He doesn’t know the depth to which I can sink.
He’s not privy to shower sobbing sessions,
has only witnessed the tears I’ve allowed him to see.
Try as I might the troubles don’t end
with a kiss upon the forehead, reassurance
that he still loves me.
There’s still the warm May sun to remind me
of sparrows against an aqua skyline;
still the taste of salt rimming the inside
of a child’s lips — still the shame of a diagram
lawyers used to mark my fucked up family.
It’s an unkindness, healing. It’s a bitter
old acquaintance that knows which rib
the knife can slip between to cause
the most damage.
Not your fault. That’s what they say.
Not your fault that you cried at your first kiss,
first (voluntary) time. Not your fault, they say,
that you can’t see a rhododendron bush
without shuddering. Can’t see your husband
come to you as a pillar of need without
remembering what was stolen.
Can’t hear drum beats without a heartbeat
reminding you that little girls everywhere
suffer worse than you.
Except it is.
Every time I pass a face that pushed mine into the dirt
with a meek glance to the left; Every time I ignore
the unmistakable signs of suffering from another;
Every time I keep my mouth shut as though the gun
is still against my temple, it’s my fault.
It’s all our faults.
By Lili Leader-Williams
Lili Leader-Williams lives in Washington State with her husband and two cats. She has been published previously in Cahoodaloodaling, Slim Volume: This Body I Live In from Pankhearst, and Alliterati Magazine. Her dearest ambition is to make sure you don’t feel alone.