posture

my whole life I was told
stand up straight.
my mother made me take ballet –
never once imagining me a ballerina –
and horseback riding,
purely for the posture.
and you said it once or twice, but
it wasn’t until you physically put me right
that I felt it. I can still feel
that ghostly print
of your warm hands on my upper chest
when I close my eyes.
you said, “It’s harder for you because of these”
meaning my breasts
“but here” and you simply
straightened my spine
and for once I felt it,
each vertebra coming
into alignment, and
it felt like leaning back,
too far, tipsy and tipping,
precariously high above the ground,
open and vulnerable.
but it also felt like coming home
to my own body.

I asked,
“Did you ever do the Alexander technique?” I had
actually done it in college,
but like everything else in the
40 years of my life before I met you,
somehow it didn’t really stick,
it didn’t quantify, or signify.
“No,” you said, “but my mother did.”
somehow that spoke volumes.

whoever it was that said
that we never really love another person
as much as we love who we are
when we’re with them was right.

even though I’ve made an ass
out of myself countless times
in front of you, over you, and around you,
the ways in which you have improved me
are tangible, I can feel them,
I know their validity like I know
my own heartbeat.
damn you to hell and back
for how you broke my heart
but bless you to heaven and beyond
or in the next life
for the ways you’ve helped me.

the hart

I know I love you
when you can hurt me more than anyone
and I use it to dig deeper
into my scars
when I care too much
I become the fleet hart
fleeing endlessly deeper
into the cool embrace of the forest
shining white in moonlight
like the dew, deadly
like quicksilver, eternally wounded
waiting for your arrows,
and then suddenly I become Artemis,
I feel her hand steady my spear –
but that is just the idle threat,
I’ll not pierce you bodily today –
the goddess is with me as I merely
decimate you with no effort,
unleashing my sharp-toothed,
slavering words – the very ones
that have been straining at the leash,
raging, inside my mind,
since the last man
who tried to get the better of me –
to tear you apart
for the temerity of your naked
and insolent stare,
your blatant male gaze
aiming looks like dark, darted, darting arrows
into my unclothed heart.

alarmed

run, rabbit, run
your heart pounds like a prey animal.
lie down and close your eyes
within seconds they pop open again of their own accord
a windowshade stretched to the limit
snapping back up to check
:what’s that dark shape hovering:
the little voice inside asks
it’s nothing, just the lamp.
close your eyes.
make sure no part of your lower body is exposed
or it’s not safe
you don’t question this, just obey.
it gets hot and you lift the sheet for a moment but you can’t sleep like that,
not with the silent alarm shrilling in your head
the voice inside doesn’t dare to think, :I pressed the alarm but nobody came to save me,
there is no one that can save me,
so keep watch. can’t sleep, must stand guard.:
if you can make it til dawn you can rest. another fact you do not question,
though you don’t really know why.
ghosts, you think. dark is dangerous because ghosts.
but there are only one of you and you can’t stay awake forever.

there were no locks on your door
at your mother’s house
when you were 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18.
weekends, summers spent there
and a man and two boys in the house –
older than you, bigger, stronger –
who are nominally family.
this is a horror story where no one remembers meeting Freddy Krueger,
where nightmares walk among us wearing a familiar face.
you don’t even dare to think it
(:your real father wouldn’t try to touch you like that.
your real brother wouldn’t touch you like that.:)
your heart races with every false alarm,
hoofbeats across an imaginary plain
fleeing this house of secrets and shame things that are hidden from your conscious mind.
:you’re not safe here in the dark. keep watch until morning.:

that was then, this is now, right?
no one can hurt you anymore unless you let them.
but the little guardian inside says
:better be sure:,
says :what’s that sound?!:
:what’s that noise!?:
you wake yourself up screaming your throat out
at the danger that cannot be named,
for the help that never came.

predator vs. prey

your body is an animal at heart,
and the animal kingdom is rife
with murder most foul,
from the microscopic to gargantuan,
countless critters battle for supremacy every day.
there’s a reason we have so many metaphors for human behavior
about predators and prey.
and because history is written by the winners,
we mostly celebrate the clever brave strong hunters
searching out elusive, wily or featherheaded game.

in the animal world of the body,
you’d better pay attention to these roles.
being held down by someone
who gets off on your struggling
teaches your animal self
that you are prey.
holding someone down,
deliberately hurting them, and
taking what you want by force
turns you into a predator.

for prey, fear is the only thing
that has a chance in hell of keeping them alive.
it’s clear as day, how a rabbit freezes instantly
as a hawk’s shadow skims over –
its tiny eye a brimming cup
from which tears fear to fall,
thin, furry haunches trembling
terrified to betray a sign of life –
its only hope is not to catch
the triumphant, hot yellow gaze
of the stooping hawk
stretching out gleaming talons
cruel curved beak gaping in a grim
mockery of a grin
as it dives, screaming with joy
in anticipation of the kill.

likewise, anyone who’s been preyed upon
by someone who claims to love you
or is tethered to you
by bonds of blood or obligation –
birth certificates, marriage licenses –
knows how to cry silently.
because predators have no mercy –
if the hunter sighting on a target
ever truly gazed into the luminous
and limpid pools of light
that live in the eyes of a deer,
the shot could not fail to miss the heart –
and being caught is so much worse
when you survive each attack.
if you live to cry another day,
you may try to find someone
weaker than you,
someone you could take
if it came down to a fight.
but humans have so many weapons:
strong muscles, crushing weight,
sharp nails and sharper words,
withering, wounding,
planting the seeds of hatred
and self-doubt that grow to loom-
ing forests of dark thoughts in the rich loam
of your unexamined soul.

because if you have ever felt like prey,
steeped your animal body long enough
in that elemental terror,
the only thing that stills the fear
is to become a predator yourself,
in a vain effort to kill
the tiny, trembling part of you
that once was helpless,
that had no choice
but to live in fear of being hurt
with no strategy but escape.
inside every predator is a prey animal denied –
sick of hiding, sick of hurting –
who wants to be on the blunt end
of the stick this time.

but.
there will always be
another animal in the jungle
who is stronger than you.
stalking and killing
whatever pitiful prey you can find
can’t protect you from
the predator above you
preying upon you
to obtain a moment’s respite
from the fear that haunts their dreams.

