When your best friend’s mother dies
You adorn yourself in black
You hold their hand at her funeral
You cry for them
But you do not cry for yourself
When the service is over
You go into your home
Covered in family photos
Free of ghosts
You lock your tired arms around your mother
You kiss her hair
You whisper that you love her
You cherish that moment because one day that could all be gone
When your best friend gets raped by her step brother
You grit your teeth
You lock your arms through hers
As you walk her into the police station
You cry for her
But you do not cry for yourself
After the questions are done being asked
You return to the safety net of your sheets
You call your brother
Who moved two thousand miles away
You listen as he assures you
That he loves you very much
That he’d kill anyone who would lay a hand on you
You can rest easy
When awful things happen to those around you
That float on the surface of your existence
They are there
You can feel the pain filtering in through kinks in your armor
But you will not know the stinging of the blade through your collar bones
You are perched far enough away
That while your eyes can see it
They cannot know it
Your best friend’s mother died
They can now speak with authority on the pain of loss
Your best friend was raped
They can now speak with authority on the agony of loss
You are not, never will be, their voice
You, as inexperienced in these specific pains as you are, will not be the one to orchestrate moving speeches about the awfulness of these things.
Keep that in mind
When you, who wears whiteness like a badge of pride, speaks for anyone unlike you with the excuse ‘I have black friends’
Knowing and understanding are two explicitly different things
You, who has lived dipped in a dominant culture, should not, can not possibly understand the pain that pushes people of color to stand up to their oppressors.
When your best friend’s mother dies
You do not speak a eulogy for her
You let her take the stand
Even though she’s shaking and covered in sweat
You let her use her voice
This is how you can be an ally
when they say that no one is coming to save you
they don’t mean that the world is a dark pit and you are trapped in endless night.
they mean that the boys who look for girls in the bukowski section of your used book store
are not boys who want you happy.
bukowski beat his women.
so did picasso.
so did gandhi.
throw away your idols. burn them like burning books, like the libraries of alexandria, like a city full to the brim with ignorance and new beginnings.
it is not that no one will kiss your scars
it is that you must push them away with all the strength in your brittle fingers, because boys who like only broken girls will break you again and again just to keep on loving you.
when they say that you are your own champion
it does not mean that you are weak
because you have not eaten for five days
because you look over tall buildings and wonder how many stories you’d have to jump
because you cannot be touched without permission, because you see things that are not there
call your therapist. tell them the truth.
call your parents. tell them what you need.
call your friends. tell them what you want.
call your lovers. tell them no.
when they say to save yourself
that your pain might be beautiful
but you are so much more.
Last night I thought I kissed
the loneliness from out your belly button.
I thought I did, but later you sat up,
all bones and restless hands, and told me that
there is a knot in your body that I cannot undo.
I never know what to say to these things.
“It’s okay.” “Come back to bed.”
“Please don’t go away again.”
Sometimes you are gone for days at a time
and it is all I can do not to call the police,
file a missing person’s report, even though
you are right there, still sleeping next to me
in bed. But your eyes are like an empty house
in winter: lights left on to scare away intruders.
Except in this case I am the intruder and you
are already locked up so tight that no one
could possibly jimmy their way in.
Last night I thought I gave you a reason
not to be so sad when I held your body like
a high note and we both trembled from the effort.
Some people, though, are sad against all reason,
all sensibility, all love. I know better now.
I know what to say to the things you admit to me
in the dark, all bones and restless hands.
“It’s okay.” “You can stay in bed.”
“Please come back to me again.”
Hey Tumblr! I have finished my first perzine, and am ready to sell and trade it!
The List is a 36 page zine about things that I wanted to do at a time when I was feeling low.
I found the list in a desk drawer about a year after initially writing it, and added personal stories and descriptions to each point on the list to make my zine.
Each zine will have a different drawing on the front and maybe some illustrations inside.
I’m thinking $2 + shipping or trades would make me happy!
It’s okay to hang upside-down like a bat,
to swim into the deep end of silence,
to swallow every key so you can’t get out.
It’s okay to hear the ocean calling your fevered name
to say your sorrow is an opera of snakes,
to flirt with sharp and heartless things.
It’s okay to write, “I deserve everything”,
to bow down to this rotten thing that understands you,
to adore the red and ugly queen of it,
to admire her calm and steady rowing.
It’s okay to lock yourself in the medicine cabinet,
to drink all the wine,
to do what it takes to stay without staying.
It’s okay to hate God today,
to change his name to yours,
to want to ruin all that ruined you.
It’s okay to feel like only a photograph of yourself,
to need a stranger to pull your hair and pin you down.
