*after Caitlyn Seihl’s “a love letter to my stretchmarks”
I learned not to love myself on purpose.
I was four when my mother told me
I’m a mistake.
When I turned fourteen
I stayed soft so they could tear me,
pull me under. I was too tired
to wait for the ground
to swallow me whole. I was fourteen.
I was young.
Children should never feel
the need to not be alive. I turned sixteen
and the veins on my thighs
opened into red rivers.
I was cliché.
I was art.
What they don’t tell you at 16
is they can smell blood –
the men, the young, the hungry.
They kept coming like
the dead from some ancient underworld,
“give me your mouth, your hatred”
I am a ship of naked bodies.
I will keep you full.
I know I am supposed to feel safe
in my own skin. They tell me no woman
should look so thirsty,
but they don’t know.
I am empty beds. The safe bet. The road well-traveled.
I am spilt wine and sweaty dance floors.
I am the victim and the perpetrator.
I am every song
I am a place for cowards.