When I was seven, my biggest achievement was spelling the word “exquisite.”
It had the letters “X” and “Q,” so imagine my excitement and pride
When I finally got it right.
It was such a big word for me at that time,
And my little world was filled with milestones like that one.
Like my first pet: a brown rabbit I called “Bobbit.”
I was so young I covered my eyes
Whenever kissing scenes came on TV.
One of the best things when I was seven
Was that our house was always open for visitors.
Welcome, come in, make yourself at home.
And he did.
H e said “Hello,”
Then told me to sit on his lap.
I was so young, I thought everything that adults said
Was gospel that I had to follow,
So I climbed up on those tree-trunk legs
That looked like they could crush me like a dry branch
Snapping under Doc Marten boots.
I sat on his lap.
He smiled as his hands snaked up my thin legs,
Entered my flimsy cotton shorts
And let his fingers explore.
I was seven.
It was supposed to be a time for playing tag
For playing paper dolls, trying on
Engineer astronaut teacher doctor Lego collector
Should have been a time when no worry was bigger
Than getting a new bunny or getting my homework done,
But I was seven when I first forgot how sleep felt
As I begged the Sun to come back and
Wake me up from nightmares of men
Who won’t stop drawing chalk outlines around me.
I was seven when I first learned
That there is a kind of dirty that cannot be washed away
No matter how many showers you take in a single day
That you can swallow your tongue while trying to tell your mother
To please please please please please lock the doors
Please do not let the neighbours in anymore
Or just lock me up because I am a crime scene
And everywhere I walk, I leave a trail of blood
On the floor.
There are nights when I swear I can still feel
His rough hand creeping up my thighs,
And I start breaking apart from the inside out.
I try to purge this part of me,
Vomit apologies to my body when it was seven and small
I am sorry I was too young to fight him off
I am sorry I was too young to know
That when touch doesn’t feel right,
You have the right to say no
I am sorry I didn’t know any better then.
I am sorry I cannot forget this for you.
I started playing paper dolls again
But this time, I was a taxidermist stuffing this dead skin
Trying to convince the world that I was still alive inside
I was a lawyer putting myself on trial for a felony I didn’t commit
Embracing blame like a martyr paying the price for his sin
Touch never felt right again and I felt like loving me
Was like clutching fistfuls of graveyard dirt in both hands
So I kept everyone at arm’s length
Because I didn’t want to get anyone else dirty
Even as I prayed for someone, anyone
To save me from this straitjacket made of lonely.
It took me so many years to see
That worth is not defined by the dark corners our history.
Human beings shed 40, 000 skin cells per day
And I am sure that since that day when I was seven
I have shed millions and millions of skin cells more
And somewhere along the way,
His fingerprints have been washed away
Like hopscotch lines on the ground after heavy rain.
I don’t play with paper dolls anymore.
Now I know that I am flesh and blood existing in infinite dimensions
Grown too big to fit into the word victim
I dare you to call me broken
And I will show you the light dancing in this kaleidoscope heart
Call me graveyard
And I will show you how the rich soil gives birth to life
Call me damaged,
Call me anything other than strong
And I will show you that my spirit is a wolf
With a mouth full of sharp teeth—
So this is my last apology.
Tonight, I am asking that seven-year old girl
To please forgive me for calling her a tragedy,
And I want to tell her that it’s okay,
I know better now,
Evil can touch you but it has absolutely no power to stay.
So there is no need to curl up and hide
The world is still full of light and it is ready for you, saying,
“Darling, you don’t have to lock your doors anymore,
Everything will be alright.”