Beyond Survival Week 2: I Couldn't Tell / I Told

I couldn’t tell because I wasn’t stupid.
He never had to make a threat.

He was a dimpled charmer,
and I had a flat affect.
I was so negative
I was so Negative

after all those years
being made his sieve

I was the place he poured
his rage I was the place

where his de/s/ ire collected
I was on the surface

mostly a blank, blank place
so far inside myself gone

I could barely talk at all
you could ask me anything

and back I’d stare
I didn’t want to give

anyone else anything
that might come 

from all my many mouths
Not even the truth or

my supposedly valuable voice
All I wanted was to be left

alone, alone. All I wanted
was a pile of portals

to anyone else’s worlds
All I wanted was a locked door

and a bed full of books and maybe
a tesseract.

I didn’t tell
because I didn’t want to disturb

the known world
because I knew if I did, I’d be left

to sift myself (into what?)
and because I always knew 

how very small it was to be a girl
and because all my mother had wanted

was family
and I thought my brothers needed

a father
Because after I told
there would be a sheriff
who’d ask my mother what she’d done

to deprive a man so
he’d turn his need on me
and everybody everybody would
shake so much blame on her,

my dear mother who’d known nothing
my dear mother who was slivered
as much as any of us by the truth

and that sheriff would badger
“are you sure?”—was I sure
I was really that young, 

was I sure because it seemed Odd
my story didn’t match his story
because clearly if there were a liar

the small girl must be the liar
she must have motives that snarling
pinchfaced girl must have something
up her pantsleeves 

and no matter what he did
she must be at least exaggerating
let’s not bother imagining
the unimaginable

the unimaginable being yes,
a grown man would, and did,
and knew damn well what
he was doing

because power is being able to give favor
to whomever's mind we can most easily
map to our own, and that sheriff had power

until he didn’t, until the dear Assistant DA
had those tapes thrown out, and new tapes
made, new statements,

but still that sheriff would come sit
in my section at Waffle House after work
and grin, the point being

if I thought I could get off my knees,
he’d make sure I served standing

and there would a newsprint article
and reporters always fuck up the facts

and there would be the constant
of being told what a minor, Minor

Child could not do (have a place to live
without adult supervision, as if
adult supervision had worked so well

all those years) and it would be so funny
when The Boys filled my computer
with kiddie porn just to fuck with me

but no, neither I nor God, far
as I could tell, could lighten up

and because all the others he’d touched/
raped/ somehow harmed

would scramble to whisper their support
oh my truth but they wouldn’t dare

say it out loud in a courtroom
who knows why, maybe
it was his family’s money

 (Did all those quiet girls
with his family name
kept their inheritance lines?)

but I oh how lucky
never had his family name

or maybe it was pure plain cowardice
that kept them clamped
(I lied, too, terrified, at the start)

but no other Victims showed a voice
in court, and I was alone

But I told because when I was sixteen
Kathleen called me her most beautiful poet
then she told for me

I told because my most favorite Girl
and I together showed ourselves
how glorious real sex was

I told because my most favorite Boy
and I together showed ourselves
how glorious real sex was and he
told for me

Because the guidance counselor asked,
“how are you going to feel
if you let him get off
and there are others?”

And because I had always been writing
I had been writing everything
before I even knew letters I’d been writing

and so when the time came I handed
over the handwritten, dated pages
which detailed the whole history

of all he had done
which I had always been writing

because the written world had always
been more real to me than reality,

my small self had decided to write
the reality (as preservation of my sanity)

So finally he fell to a child’s journal.
I never had to take the stand—
he took the plea
and after me, there never was another.

No matter what I still carry,
I broke the broken legacy
and that is enough.


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