Landing By Riley Zahn


The first time a person has sex after being assaulted
is a bit like jumping out of an airplane
when you may or may not have a parachute.
The harsh air rushing past you, the ground growing more urgent
and until you pull the cord
you have no idea if you made a huge mistake.

For me, this was the first time we had sex, I’ll never forget it.
Not for the orgasms, or the screams of pleasure
although they were memorable,
but the way you wrapped yourself around me
like the warmest fuzziest blanket
In the coldest, winteriest, Minnesota night.

For the way you asked if you could take off my shirt
And the icicles that hung from my memory melted
anxiety dripped down my legs and
formed a pool of serenity at the foot of your bed.
You dipped your fingers in that pool
and gently traced my scars.
The ones that were never on my body.
The ones left by that previous lover
who mistook my “no” for “try again later.”
The calmness coated my skin like warm wax, hot comfort
every time you checked in with a simple
“How are you doing?
“Do you want me to keep going?”
“Is this ok?”

You didn’t make those scars go away,
but you showed me that I’m not disfigured.

And I didn’t understand how you did it:
Navigated those scars so expertly,
Fingers Following every twist and turn like a car
hugging a winding, mountain road.
And I didn’t understand how you knew exactly what to say
to make me feel like everything was going to be ok
until I said “you make me feel safe”
And I could see it in your face:
You knew exactly what that meant.
You knew it all too well.

At the end of the night, I did not shut my eyes and pray that I would fall asleep
so I wouldn’t have to be awake for what you were going to do to me.

I kept my eyes open and prayed I would stay awake
so I could watch your chest rise and fall with each breath
just a little while longer,
but I fell asleep in your arms anyway.

And in my dreams, I pulled the cord,
The backpack opened,
and you jumped out
and expanded above me
and I
to the ground.

By Riley Zahn


Riley Zahn (she/her) is a trans woman, poet, educator and graduate student from Mankato, MN. She spends her time learning, unlearning, playing nerdy card games, and wondering if the people who work at the Chinese Buffet place are judging her for how often she eats there alone.

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