Poem Transcribed As Performed
Warning this poem contains situations of sexual assault and post traumatic stress disorder.
For the things, I left unsaid in my last poem and the chains that disappeared with time.
I would like to introduce you to Sally. Sally is a nice, sweet girl that used to live down the block and moved in next door when I was 6. Sally’s name is short for post-traumatic stress disorder. She is a lost daisy chain kind of girl that always looks younger than she is. Sally is the type of girl that knows no boundaries, likes to say that her home is the woods. Her households no walls so, she ventures as she pleases. Instead of going through the front door she busts through your windows. We used to say sally’s nickname was wrong place, wrong time, she will ditch you for years and then dump her luggage on your front porch and say she’s moving in. Kicking her feet up on your brand new coffee table as she asks you what’s new? Her looks sugary sweet but her words of pure salt. “Sally I need a minute,” I’ll plead and she says I’ll give you a second. My stomach coiling up as I take her in knowing the baggage she carries every time she visits. I’m worried because I know my mutual friend does not think pain has an ending. She knows the only reason she’s here is because she came when the pain started.
She likes to bring up the past a lot. Talks about her glory days and likes to skip past the good things and go straight to the money makers. Sally is the only one that has stayed long enough to get to know me. I don’t know what it is like to live without Sally. Has that boy in your class given up yet she asks and I pretend like I have no idea so she continues, you know the one that groans every time you stand up and likes to try to press you up against walls, how could you forget when that’s the only thing you think of when you get ready for second period. Why are you bringing this up, I ask and sally smirks because it is what made me visit or more specifically reminded you of him. Army Boy
I was 11 when I lost my first kiss. The boy 18. At the top of the carpeted staircase in my grandmother’s house holding my 1st generation iPod in between monkey bar fingers, we exchanged information and promised to keep in touch before he leaned forward. So quick I wonder if he had been giving himself a silent pep talk. Glancing back and forth, the chance of getting caught spurring him on as I typed his information in. I was still wearing my middle school uniform, my white polo shirt hidden beneath the layer of my school sweatshirt. Pressed against the wall and I held my breath as I waited for him to move away. Sometimes it feels like I have been holding my breath all of my life. I could hear my uncle laughing on the other side of the wall, sitting at his usual spot on my grandmas rough leather couch. Not knowing his best friend was putting his hands where they shouldn’t be.
It was his last night with us, goodbyes would be said and tomorrow he would no longer be the boy that lived down the street but a soldier for the U.S. Army.
An American boy looking out to become an army man, bringing a taste of home with him on his journey, forbidden fruit had never tasted sweeter. His cocoa colored hands holding anything but brown sugar. He told me to not tell anyone as he pulled me close and I asked him why. The same why you get when you tell a child they are being punished. Feeling trapped in this twisted game of chutes and ladders. I said we were family it didn’t matter, in my head I looked at him more as a brother. His tall form and bright smile reminded me of my father and I learned to trust him like every other man that has destroyed me. He shook his head. It wasn’t that bad I think to myself and yet I’m seventeen and I’ve never let a boy get too close in fear that they will leave my heart on another staircase. Maybe that night would have been easier for others to swallow if I was a year older and him a year younger.
The uncomfortable sensation I get when I think back to this moment bubbled up so much that I minimized what occurred. Yet when the boys in my school taunt and ask if my lips have ever been defiled I say no. I look away and push back and I act as if something I cherished wasn’t taken away. I’m not the only girl that is looking for lost mementos in old memories. Hoping for more than secrets for innocence. I can’t help but notice the tags he left dangling around my throat for others to figure out who owned me- No who I was before I stopped moving. Army boy still sends me birthday wishes every year on Facebook. I find that I have eaten whatever a man has put before me in fear of retaliation. No matter how much it makes my stomach churn at the thought of it. My heart becoming a bomb on the verge of incinerating everything it’s ever loved. I wonder when our relationship changed when he decided that I was the risk he was willing to take. I cried the next morning and when Mom asked me why I just said I missed him when it wasn’t the case. Too scared that she would think I was the one that was guilty. Another trapped word that I packed up in a cardboard box the man before him left inside of me. And now he is just an Army boy to me.
But this is just what us girls have to deal with, almost like a right of passage every girl eventually gains a friend like Sally. Girls learn how to protect themselves from strangers but never from family. I tell sally this does not affect you and she says that is what you think. It doesn’t even matter I tell her and she says then why did you write this poem. You wrote it because he reminded you of your father. Another man you used to hide from at the top of your staircase knowing that he would not be able to see that you were there breathing. You made yourself smaller as you sat at the dinner table stuffing your mouth until you didn’t have the urge to speak. Now you look at your body like it is someone else’s territory. She says I’m here for you if you need me and I tell her I wish you would just go. Army Boy left a box of his possessions inside of you and expected you to keep it safe. Expected you to behave just as your daddy did. Don’t you know one poem won’t fix it? Yes, sally but I have to try.
You know what daddy did, even if you don’t want to say it, she says. I know I tell her. I know but if I say it out loud then its true. Baby girl don’t you know your dreams are memories too. His hands. Yes, sally, I know his hands I know just stop. The things he said you need to tell someone. I cant, I sob. It’s been too long. Time I need time, I beg. He’s not here anymore, Sally tries to convince me and I tell her he never left. No wonder you didn’t tell anyone, she scoffs, How would they treat you if they knew you still kept daddies secrets. His best trooper in his arsenal, quick and efficient, a better soldier than he expected. You were his first girl, out of all those boys, you were new and pretty and different, and him, big enough to mold you, he wanted to be your God. God, please help me. How long has it been? I say I don’t remember, all I remember now is the moon and his pale sheets, my heart always begging for home.
He has taken the only safety you have ever known, Sally speaks softly this time. The sickest alliteration, almost as if she has always been next to me as I hid underneath the covers learning to breathe silence. From birth, he was meant to be your protector but he became your monster. You, the damsel trapped in the tower, chained to that bed, knowing it’s better to not fight back. You try to not fall asleep in fear that you’ll have to relive the years he took from you. You were such a good girl, you know, you still do as he says even when he’s not there to pin you under.
You are lonely, you have isolated yourself because of him and all I can say is it’s true. I’ve never found daddies poems to be sweet only the secret ingredient that reminded me of the nights I was threatened into doing whatever he wanted. So alone that you made me real when you had no one to tell you gave me a name and told me all your secrets. Baby girl, you couldn’t control what happened and now you can’t control your mind. My PTSD, I mean sally says Army boy wasn’t the only one that locked you up on that staircase. Daddy did it a long time before then, he’s not the only one that put his hands where they shouldn’t have been. After you climbed the concrete staircase to his apartment and waited for the door to open. Watching mommy leave in her run down Camry with expired tags, hoping she wouldn’t ask too many questions when you finally got back. Why are you here? I scream
You don’t get it, why I come back she says, I’m the only one that knows what happened every time mommy left.