It’s okay to want your mother as you lie alone in bed.
It’s okay to brick to fuck to flame to church to crush to knife
to rock to rock to rock to rock to rock and rock.
It’s okay to wave good-bye to yourself in the mirror.
To write, “I don’t want anything”.
It’s okay to despise what you have inherited,
to feel dead in a city of pulses.
It’s okay to be the whale that never comes up for air,
to love best the taste of your own blood.
When I was 10, I saw
my first episode of Law & Order, SVU
a woman screamed
and her pretty pink dress ripped
the scene cut to black but then
she sat in a station
hair mussed and mascara running
and she seemed broken
and that’s when I began to prepare
for the inevitable.
When I was 12, my sister got
hit on by a boy
he looked at her funny
and I couldn’t forget
how his eyes tracked
her pink t-shirt
around the room
he reminded me of the predators
that I saw on nature documentaries
and for the first time, my strong sister
seemed like the prey.
When I was 13, my auntie bought me
a pretty pink can of pepper spray
she told me if my daddy comes at me
or any other boy
I spray hard and fast
kick them in the balls
and then run run run
as fast as I can.
I flicked the safety switch
and clipped the can
to my purse.
When I was 14, I went to a sleepover
and met a boy named Jake
Jake was 18 and had tattoos
he smelled funny and his eyes
didn’t leave me all night.
He waited for me in the dark
outside of the bathroom
and I sprinted fast fast fast
and hid under a blanket.
Clutching my pretty pink can
and flicking the safety
(I didn’t sleep that night)
When I turned 15, my mom took me
to buy some new bras.
I had to go up a cup
and I stared at the pretty pink tags
and told her that I knew
Knew that some day
that cup size
was going to get me in trouble.
She looked sad when she said
that it wouldn’t be the cup
but the men who’d take my body as an invitation.
(I didn’t see the difference)
No one ever talks
about the pretty pink can
on my purse.
No one ever mentions it
or asks about it
And I never get pulled aside in stores.
People’s eyes flick over it
But what I want to know is;
How is it okay
for a kid like me
to have a weapon?
I’ll tell you how.
It’s because I’m a girl.
We’re trained since we hit puberty
for a war that no one wants to talk about
trained for horrible things
that people claim never happen
Or worse- “They happen for a reason”
we are told to be careful
we are told not to take walks after it’s dark
we are told to fight back to be compliant to yell and to stay silent
but nothing you tell us
I don’t know how old I’ll be
when all of that advice
will be needed.
I don’t know how old I’ll be
when I’ll take a shower
and see blood mixing with white
running down the inside of my legs
swirling into a pretty pink cream
while I try to un-break myself.
I don’t when it’ll happen,
But I know that it will.
tomorrow or years from now-
and I’m scared.
At least we girls look pretty in pink.
So tell me. How far can I walk on my own at night? How many metres, exactly, can I walk unaccompanied without having to fear for my life?
How many drinks am I, an adult woman, allowed to have after work on Friday night before being dismissed as a “party girl” or “asking for it”? How high can my heels be, and how short a skirt can I wear, before being implicated in any crime against me? And, just so that I’m clear, how many metres can I walk to get myself home?
And if something happened to me, how harshly would I be judged? If I vanished on that walk to my front door, what would you have to say about me? Would I be tut-tutted at for not accepting the offer of an escort home? Would idiots take to Facebook to admonish me for supposedly leading some guy on?
Would do-gooders and commentators and Twitterati-types take my parents to task for not raising me to act sensibly? Would they lambast my friends and lovers for not taking adequate care of me? Would everyone in my life suffer because I exceeded my allocated metres of solo walking?
Would every media outlet in the country view my disappearance as an opportunity to point out that, as it happens, women have more to fear in our world than men?
Would you, quietly, at the back of your mind, think that if I’d just stayed home with my partner, like a good wife and woman, none of this would have happened to me?
Are you just looking for one big, smug fucking excuse to say that you told me so?
And just so that we’re absolutely fucking clear, how many metres am I allowed to walk on my own at night?
~custom poems written for me by Pam Benjamin at the 2013 makers market. I chose the topic and she wrote it. Traded for a zine. The puppies one is my favorite.
I wrote a #zine. So, you should probably order it. $2+shipping or trades :) 36 pages. #perzine #writing
Benjamin Dreyer is the VP Executive Managing Editor & Copy Chief of Random House Publishing Group. Below is his list of the common stumbling blocks for authors, from A to X.
- One buys antiques in an antiques store from an antiques dealer; an antique store is a very old store.
- He stayed awhile; he stayed for a while.
- Besides is other than; beside is next to.
