dinosaur defense

i tell my son
when he explains that the stegosaurus had spiky plates on its back
to protect it from predators
who wanted to eat it all up

i say 
you're growing inside and out.

when boys grow inside and out
you hope you've raised them gently;

when girls grow inside and out
you hope you've raised them strong.

girls grow up inside;
they grow up out;
and before you know it
starts to sound
when it drips
from the lips
of men with sweet teeth.

you need to know 3 things
before i go any further:

1. i was not beautiful
the first time a grown man
blew me a slow kiss.
i was bespectacled
and slouching,
selecting a steno pad at a gas station
and seven years old.

2. i was not beautiful
the first time a classmate
passed me in the hall
and turned to holler
nice whoppers
as his friends fist-pumped and cheered.
i was bespectacled
and slouching
and holding a hardback stephen king book
wrapped in plastic from the library,
pressed against my aching chest.
i was thirteen.

3. i was beautiful 
on my wedding day
and nobody said
or did
a goddamned thing
to remind me
that i was about to get fucked.

if it were a compliment
men wouldn't say it
when we're alone.

if it were a compliment
why does it feel
like they're prowling,
like they're sounding,
scratching the stone of my face
to see if i'm hard,
if i crumble.

if it were a compliment
i would not have to take out my headphones
and check over my shoulder
at the approach of every jogger
until i shoot the deadbolt home.

cut the shit,
animal of a man.
it's not a compliment.

his voice
his face
his body, rising from the bench as i walk by,
they are a reminder that if i pass
it is because
he allowed it.

he stood up as i approached
framing me in his hands
like a subject
"oh honey
you got a sexy ass body baby
i know you can hear me
smile, bitch."

two passed me on the well-lit street
where i chose to walk
when the light got low
and they reached a consensus
out loud
as they turned around
to follow me back they way they'd come.

"that's a beautiful woman,"
said the first.
very nice,"
said the second.
"so nice," agreed the first.

i was not beautiful.
i was alone.

being the mother of sons has given me
the perfect explanation
for the tingling in a woman's back
when she knows the man behind her
is not going anywhere
except where she goes.

we will our skin to sprout armor.
the smaller, slower species
wish for bodies
that could shatter the jaws of predators.

i was not beautiful.
i was alone.

after they turned back
with a final
i let my mind rehearse
what i'd do if they came back
(that house has its lights on)
what i'd do if someone was waiting behind that wall
(better to walk in the street)

i let my mind wonder
(should i have done anything differently?)

i wish
i'd stopped walking
and turned
and screwed a stare into them
until they grew uncomfortable
(but then what)
(then you've dared them)
until they grew hostile
and cocky?
and needing to prove?
and then what?

even silence is dangerous.

i wish
i'd turned
and charged them
screamed and pounded my chest
and spat and thrown garbage at them
and bared my teeth and growled
"my skin is plated armor
and i'll break your jaws
you try to eat me up

i wish i'd gone crazy
enough to pit their stomachs.

i wish the sight of my face
peeled open
would follow them home
so they'd hurry along
checking over their shoulder
at the sound of every jogger.
i wish they'd be

i wish all of us would do this.

i wish men would get nervous
when they see our smaller bodies walking
is this one okay?
or is this one
a stegosaurus too?

i wish every time they worried,
they remembered every time before.
maybe then they'd understand
our cumulative dread
of eye contact.

i wish women would murmur under their breaths
at men
sitting on benches alone at dusk
"oh honey
you got a hungry look in your eye

but i have 17 plates 
sewn into the skin of my spine
and they are there to make you bleed
if you try to take a bite out of me

This is my work.

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with Ronit Feinglass Plank

1 comment:

  1. yup.
    it DOES make sense, like you said.
    plus, i wish i could scrub the timer to find out what you’ll write in 15 years when your sons have givem feedback. My son and I ... he’s a good guy
    and thank god he has a twin sister
    cuz his foaming at the mouth
    dripped foam
    on her child.