You didn’t ask for these words,
but neither did I.
My brain is tattooed with memories
even a laser could not remove.
My mother dragged from my room.
My sister put back in her bed,
his belt buckle still open
and clinking like a monster’s teeth,
a monster made of hairpins and bottle caps.
Here is his fist. Here is the bruise.
Here are the bruises you cannot see,
living inside me like incessant ocean waves.
I feel like my face lives behind your face,
a face you’ve carved out of shadows and malice,
a face you created with your fingertips
in your blindness, searching for your father
or your rapist, or your college boyfriend
who let you drink too much
on a Thursday so you wouldn’t remember
where you left your panties.
I am not that face. I am the face of my eight year old self,
boiling with rage after a stranger
smacked my sister on the school bus,
the stranger who wore a black eye for weeks after
only because I was too young
to break his bones, and a grownup
rushed from her trailer to pull us apart before I could
make his mouth fill with blood.
I’m the boy chased from the playground
day after day, tripping over my own feet,
and being kicked by the rough boot heels
of those with a ferocity outpacing their growth spurts.
I’m the man becoming a boy becoming a man,
standing at the edge of personhood
and wondering where to step,
which way leads to the abyss
and which way leads to the light
that might illuminate these futures
and show my face to the world.