black and white photo of a tombstone with a statue of a woman


Date:         Sometime after that night in the practice room seven years ago, where I shook in the
                  corner with sweaty thighs while he wailed for me to stay; a Dasani bottle cast off,
                  dark with wine.

To:             See subject (I never got the bitch’s name; he never told me).

From:       Myself, who, upon examination, meets a wound along the underside of a life before
                  my [not yet-still-loved-with-similar-desperation] husband’s tender hands which,
                  despite years of therapy, still threatens to rupture with grotesque hew of soft light.


To rupture with grotesque hew of soft light: / I forgive the world because it gave your son / to me.
Don’t ask how I could, ask why          I feign / at being a wife [a word                             
I pronounce /
like priests do] with my cuffless finger. / It’s you. The man I thought I’d meet / at the altar was
just a mess to clean. / Are you proud? I would


become a good bride, / your son said             you touched him. Where I come from, / this makes
him a man. A eulogy I’d / give        
my life’s end—I do, in health & / sickness—means nothing /
when I think who’s / responsible. For the sickness, I mean. / With him, I’ve only ever been left
wanting, alone.


                                                                                                   I’ve only ever been left alone with him, wanting /
to be closer, to have only a veil / be the last thing                between us                before this / new life at his
side, to end all my days /                       
in his arms. I’ll get to why soon; for now I’ll / tell you what I would
give him: a crown, / adorned with sunrise. & I’d say, /
all this blue            gazing down at / the world, my
love: that’s what you are to me.
/ & he’d give me a ring: corporeal, / the opposite of unshed blood, a vow


to stay / for better or for worse. Sometimes I dream /
I can fix him if I try hard enough. / Here is what happened:
                                                                                                                                     he touched me in a black room.



Here is what happened: he touched me. In a black room / called memory         I recall a thin beam—
the dim light of a hallway,                      peering / through the window                    over the door. The
world’s / oldest blade,
       [a man’s hand]          the arm teaching / it flight. The destination:


my face, / the corner he backed me into. Soundproofed / walls, a lock on the door. A startled drum
/ where a heart sits, a heaven
swaddled with / thirst sated with     poison, refusal     I didn’t / know
   to give. Boundaries           crumpled /           to dust; I was falling for him well before / this
night. What escapes God’s eyes in this room /             here                     
is how hard I scrubbed in the


Here is how hard I scrubbed: in the morning, / my skin was all that could scream     tua culpa. / & I
stood before the debris beside /  a single dead sun                with a halo only / trauma could stillbirth
between us:
Mommy / loves you, he’d said. Mommy loves you. /


Here is how I’m different: circle                 the eye / of my mind with me, learn what you’ve done: / see
me fail to save myself from that night. / See me lift                       a marker, hear the song / I’ve learned
to sing: survival—the bright red / X        
I placed on my life before—


this man / I named love so I recall why
he scares me.
                                                                                                              / [This was the only way I could get out.]



This was the only way I could get out: / gladiator.        I forgave       him because I knew  /  it was as
close to          
an apology / (Mommy loves you) as I’d get. Gentlest / of lions who taught me shame
so I could strip / from it—the freedom came
though memory,     /      not battle: the rain on his
shoulders, summer / smile, his mouth sinking
into mine. / If trauma is the starved jaw slack in the
dark / corner of the arena, then


love— / my blazing sword & shield—is what I crawled / from             the rupture with, this thing
I called
healing. / I thought if I fixed him, I could fix / all the parts of me I named unlovable.


I named all the parts of me unlovable. / I know the reason               he’d replicate / memory on a body:
Desperation—  / to be victor, not
                   victim. We’re not so unlike: I thieve his ghost, return us /
to the altar of my eyes, take him as / my groom. What you’d call kidnapping, I call / agency, revenge,


love. There’ll be no lineup / to point him in, only this.                 gap / I can’t close; I can’t name him
monster without / the one he survived. I’ll end here: I will / put you in hell if we meet. Thank you—


you’ve shown me some crimes are so tall even /
God tilts His head to meet them
                                                                                                                                                                in the eye.


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