1. When I told you I wanted to kill myself, you left your job and drove 300 miles to see me- On the way down, you called your parents and said you wouldn’t be coming home. You’ve lived with me ever since.
2. When you were in the hospital, you were taken away for a procedure that I wasn’t allowed to attend. You tried to run out of the room to see me twice and had to be dragged back in.
3. When I fell apart one night after my grandma died, you put me in the car and we drove at high speed to the beach and back in the dark. You told me it’s harder to be upset when you’re windswept.
4. When I brought you flowers for the first time, you cried with happiness. You then cried again when they died, because you felt sorry for them.
5. Whenever I’ve had a bad day, you get me a small teddy. I put them on the chair in the corner, and you think I don’t cuddle them, but when you’re at work I give them all a kiss and imagine it’s you."
We have a refrigerator magnet that reads,
‘I’ll quit smoking when you quit breathing.’
When I was a kid I would hold my breath until I choked but my father still burned through a pack a day, my mother still stopped at convenience stores, still shelled out money to Marlboro. She complained about wasting money when we asked for candy at checkout.
When I was too old for blue-faced protests but not old enough to be cynical,
I found myself half in love with a boy who craved nicotine like I craved his skin.
One day I pointed at the cigarette glowing in his hand and said,
You smoke like they’ll make you live forever.
He rolled up his sleeves and showed me the scars criss-crossing his arms.
No, he told me.
I smoke like I’ll die tomorrow.
Because if I smoke enough, I will.
I started to notice my father’s weary eyes,
My mother’s trembling hands.
I wondered if they were as invincible as I’d always thought they were.
I wondered if they thought about tombstones with every flick of the lighter.
I wondered if that’s what made them raise the cigarette to their lips.
Death has become a joke in American society.
When Amy Winehouse died, everyone was singing
“if only she had gone to rehab,
she wouldn’t have died,
but she said no no no.”
Not even hours after Whitney Houston was pronounced dead,
everyone was laughing over the joke,
“I guess she will always be Waiting to Exhale”
and people were crippled with laughter over the thousands of MIchael Jackson jokes before his body had even grown cold.
But death is not a joke around the dinner table
or something to make light of.
“she should just go and kill herself already”
is not a phrase that should be uttered in the high school hallways.
death is “Car Wreck Kills Mother of Three” tragic
death is “Drug Overdose Takes Brother and Husband Too Soon” monstrous
death is “Only Son Killed Overseas” Disastrous
death is “Suicide Causes Whole School to Mourn” sickening
death is not yours to take and manipulate for a laugh
death is final
death is terrifying
death is dreadful
death takes and takes and takes
but death never laughs
and death never jokes
I know girls who are trying to fit into the social norm
Like squeezing into last year’s prom dress
I know girls who are low-rise, MAC eyeshadow, and binge drinking
I know girls that wonder if they’re disaster and sexy enough to fit in
I know girls who are fleeing bombs from the mosques of their skin
Playing Russian roulette with death
It’s never easy to accept that our bodies are fallible and flawed
But when do we draw the line?
When the knife hits the skin?
Isn’t it the same thing as purging?
Because we’re so obsessed with death
Some women just have more guts than others
The funny thing is women like us don’t shoot
We swallow pills, still wanting to be beautiful at the morgue
Still proceeding to put on make-up
Still hoping that the mortician finds us fuckable and attractive
We might as well be buried with our shoes
And handbags and scarves, girls
We flirt with death every time we etch a new tally mark into our skin
I know how to split my wrists to reveal a battlefield too
But the time has come for us to
Reclaim our bodies
Our bodies deserve more than to be war-torn and collateral
Offering this fuckdom as a pathetic means to say
“I only know how to exist when I’m wanted”
Girls like us are hardly ever wanted you know
We’re used up and sad and drunk and
Perpetually waiting by the phone for someone to pick up
And tell us that we did good
You did good.
So try this
Take your hands over your bumpy lovebody naked
And remember the first time you touched someone
With the sole purpose of learning all of them
Touched them because the light was pretty on them
And the dust in the sunlight danced the way your heart did
Touch yourself with a purpose
Your body is the most beautiful royal
Fathers and uncles are not claiming your knife anymore
Are not your razor, no
Put the sharpness back
Lay your hands flat and feel the surface of scarred skin
I once touched a tree with charred limbs
The stump was still breathing
But the tops were just ashy remains
I wonder what it’s like to come back from that
Sometimes I feel a forest fire erupting from my wrists
And the smoke signals sent out are the most beautiful things
I’ve ever seen
Love your body the way your mother loved your baby feet
And brother, arm wrapping shoulders, and remember
This is important
You are worth more than who you fuck
You are worth more than a waistline
You are worth more than any naked body could proclaim
In the shadows, more than a man’s whim
Or your father’s mistake
You are no less valuable as a size 16, than a size 4
You are no less valuable as a 32A than a 36C
Your sexiness is defined by concentric circles within your wood
You are a goddamn tree stump with leaves sprouting out