You are 12 when you learn the word.
you have been scuffed knees Christian
school blouses misbuttoned hours spent
crayoning houses and careening blocks
by rainbow unicorn bicycle. The only time you
spend with boys is beating their
video games, and you fell in love once,
with a horse.
Mom doesn’t do anything, of course
but Dad holds the reins and you ride together.
Eat ice cream together. Go daydreaming on bikes together.
Play summer sun badminton and soap the cars and tickle
fight and have nights in movie theaters of blankets together.
Mom doesn’t reply when you cry
but Dad is your bad dream hero,
middle of the night firefighter with a
cape shaped like a glass of water and a reassuring tuck.
He comes every time,
beer breath lulling you into the darkness of forgetting and when you
ask questions in the morning he makes you
pancakes, reminds you that
nobody likes a liar so thank goodness you’re
Daddy’s Little Girl.
Mom pretends not to hear.
Eight months ago your girlhood snapped like a wishbone,
leaving blood orchids in your lap and you’ve been a flapping,
wounded killdeer ever since, tap dancing every breath
just to get him to look at you.
This morning, you thought,
maybe if I were beautiful.
Mom never notices
so you dug through her make-up
looking for the colors of love,
imagining yourself his favorite
gift on Christmas morning.
From the passenger seat, school drop off delayed
by the hot welt of shame across your glossy mouth,
clumsy green eyeshadow bruises
tear-streaking the tiny flowers of your new sundress,
he teaches you a lesson,
this new word,
and you are a wilting daisy chain
a love-lost teddy bear buried in trash
a bicycle tire torn through and flat
a brand new ice cream cone slipped from tiny hands
a blanket fort no-one will share, but at last,
he’s looking at you and you know
he will never tuck you in again.
My parents love me like a miracle.
My mother night rocks me like honey
wailing sweet against her skin,
presses my fleeting moments of tininess like
rose petals between the pages of a sonnet
sleep be damned;
my father, whose palm never meets my cheek
with force more than a caress,
only midnight undresses my covers
to tell me the kittens have been born,
only fingers my throat
to steady my dress-up princess crown,
only touches my body
to swaddle me in his arms while I watch cartoons,
to guide my fumbling hands with his
so I learn to build a tiny wooden crib for my babies.
My mother plays with me,
her imagination dandelion wishes in my brown hair
soft as their devotion,
warm rising like steam in a shared bath,
sunlight splashed on their favorite snuggling quilt,
voices dove-calling quiet behind doors that only ever close
They hold hands.
They are porchlight present. Even at night
their living room laughter is my lullaby.
They are my sages,
hold me fast in the wisdom and wonder of their laps and
I am their clumsy champion, I fall again
and again into their delight while they give a standing ovation.
They fight for me.
Even when I flounce to my room, long-legged and pouting,
I am secretly glad my mother cares enough
to scold, that at the end of my rope she holds firm
so there’s never enough to hang myself;
that my father only yells
to help me practice saying NO
and oh, the memories, we don’t even know
where to start, but
they always believe me.
What about the time that you -
Remember when we went to -
Oh, how we laughed!
We laughed until we split the night
like an overripe plum, joy sweet
nectar running from our chins, and
everything we touched became sticky.
If I close my eyes,
we are happy.
If I close my eyes,
I can taste it.
If I could go back in time, I would tell you
you do not need to offer up your body
like a prayer.
You do not have to kneel at the altar of worthiness,
begging to be loved with red lips and
blackness running your vacant eyes,
while they sacrifice your
newborn baby heart.
You do not have to pare yourself to bone,
offer the hallowed chamber of your
womb to anyone
just because they call you beautiful.
Not because you’re not beautiful.
You are a supernova.
You are light, expanding,
drawing the cosmos to your feet.
From the first embryonic fluttering
to your final sigh,
you have been,
are, will be,
even when he broke you.
Even when you thought yourself
a black hole.
Even when it seemed like
your beauty was to blame
Even when you thought
you ruined everything.
You must know this:
You punish yourself
because you were powerless,
too scared for your rage to go
anywhere but in.
You are not a sinner.
you are capsizing in a river of grief,
because no little girl
should learn her body is
currency for affection,
believe she has to bare her insides
for those with a predilection
to swallow her whole,
simply because she’s desperate to be loved.
break every holy mirror.
Feed your aching belly
until tears of gratitude run like
sweet nectar from your chin.
Suture your skin with dahlia blooms;
weep monsoons for innocence.
Bathe your weary bones in
wrap parchment around your throat,
and let every buried body of a word
be a rising sun in your crimson pulse.
Love is your birthright.
You do not have to be useful,
you do not have to be beautiful,
you do not have to be perfect,
to be loved.
Still, you are.
Joey Fagundes is a queer, non-binary Buddhist. Joey is deeply in love with her wife and adores spending time at home with her adult daughter and their cats. She has a tendency to fall in love with the humanity of strangers and beauty makes her cry. Joey has dedicated her life to tending to the suffering of all living things and to experiencing as much as she can of this beautiful world. She loves hot yoga and learning new languages and she is terrified of dying. Joey has wanted to become a writer since kindergarten. Her poetry is an attempt to break a silence she has kept for more than 30 years.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.