We are taught
from the moment we leave our pink nurseries
we are collapsible paper dolls:
light to hold, easier to crumple.
That as women, our worth lives secretly
wrapped in lace and cotton panties,
our fragility armored in pepper spray and mace.
They say one in three women will be raped
or sexually abused in their lifetime.
I am one of three daughters.
Imagine each victim is an acrobat.
Her sanity, a balancing act.
Our response is the unfailing safety net.
We never expect to see her across the wire.
You weren’t just violated, we tell her,
you are an empty museum, a gutted monument
to what used to hold so much worth.
With best intentions we tell her to reclaim it,
put a price tag on her rape and own it.
Don’t stand too tall, don’t act too strong.
We will name you denial.
Come back when you are ready to crumble
like your bones are made of chalk.
You can only laugh cutely or cry beautifully,
so cry beautifully.
We will catch you.
We are calling it theft,
as if he could pluck open your ribs like cello strings,
pocket your breasts, steal what makes your heart flutter
and tack its wings to his wall.
Some days you will feel dirty.
Some weeks you’ll remember how hard it is to breathe in public,
but know this:
the person who did this to you is broken. Not you.
The person who did this to you is out there,
choking on the glass of his chest.
It is a windshield
and his heartbeat is a baseball bat:
regret this, regret this.
Nothing was stolen from you.
Your body is not a hand-me-down.
There is nothing that sits inside you holding your worth,
no locket that can be seen or touched,
fucked from your stomach to be left on concrete.
I know it’s hard to feel perfect
when you can’t tell an Adam’s apple from a fist.
Some ashtray of a man picked you to play his Eden
but I will not watch you collapse.
We are taught