- The singular of biceps is biceps; the singular of triceps is triceps. There’s no such thing as a bicep; there’s no such thing as a tricep.
- A blond man, a blond woman; he’s a blond, she’s a blonde.
- A capital is a city (or a letter, or part of a column); a capitol is a building.
- Something centres on something else, not around it.
- If you’re talking about a thrilling plot point, the word is climactic; if you’re discussing the weather, the word is climatic.
- A cornet is an instrument; a coronet is a crown.
- One emigrates from a place; one immigrates to a place.
- The word is enmity, not emnity.
- One goes to work every day, or nearly, but eating lunch is an everyday occurrence.
- A flair is a talent; a flare is an emergency signal.
- A flier is someone who flies planes; a flyer is a piece of paper.
- Flower bed, not flowerbed.
- Free rein, not free reign.
- To garner is to accumulate, as a waiter garners tips; to garnish (in the non-parsley meaning) is to take away, as the government garnishes one’s wages; a garnishee is a person served with a garnishment; to garnishee is also to serve with a garnishment (that is, it’s a synonym for “to garnish”).
- A gel is a jelly; it’s also a transparent sheet used in stage lighting. When Jell-O sets, or when one’s master plan takes final form, it either jells or gels (though I think the former is preferable).
- Bears are grizzly; crimes are grisly. Cheap meat, of course, is gristly.
- Coats go on hangers; planes go in hangars.
- One’s sweetheart is “hon,” not “hun,” unless one’s sweetheart is Attila (not, by the way, Atilla) or perhaps Winnie-the-Pooh (note hyphens).
- One insures cars; one ensures success; one assures people.
- Lawn mower, not lawnmower.
- The past tense of lead is led, not lead.
- One loathes someone else but is loath to admit one’s distaste.
- If you’re leeching, you’re either bleeding a patient with a leech or otherwise sucking someone’s or something’s lifeblood. If you’re leaching, you’re removing one substance from another by means of a percolating liquid (I have virtually no idea what that means; I trust that you do).
- You wear a mantle; your fireplace has a mantel.
- Masseurs are men; masseuses are women. Many otherwise extremely well educated people don’t seem to know this; I have no idea why. (These days they’re all called massage therapists anyway.)
- The short version of microphone is still, so far as RH is concerned, mike. Not, ick, “mic.” [2009 update: I seem to be losing this battle. Badly. 2010 update: I’ve lost. Follow the author’s lead.]
- There’s no such word as moreso.
- Mucus is a noun; mucous is an adjective.
- Nerve-racking, not -wracking; racked with guilt, not wracked with guilt.
- One buys a newspaper at a newsstand, not a newstand.
- An ordinance is a law; ordnance is ammo.
- Palette has to do with colour; palate has to do with taste; a pallet is, among other things, something you sleep on. Eugene Pallette was a character actor; he’s particularly good in the 1943 film Heaven Can Wait.
- Noun wise, a premier is a diplomat; a premiere is something one attends. “Premier” is also, of course, an adjective denoting quality.
- That which the English call paraffin (as in “paraffin stove”), we Americans call kerosene. Copy editors should keep an eye open for this in mss. by British authors and query it. The term paraffin should generally be reserved for the waxy, oily stuff we associate with candles.
- Prophecy is a noun; prophesy is a verb.
- Per Web 11, it’s restroom.
- The Sibyl is a seeress; Sybil is Basil Fawlty’s wife.
- Please don’t mix somewhat and something into one murky modifier. A thing is somewhat rare, or it’s something of a rarity.
- A tick bites; a tic is a twitch.
- Tortuous is twisty, circuitous, or tricky; torturous is painful, or painfully slow.
- Transsexual, not transexual.
- Troops are military; troupes are theatrical.
- A vice is depraved; a vise squeezes.
- Vocal cords; strikes a chord.
- A smart aleck is a wise guy; a mobster is a wiseguy.
- X ray is a noun; X-ray is a verb or adjective.
no one ever congratulates you
for doing the really difficult things
like driving on the freeway or getting out of bed or
every friendship you make is a countdown
to the moment
when they finally can’t deal
with the missed calls and canceled hangouts
every friendship is on a timer
every friendship expires sooner,
you hear phrases like “bootstraps”
over and over
until you wish you had some to hang
you have to learn to simultaneously
relax your muscles
and move them with determination
you have to be in control
and you have to let go
at the same time
it’s enough to drive you into
a blubbering mess
music is a conduit
crying is a conduit
your dad calling is a conduit
everything becomes a conduit
for either having or not having another panic attack
you learn to stop making plans
because you’ll either disappoint yourself
or someone you care about or both
you accept all of it
you hope someday everyone else can
accept it too