ready for me,
but maybe you.
I have decided
that the world changes too slowly
and I’m tired of hiding.

Sometimes I think you thought
that I didn’t have enough to complain about,
as my anguish looked different
from your traumatic progeny.
Legitimacy was extended through
a flattening of my world
to fit into yours
because mine might implicate you.

You asked me over and over
to hide my wounds,
to help heal yours.
I wonder if you thought it was
a shameful flag of failure,
a reflection of a woman as an injured child
trying to grow a garden with dry hands.

I wish I could’ve told you
that he didn’t ruin you.
You weren’t damaged.
You were a soft moss
moved to the desert
patiently waiting for rain.

I see you,
I hold you,
I’m yours,
but I have no more patience
nor infinite forgiveness
though my compassion
flows like a monsoon flooded falls
for the ways in which this world
and our families, too
shape us.

Mourning is an action
evoking ghosts
to bury them tidily.
But I am a mess,
and I am not
will never be
have never been
clean.

I am not
will never be
have never been
healed.

I love you
but my fist is a muscle
the size of my heart
and both beat strong
while neither can yield harm.

My stories are mine,
understated constellations
laced and woven into
your cosmology,

and I have enough tears now
to water your garden
indefinitely.

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