Once Bitten, Twice Shy By Jones Howell

Once Bitten, Twice Shy

on the fourth of july there are fireworks
inside and out. someone is hissing in the corner
about the ‘trashy bitch all over him’ and i wince,
as if i have broken some kind of law against
talking to sweet doe-eyed boys who don’t put their hands
anywhere you don’t want them. we are sitting
in a circle with upside-down playing cards and something
is being said about doing it in the ass. boys and girls
are laughing and i don’t know how to pretend
that any of this is fun.

two weeks later there is porn on the laptop screen
and a woman is screaming. he’s slapping her face
and her eyes might as well be glass when he rams
into her. i cross my legs as tight as they will go.
i wonder how many times i have had glass eyes.
i’ve always dreamed of rapture but all i get
are dry hands and no lube, a stinging between my legs
and a burn in my cheeks saying this can’t keep

they call girls like me vanilla.

what they don’t know is that i used to grab my boyfriend
by the shirt collar, push him to the wall and bite
his lip. what they don’t know is that i used to make him

they call girls like me prudes.

what they don’t know is that a different boy spent two years
going in dry. what they don’t know is that he made me bleed
and made me choke and now i cannot lay my hands on a boy
without shaking.

without praying, pleasebegood pleasebesoft pleasebekind

it’s a different apartment but the people and the game
haven’t changed a bit. there is a silent tantrum
on the balcony and the boy is showing me a picture
of his cat. we have both been hurt but tonight we aren’t
thinking of pain. someone holds up a camera and we smile
but he doesn’t pull me in. i think i might be flying. someone
turns the screen toward us and in between the solo cups
all we can see is hope.

By Jones Howell


Jones Howell is a graduate of the Northwestern University Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering and Judd A. and Marjorie Weinberg Creative Writing (Fiction) sequence. She grew up on the Maryland waterfront, went to school by Lake Michigan, and now calls suburban Georgia home. She misses the sea. She has been writing, in some form or another, for over ten years. She maintains a poetry blog at joneshowell.tumblr.com.

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