libraries

step into my office and

see how our stories live,

not interconnected webs

but unique entities,

rows of mismatched novels

lining mahogany shelves.

circumstance alters which shelf we sit upon,

whose covers rest against our skin,

how intimately we let them touch us.

you can build a book together,

you will hold chapters of other names,

you will contain multitudes,

but other stories do not become yours

you do not become theirs.

go somewhere new and suddenly

your shelf shifts,

tipping you into a pile of strangers

all touching, piled around,

but not becoming, not intertwining.

and then your cover slips, for just a moment,

and you allow them to read some pages

not those ones

just a few here and there,

let them see the parts you like best,

close it again before they see too much.

sometimes you rest against

a story, a shelf, a life

that changes the rest of yours.

but they do not have the power

they do not have you

you have not become one another.

touch them, witness their lives,

let them read yours

until you can’t make eye contact anymore

and know

know

that you are a story, a life

a complete entity.

and know beyond doubt that

even

broken,

you

are

whole.

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I Didn’t Want To

I said the words.
I didn’t want to.
I dragged the words up
from the pit in my stomach,
fighting them, pushing them away from me.
The first time I said it, the story collided
with the horror, the empathy,
the well-intentioned pity
on the face of a friend.
You have to tell it again, she said,
you
have
to
make
him
pay.
So I said the words.
I didn’t want to.
I stared at perfect creases
in dark blue uniforms
and vomited the words again and again.
Bright white flashes in a cold room,
photos of the ink-like stains on my skin.
Cold metal under my fingernails,
dry cotton inside my cheek,
sterile fingers pulling at my hair,
taking more pieces of me.
You have to tell it again, they said,
you
have
to
be
strong
now.

 

So I said the words.
I didn’t want to.
A suit and tie I’d never met
asked for details no one would remember
but I tried, I tried, I tried.
I watched his furious scribbling
and, knowing the stakes, recalled
every single hurt that I could.
My hands suffered from aftershocks
so I hid them, clenched in my lap,
burying my shame and weakness.
You have to tell it again, the suit said,
you
have
to
prove
it
happened.
So I said the words.
I didn’t want to.
Everyone rose for a man in black robes
and we began their war of credibility.
He’s there, right there, at the corners of my vision
and suddenly my skin is made of glass,
ready to shatter if anyone presses too hard —
they’re all pressing too hard — this is all too hard —
I just want to go home.
Their questions imply things of me,
Asked-for-it / deserved-it / wanted-it / liked-it.
I feel their words pouring over me,
try not to breathe them in,
hope that I can reach the shore before I drown.
I tread water for hours, days, a week,
Before a dozen strangers come back.
You have to say it again, said the man in robes.

Guilty
Guilty
Guilty
Guilty
Guilty
Guilty
“GUILTY.”

They said a word.
They heard all of my words
and gave me back just one,
and that word was supposed to give me more,
give back the pieces of myself that I lost.
But my stomach feels empty without that pit in it.
What now?
The chains tethering me to that moment
have finally been unlocked;
I don’t have to tell it again.
There’s no one left to make me say the words.
So I wonder:
was
saying
the
words
worth
it?