An Ode to the Bloody Panties, an Ode to the Bravery
I’d like to make a toast.
This is for all the times you’ve ever felt worthless,
for all the times you’ve felt like a disappointment. This is
for all the times you’ve shed tears, thinking
you’d never make your father proud, feeling like
he hates you because you’re a girl,
too loud, too alive.
This is for being ten and coming to your father in tears
and bloody panties, asking if he hates you even more now.
This is for you overcoming all of that.
Sitting in the bathtub, a razor limp in her hand,
a push too deep, a mistake, and the blood drains down her thigh.
She can hear him in the other room,
telling the woman he’s hated for twenty something years
how much he hates his daughter even more, how
her clothes are too tight,
how she’s thinking for herself a lot lately and he doesn’t like that.
The boys of the house are fucking strangers and drinking tonight, somewhere,
somewhere. The girls are in a dark room because the lights are
always too bright. The room is silent because the laughter makes
him uncomfortable. There’s light in this darkness. When the man’s man
sleeps, when he sleeps, mother escapes into her daughters’ room.
The music is quiet but it’s enough. They giggle and dance,
smiling, holding hands, the only dancing in darkness I’ve ever known
to lead to light. When mother goes back to bed, the littlest one
locks the door behind her.
This is for loving a boy. This is for keeping secrets.
Her hand always shakes when it holds his, but he understands,
and she laughs when he tells her that he’s scared for her, that
he’s more afraid than she is. She caresses his face. Then a kiss.
All a kiss.
He talks endlessly about running away.
He talks about a better future. But he knows.
He knows she’s never been one to run from anything, and she reminds
him of this again. Hands tighten. Kisses deepen. She tells him
that all he can do is stay close to her, stay by her side
through all of this, and he promises he will.
Dinner, and her father drives home the same threat again,
if he finds out she or any of the girls are having sex, he’ll kill them,
he’ll ship them off. That night,
on the phone, the boy she loves,
the boy who loves her back can tell something’s wrong.
It’s buried in all the silence. It’s the dimming of the lights.
He tells her to stay strong. He does all he can to be another light.
That night, when the creature sleeps, when he sleeps, the mother
escapes into her daughters’ room. She tells her daughter that the
creature’s afraid of her having too much love, too much heart.
She takes a tube of lipstick and drags it across her finger like a knife,
marking it across her daughter’s cheeks, red, blood, war paint.
She lies with her boyfriend under the stars, hands intertwined,
fears intertwined, hope intertwined. He holds her close. He cries.
They look up at the moon. He talks about running there.
He asks if it’s possible. She says she doesn’t know. She says running
away won’t help her. This war will follow her wherever she goes.
She says she has to stay. She has to continue and continue to overcome.
Hands, tears. They look up at the moon.
This is for you. This is a toast to all the blood and all the noise.
Let us raise our glasses. Let us drink. Let us look up at the moon,
but let us stay. Let us do all we can. Let the war paint seep into the skin.
This is for having a voice when the world calls for silence.
This is for overcoming all of that. This is for having too much heart.
By Elijah Noble El
Elijah Noble El is a 21 year old actor and writer from Livonia, Michigan. The author of The Age of Recovery (2015), a debut full length poetry book. He is the co-founder of Girls Don’t Cry, the film division of the literary magazine Persephone’s Daughters, a magazine aimed at empowering women who have experienced various forms of abuse and degradation. In 2013 his short story, “Oblivion,” received the Award of Excellence in Literature from the Michigan PTSA Reflections. He co-wrote the play Off with Her Head (2013) which won the 2014 Lansing State Journal Thespie Awards “Special Award.” He also wrote the short film, Dog-Faced Honey (2016), which was nominated for Best Writing from the Top Indie Film Awards. His work has been featured in Straylight Magazine, Hooligan Magazine, Persephone’s Daughters, Exist Magazine, Soul Anatomy, The Odyssey, Eastern Michigan University’s Inkstains Anthology, and in Stevenson Spectrum.