You have woken the witch that lives deep inside me.
You have removed the slumber chains from the giant of old.
You have handed me a box of matches and no chaperone
And a world made of lies and polyester.
You have barked up the wrong bitch.
I have shucked off the good, southern lady’s cloak,
Of the homecoming court, the cheerleader,
The preacher’s daughter, hands gentled in her lap.
They tied it at my neck with a bow, a Gordian girl-knot,
When I was young and bossy and sure-footed
“For protection,” they said.
Whose protection? I wondered.
I have sent that shit out to the dry cleaners
I will not pick it up
They can sell it for a profit from a rack on the street.
From now on,
I’m exposing the raw pink edges of my true skin to the sun.
Some things can’t be prettied up.
I used to be embarrassed by this side of me:
Messy. Expansive. Unraveled by rage.
The barroom brawler holding out a broken bottle
With a shaking hand
Blood jumping to a punk-rock soundtrack in my soul
Eyes so alive they had to be narrowed to keep the light of all that truth
From burning up the room.
These mornings when I wake,
I feel as if I have eaten a breakfast of gunpowder and a handful of stars
The combination roiling, anticipatory, explosive
My mouth ready to spew out a universe of fire and
An ancestral memory of the silenced women who came before,
Rotting in their shrouds, long dead under the ground
No one seems to understand:
That rage has to go somewhere.
Some girls cut. Some girls starve.
Some fuck strangers, tell themselves it’s freedom, not numbness.
Some guzzle gin when no one’s looking.
Some girls swallow their rage down and vomit it back up with the
penetration of a reprimanding finger, stifling the voice,
an Inside Job
The internalized, reflexive police force
Body violating body,
Forever and ever
I have done all of those things:
Starved. Cut. Boozed. Fucked and run.
I’ve punished myself the way
the world wants to see its women
Spoiler alert: It’s exhausting.
You exhaust us.
You. Are. Exhausting.
You. And your bullshit.
You, the Senators and Churches.
You, the old men holding the law hostage to your whims.
Nah. That bitch sees fine.
Puts the blindfold on herself now.
Stockholm Syndrome, you know.
Happens after a while.
Shrug. Step. Repeat.
They told me not to raise my voice.
So I learned to swallow all my sharp words.
They told me not to be disagreeable.
So I learned lipstick and smiling, a catechism of femininity.
They told me I was shame.
So I learned to feel shame.
They told me not to curse.
Yeah. Good luck with that, motherfuckers.
Oh, beautiful for spacious goddamned skies
For “fuck off” and “bite my ass”
Thundering across the parched grasslands of my tongue
Like middle-finger mustangs who won’t be tamed.
Cursing was the first language of my anger.
The poison apple spit out, not choked in.
A weaponized mouth and a sharp wit
To establish a DMZ—“You shall not pass.”
That foul mouth has saved me from myself.
Try to take it from me, motherfucker.
I double-goddamn-dog-dare you.
Oh, my anger needs room to roam.
I will spread my legs on the subway seat
Let it take up space.
I will turn up my coat collar and skulk the streets,
Hands fisted in pockets, knuckles turned towards the world, ready.
Oh, it’s on.
I will call up to my sisters at their windows,
“Yo! Leave the dishes in the sink,
and the pantyhose to drip from the towel bar.
Leave your shame on the floor
So they’ll see it first when they come inside,
but finding you
nothing but a slipped skin, a
To remind them that they were right to fear you
Then, soft as a lover:
“Come out into the streets, all you messy ones.
All you angry, hurting, had-enough ones.
Come on out. Come out.”
I have awakened to reclaim that girl.
The one refusing the cloak at her throat.
I am an angry woman with a voice
And a foul mouth
And a pen as cutting
as the jagged teeth of a bottle
that has been broken too hard against the bar
and is now a weapon
in a barroom brawl.
Come at me, motherfuckers.