Unlearning Abuse By Ailey O’Toole

Unlearning Abuse

The old boy tells me to lay down, close my eyes,
part my lips. There is ice in his eyes but I
do it anyways. The old boy tells me to be
quiet and somehow, I still fall in love.

I get up from the bed and there’s the new
boy, telling me he wants all of me, caressing
my wounds, offering himself. There are
blooming flowers all over his body
but I can’t take his hand.

The old boy leaves subtle bruises all over
me, love in reddish hues, and the ice
in his eyes has found its way under
my skin. He feels bad, gives me scarves,
buys a heater, but it never stops. And somehow,
I love him anyways.

The new boy brings a flush to my cheeks,
summer in my veins. I wear dresses and
he kisses gentle praises into the slope
of my neck. He’s always kind and yet,
I doubt.

The old boy gets mad when I turn cold, too,
doesn’t believe me when I tell him I love
him, is always demanding I give him more
of myself. I turn myself inside out to be
what he wants, but it’s not enough. His
ice is still moving through my bones. I
love him still until one day, that’s not
enough either and he leaves.

The new boy leans over my sleeping form
and kisses my cheeks until I wake. He waits
patiently as I shake off the dream of a body
paralyzed by ice. He’s always patient and
warm, a quiet summer sunset. But the boy
with the winter love is always there. How
will I ever know if I’ve managed to
get rid of all the ice?

By Ailey O’Toole

Biography:

Ailey O’Toole is a 22-year-old bartender and writer who writes about feminism, empathy, and pain. Her work has previously appeared in After the Pause, The Broke Bohemian, The Odyssey, and is forthcoming from the Fredericksburg Literary and Art Review. She hopes everyone who reads her poems feels a little less alone in their struggle. You can follow her adventures at @ms_ocoole.

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