To the men I grew up with:


    Pre-K three:

    Coloring pictures of Jesus imagined with purple hair and green robes, under the light of Catholic stained-glass windows.

    We make macaroni picture frames

    and muse on what kindergarteners do.

    Speaking playground love songs into existence,

    like the way your name clumsily slipped from my mouth.

    The first time I ever learned that boys would be a thread between the lips of all my women.


    Dressed in pale blue button-downs for a bank job,

    I hated hugging you in the mornings,

    reeking of cologne that made me itch.

    Rolling my eyes in the evenings as you tried to explain my elementary multiplications in your half-stitched English,

    “Esto es fácil, ok what’s dos por dos?”

    The days you sang mi Amor de Verano

    in the shower

    were the good days.

    Barbecuing, at peace with too much wine and pool day sun rays.

    On these days,

    it’s hard to imagine the man that would

    accuse my mother of lying about her whereabouts,

    getting on the highway to verify her claims of traffic.

    On these days,

    these Amor de Verano days,

    I can almost forget the slamming of a wedding portrait in the trash.

    My sister’s small arms hanging it back in its place.

    On these days,

    the “ven dame un beso” days,

    I almost imagine I didn’t stand

    in the corner of my living room


    as he swung the kitchen ceiling light. A weapon against my warring mother.

    My 10-year-old sister quelling the explosion, backdropped by muffled TV chatter.

    Eruptions that always resulted in thrown remotes and punched glass.

    On these days,

    the Discovery Channel documentary Sundays,

    I pretend I don’t hear him when he called me a dirty slut for staying out too late,

    I try to wash the “she’s too fat for any boy to like her” from my skin,

    I scrape any remnants of his ownership from my limbs,

    I rip the Band-Aids from my stomped-on toy shopping carts and my mom’s tears she thought I couldn’t hear from the play room.

    On these days,

    the times I see my parents slow dancing to Andrea Bocelli in the kitchen,

    I make a fantasy of a life.

    One where I speak to him on the car rides to school in the morning,

    instead of silently watching out the window.


    I had just turned 17, but really I was 16, because you’re never really 17 until you’re 18.

    I wrote you like poetry,

    with your slow, steady walk framed with hands in jean pockets

    and the white V-neck you always wore.

    You smelled like my dad in the mornings, but this time

    I wanted to get close.

    Gripped palms led me down a nature trail where you’d burn my back with your fingers.

    And for the first time I’d feel lips on my skin

    Wildfire on my hips,

    For the first time I felt whole.

    Because after all, this is what makes a woman valuable:

    Being Wanted.

    Never mind you were 27, promising a future

    once I was just a little 18,

    just a little longer.

    There were nights we’d talk on the phone for hours

    speaking my love for you into reality.

    On those nights,

    I’d almost forget the times I sent you

    the First Naked photos of my body.

    The first time I made myself artwork for the viewing

    pleasure of a man.

    And you left me crying on my bathroom tile for hours, as my friends cooked dinner in the kitchen.

    Asking for more, to later question why I did this.

    On those nights,

    the good “Sayed” days

    I’d call them,

    You’d make me yours, with sweet poisoned promise words.

    Maybe when I was a little 18,

    the circular abuse would leave too.

    A year long wait for something better than this.

    “If I can’t have you, no one will.”

    On those nights,

    I can almost forget those words.

    I can almost – just almost – forget you.


    You sat me on a throne built of rose gold past lies.

    I was perfection.

    With needle and thread,

    the stitching began.

    Healing the lacerations

    on my arms and legs.

    Your words one by one,

    punto a punto.

    “Te amo”

    “Mi princesa”

    “My little piece of heaven”

    But the sapphire


    were really just chains.

    And the crown was heavy for a neck who couldn’t lay rest.

    People can’t fix you

    but I was your fifth grade

    science fair


    Because under the shut veins were the parts of me too

    heavy tinted,

    too less than divine for you to see.

    I pulled and pulled

    as the thread came undone.

    Bleeding –

    but I was free,

    You were perfect

    but I am not.


    Sitting on top of your

    light wash jeans

    you cradled my shoulders and I shut my eyes.

    “Tell me.”

    Every night we’d push and pull in the back of this

    Mini SUV,

    and you’d reach for the skin under my shirts,

    until I recoiled to the corner of these plush seats.

    I closed my eyes

    and imagined myself sitting by a window,

    where the sky is always clear through the curtain blinds.

    I tell you.

    I tell you about the man I let into the corners of my room,

    feeling obligated to give him what he wanted, which wasn’t small talk.

    He’d take off my jeans that were too skin tight

    As I meekly mustered the fear inside me to say,

    “I don’t want to go any further.”

    I was met with a question:


    I couldn’t answer.

    Later as he pushed me up and down his clothed body

    His grip too tight and bruising, I closed my eyes

    And waited for an ending.

    Having to sleep next to him until the morning, wearing my sheets like ice on my back.

    I tell you this and you hold me like I am fragile if dropped.

    I tell you this,

    I tell you all of this.

    But every night you continue to undress me

    and I tell you this

    and you continue to pull

    and pout when I push you away.

    And I tell you this,

    I tell you how my body froze and you tell me,

    “we don’t have a lot of time.”

    So we lay in your bed

    and you tell me, “I don’t want to pressure you”

    as you pull my straps off my shoulders.

    This is what I want,

    I repeat it on loop

    Because repetition is the cure for doubt.

    I’m naked now

    I am art

    I am the paintings on display at the temples in Italy.

    If I close my eyes, I can pretend he is Michaelangelo,

    A sculptor.

    If I close my eyes,

    I can hardly remember why I was reluctant in the first place.

    I close my eyes,

    and wait for it to finish.

    If I count the minutes

    Before I know it it’ll be over.

    To the men I grew up with:

    I learned I will spend too much time thinking about the way macaroni picture frames look with your smiles.

    You taught me I am not mine

    until I am someone else’s.

    But my body is mine

    and if it takes ink on my skin to prove it

    If it takes ripping these words from my throat to prove it

    If there is one thing you’ve taught me

    Whatever it takes

    I am willing.


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