A friend told me the other day that she thought I was brave – those words felt like some of the kindest words ever spoken to me. You see I want to believe in those words and if I am brave, I am new to bravery.
I listen to her and I think she is brave – young, and brave, and authentic, and smart. I want to be 25 and authentic, and smart, and brave.
I was not brave at 25. It has taken 45 years to feel almost brave.
Did I lose my courage
when a cousin took my little toddler hands
and put them on his dick?
He said “don’t be afraid, touch it”
but I didn’t want to,
I said no.
But it happened
over and over again
in secret places.
How old was he?
I can’t remember
But he was old enough for pubic hair.
Old enough to understand
I don’t remember if it stopped
or if it stopped because they moved.
It did not stop because I said NO.
the moment I first
lost trust in my own voice,
failed to believe in men.
I can remember
from the basement.
into my father’s lap
a gentle man,
a kind man,
a strong man.
Felt safe for just a moment and then,
and then, I thought
“oh he has one too, one of those”.
I jumped down,
sitting in my father’s lap that day.
“you don’t sit in my lap anymore”.
I just walked away.
I had no explanation
something that happened in basements,
Did I lose
at least one kind of courage
I had barely started to live?
And you tell yourself
as you grow up,
as you talk to women,
whose own minds, and spirits, and wombs and bodies ache.
of how they suffered,
and were intruded upon.
The other women,
so many of us,
sometimes it feels like all of us.
Grandmothers passing it on to mothers, passing it on to daughters,
too many of us.
That grew afraid
Of the babies we pushed out wailing, wailing ourselves
out through our own hips, we give birth to our attackers.
Afraid of fathers, of brothers, of grandfathers, and uncles,
and neighbors, and teachers, and coaches, the boy next door, our dates,
and strangers, and, and, and –
of our own fear,
So many of us
And you think to yourself,
you think to yourself,
now an adult –
Well it was not that bad,
What happened to me was not that bad –
Not as bad as what happened to Sue, or Stacey, or Laura, or Jenny, or Christina, or, or, or,
But how will you ever know
It was not that bad.
All you remember is that it happened
That something happened to you that day, something changed, something died
and you spend your life looking for
that which was lost,
that which was taken away,
and you’ll never really know
happen that day.