I’ve been preyed upon, and
hurt others because of it –
the desperate, feral lashing out
of a wounded animal caught in a trap
who bites the one who tries to free it –
but I propose a paradigm shift.
humanity can choose to rise above
the petty daily struggles,
the crushing drama that consumes us.
We don’t need to beat nor be beaten.
transcend your animal nature,
gentle your body to tranquility
and meet me in the soul planes
on the wide, free plains of the mind
which knows neither fear nor death.

catcalling is not a compliment

it is not intended to be.
it’s meant to humiliate and degrade women
for committing the sin of being female,
for having bodies with breasts,
for walking through your line of sight –
in short, for existing in public
as a member of the sex class.

“If they didn’t want the attention,
they shouldn’t dress so sexy.”
bullshit. every woman will tell you
she’s been catcalled in sweats,
in oversized hoodies,
with no makeup, with unwashed hair.
women have been raped
despite wearing fucking burkas.
clearly clothing and the degree of her conformity
to the Fuckability Mandate
(e.g., feminine presentation as “sexy”
for the purposes of pandering
to the pornified male gaze)
– or lack thereof – is irrelevant.

“Walking down the street
as a woman in sexy clothes
is like wearing a meat suit
into a lion’s den.”
so you’re saying men are animals
and too sex-crazed to control themselves?
it’s not feminists who hate men.
men hate each other and/or themselves,
far more than women ever can,
and live down to their own low expectations
of their ability to be human.

well guess what? I will continue to wear
whatever the hell I want,
with whatever degree of “sexiness”
makes me feel good about myself
on any given day.
I’m not going to apologize
for having breasts,
being female in public,
or for passing through your particular orbit.
if you think that’s problematic
why don’t you try taking some responsibility
for your own fucking boner,
instead of pretending it’s my fault,
and trying to put me down constantly
in a vain attempt to raise yourself up.

catcalling has never been a compliment,
and you, dude, don’t have to act like an animal.

left vs. right

I want you to my right, but I need you on my left.
There’s science behind it and it’s legit.
When you sit on my far right side, I cannot see you,
not really.  You are a flickering ghost
half-visible out of the corners of my eyes,
one of which doesn’t work (right) and never has.
It’s not so much a massive blind spot
as a colorless, invisible mist; things happen there,
but they’re not real, they don’t register,
I can’t respond properly, as if I’m half-dreaming.

My hearing has a similar deficit,
so I’ll never be able to understand what you said
that time you spoke only into my right ear,
your words falling meaningless as rain.
That ear’s an empty shell, a whorl
of ornate spirals leading nowhere, no loving heart
or understanding mind lies at the other end,
it holds nothing but oceanic whispers
and salt-wracked loneliness.
Whatever nothing lies behind it has
as much understanding of secrets –
and cares as little for the mysterious
motives of humans – as a hermit crab.
So if you really don’t want anyone
to hear or remember, tell it into my dead right ear.
Your secret’s permanently safe with me.
Maybe it’s buried in my subconscious
and will surface in my dreams,
a long lost wreck lifted into the light at last.

I’ll probably misinterpret it anyway, don’t worry.

When you sit on my left, you are present,
almost too present to bear – unexpected,
like the best and worst gifts –
I see your true colors and can’t help but apprehend you,
you are corporeal, solid to the touch.
This is frightening;
after all, my left side is so weak and damaged.
I broke my left arm twice and my left leg once, growing up,
within the same year and a half.
So I like to keep you on the right,
safely in the dream world,
until I get to know your pressure points,
in case we start to go too fast, and I have to put the brakes on.

The left dares to presume too much; it can’t behave.
It wants to grab your arm excitedly,
touch your hand inquisitively,
a dumb ape wondering what this other ape feels like,
a mindless body hoping your body might like mine and vice versa –
the braille’d texture of my skin, the round coldness of my arm,
meeting the electric/al resistance of your muscles –
a collection of pheromones wondering if we are compatible,
bacteria trying to decide if we like the taste of this new colony.
My daring left side would stare right into your eyes
as if to find the answer for everyone who’s ever hurt me
with leers from eyes that color,
mocked me using a voice with that timbre,
laughing a laugh like that at my expense;
and everyone who will hurt me in the future
by reminding me much too much of you.

If you’re to my right I can contain you,
a neat and tidy little ghost in your dream world,
keep you safe in a box full of other half-seen expressions,
with all the eye contact I never quite made –
the times I looked at your ear instead of your eyes
to stop myself from drowning in them –
all the things I cannot bear to watch
for fear they’ll disappoint me,
all the secrets I may never be ready to hear.
They are packed too thick with sorrows, and
my heart can’t make room for any more.