Pretty

Her 14-year-old skin hung tight around my fetal curves, holding all of my innocence in the loss of hers. Not all the crayons in this box are pretty. That newly pubescent body holding me so tight I stretch marked it with the brand of my dwelling. She really loved me like she could never love anybody else; the fruit of the dogged pursuit of a statutory rapist. Let me tell you again, not all the crayons in this box are pretty.

I was ripped from that birth canal with a force I never deserved. I could have lived forever in that young, naïve, child’s frame that allowed a predator to become the only father that I would ever get to have. See, not all the crayons in this box are pretty.

She beat and used me. He spread my legs and abused me. She was all I ever wanted I a friend, because we grew up together; but she thought she knew it all, and he was in and out of prison all of the days of my life. I told you, not all the crayons in this box are pretty.

I only really ever talked to her when she was high. Whoa. Did I say, not all the crayons in this box are pretty? Well, she died of AIDS and he got life, and I lost the only parents I’ll ever have to love with a love that is so unconditional it stings; because I learned early on that you have to love the ugly too…because, not all the crayons in this box are pretty.

He Likes Me Cause….

He likes me ’cause I’m:
Different. Breakable. Needy. Tiny. Forbidden. Smart. High and low class. A good conversation. A challenge. A conquest. Conquering. A conqueror. Sexy. An affirmation of life. Caffeine and sugar. A consolation. A man. A woman. Interested. Interesting. The giver. Accepting. The exception. Non-judgmental. Special. Exciting. Dirty and innocent, but not naïve. Indecent. Wrong and right. A reminder. A secret. A lie. A comfort. Uncomfortable. Someone to care about and for. Imaginary. New. Old. Home. Lost. The good kind of bad. A drug. A drug addict. Love. Loving. Unloved. A leader to follow blindly into a tree, if I justified it well enough. A childless mother. A motherless child. A mirroring monster. A good lay. Sad. Open dancer wide, but virgin tight. A surprise. A lesson. An addiction. A simultaneous reason to live or die, together.

He likes me ’cause he(‘s):
In the dark. Breakable. Breaking. Partially broken. Needy of the same. A drunk. Lonely. Afraid. Lost. Needs love and affirmation. Wants to feel without feeling. A student. A master. Pleasing. Pleased. A conqueror. Unsure of himself. Only believes in my inevitable success. Trusts my truths. Can deny me. Can run away. Can be proud through and or above shame. Glued together. Falling apart. Feels alone. As broken as me. Not tied to me. Can’t hide from me. Doesn’t have to explain to me (but does anyway). Can’t feel too much. Likes to be on edge. Can pretend he doesn’t treat me like an indentured servant. Doesn’t have to love me “like that.” Feels suicidal. Can be a part of my life. Is addicted. Afraid of falling from his knees before me. Can pretend. Has power. Can fuck and run. Feels dirty, too. Definitely scared to death of me…but also brought to life by me.

Rachel McKibbens performs “Last Love”

Rachel McKibbens is hands down my all time favorite poet and inspiration for doing what it takes to hang your truth out there on a microphone’s amplification from center stage. I was introduced to her work over 10 years ago when she first began performing. The university I attended was 2 blocks from a coffee shop called The Ugly Mugg Cafe.

Once a week at the Ugly Mugg there was a poetry event with an open mic, a feature, a break and then another open mic to sandwich everything in there nicely. The event was put on by two guys who called themselves, Two Idiots Peddling Poetry. It was here at the Ugly Mugg where I experienced spiritual awakening and rejuvenation for the first genuine time EVER. I was finally at church.

Back then, Rachel was not married, therefore not McKibbens yet and so she went by only her initials, RAC. I showed up every week for the possibility of catching her on the mic and she was usually there with all her might and children in tow. She was the one original idol from which I drew strength and unapologetically decided to follow the path that felt right to me. She was a kick ass mother who showed up every week with one kid on her hip usually (or breast feeding) and another walking beside her. She had long black hair with bright red bangs and arms nearly sleeved in tattoos already….and she never ceased to be brilliant and honest.

One day, she read this very unflattering poem about an experience from her childhood in which her father is described as mean and violent at a Thanksgiving dinner (I believe). The day she read this poem, her father was in the audience.

I was so awe-struck with admiration that I can say that moment changed my life.

The Ugly Mugg was where Orange County California’s National Slam Team came from and so even though I had been writing for well over 10 years already (I started writing poetry, very intently at the age of 9 or 10 and was 20 by this time). And even though I was there every week during the school year…for over a year already, I had never actually read on the mic. I was way too intimidated and frozen with awe.

But, when Rachel read the truth as she experienced it and just laid it in the lap of her father who was responsible for the trauma the piece captured….my whole being changed immediately. After that night, I stopped obsessing over the half-hearted teenage angsty mush that I had been so familiar with. I went back to my dorm room and wrote about my truth, with my dad, unapologetically and with full commitment to healing myself at that time, in that space. I stopped hiding my reality to save face for fear of who it would hurt or make uncomfortable.

That’s when I can say that the true sharpness of my gift slit my entire potential right open, letting me out for air with total relief, like I had been born again that evening….or born for the first time ever, set free from the cage of secrets that were not mine to keep.

I will be forever in debt to that singular experience, for it was that powerful.

These days, I watch this video performance of a piece by Rachel called, Last Love. It is like a prayer to me. I feel the intense reality of each word as it meets the next and the next, every unseen punctuation mark and the breaths between.

This poem is my Hail Mary prayer.