Of Stepmotherhood and Loud, White Walls

Both the elephant and the room
are stuck in my throat.
I am choking and my self-worth
is starting to turn purple.
She has folded my home
into corners, creases
that cannot be undone,
conversations squared away
and time spent in layers.

The mirrors. Corrupted light
the texture of eggshells.
All the words unsaid where
one lie can kill the switch.
All the questions unasked.
We forgot to add a clause for
disrespect in the contract.

The contempt chafes.

I try to grow
into a bigger person while
squeezing all my needs into
the soundless space
between flesh and skin,
the thin, vicious line
between surrender and rage.

Freeing the Scapegoat

I want to hold myself accountable
for all the things I’ve done
to lead me where colors are scarce
and dreams only have one direction

but all I see is you
and the ways your warped sense
of love had kept rear ending
my illusions of control into
the kind of bad decisions that
you would blame me for afterward

on and on like smoke
through a wrought iron grate
spiraling down

evils we unleashed that won’t
be so easily put back in the bottle

and so I’m working first
on forgiveness

of myself

for trusting you

Toxic and Unfiltered

She loved us too much
it was like fumes
from burning rubber
filling up a narrow tunnel
with padlocks on the exits

we grew up choking
and coughing violently

our eyes were constantly
stinging with tears
and we learned to keep
our heads down
and our mouths covered

She loved us too much
she held it against us—
every too-late dinner
every too-early breakfast
every dream she gave away
every trip she didn’t take
every day that we were sick
every ounce of compassion
that we didn’t ask for
that she gave bitterly,
distilled into poison
that she drank
with her morning coffee

And now that I’m free
I sometimes still
don’t know what to do
with all the clarity

Hang Up

I wish I didn’t know
that you would run my life
for me if you could
so that when you’d tell me
you loved me
I could believe you.

I wish you showed that love
with less words
and more silences.

I wish I hadn’t seen you
cover up so many truths
just so the world around you
could admire that love
you claim to feel.
But I know their admiration
made you feel good.

I wish you talked less
about the people
whose lives and children
you wish you had instead.

I wish you had told me no
a few times
when I’d asked to go out with friends
instead of letting me get dressed
and lecturing me a full hour
right before I left
and ruining the whole night
for years to come.
I wish I had one date
when I didn’t receive a dozen
text messages reminding me
how worried you were.
Maybe then I would have
understood better what trust was.
Maybe then I wouldn’t
have gotten so good
at lying and hiding things.

I wish you had listened harder
and remembered things I’d said.

But there were only your words
so many words
so many
and memories of me
unable to hold my head up.

Eight thousand miles
and I still cringe
when the phone rings.
I wish I could have said
or done
something sooner.

With Your Permission

I’m sorting through
the voices in my head.
Some belong to me
and some belong to those
who would have me believe
free will is treacherous
and the price for change
is always too high,
indistinct echoes of hate
in the halls of the house
where my childhood
was drawn in crayon
and my growth was
in spite of chains

I am tired of respect
on a one-way street
and I will not spend my life
dragging my heavy heart
where the sun cowers
before the gray and
any work on my identity
can be undone
by something you said,
where I can’t escape
the pain of your disapproval,
how it festers around
the joy I try so hard to keep
above the murky waters
of your stereotypes,
your fear of gossip destroying
you more than gossip
and facing the world
is so difficult when I can’t
face you with pride
and my vain wishes
of belonging here
have handicapped me,
I who have become strong
on my own, I who am free—
but only outside
of this place I called home

So I’ll put a geographical distance
between my love and your racism,
you who would not be silent
you who would stalk me
with names and judgement
along the corridors of
all the choices I’ve made
and all the truths under my feet

because I am your daughter
and I will not break your heart
but nor will I turn the other cheek
and pay tariffs
on what bliss I crafted
with my bare hands
and the only kind of beauty
I could believe in,
the little of it that’s left
untouched by you

Love is not Ill-Mannered

Sometimes you want something so badly that you fuck all rules, grab it, and run away recklessly with it, not caring what you break along the way.

And sometimes you want something that’s too important that the only way to earn it is by handling it carefully and acting around it with patience and humility.

Rapunzel’s Release

They lied to you about who you are.
They coiled your own innocence
around your wrists and ankles
and bound you to blind obedience.
They’ve been twisting your words
so that even you don’t know
what you mean when you speak.
They vandalize your mind
with intentions, call them evil
then punish you for them.
They feed you a diet of guilt
to keep you thinking you’re full
and boarded up the windows
to protect you.

But the world on the outside—
that’s what’s real.
All that you’ve known is the dream.
You have to wake up even if
it takes all the pains and dangers
of rebirth.

It’s like a demon
molesting your dreams
feeding on your insecurities
and burrowing in
the gaps of your self-esteem
to make you hate what you love
to make you fear what
you can’t live without.

They own you so completely
all your opinions and visions
are copied after theirs.
They can order you to
hurt yourself,
even from remote distances
and you always do.
They no longer even have to
lay their hands on you.

But they didn’t plan on you
growing up to be so beautiful.
They didn’t foresee that you’d have
something to offer and
the world would need it.
They’re only counting on
the weight and duration of
your deception to keep you
choosing to be deceived.

Your precocious naivety once planned
on impressing them
so much that it would finally
buy you your freedom
but you’ve almost already
conquered the world and
they’re still stepping all over you.

Everything that’s ever been
fundamentally wrong with you
you’ve traced back to this,
the beginning.
This is where it should end
so you can get out,
and start again.