My mother once told me:
"You're the only person in the world who is smarter than me."
She said this as she grabbed the bottle from the table,
took a swig, and wiped her lips with the back of her hand.
As if there's a difference between wisdom and intelligence,
as if you can't have one without the other.
But she herself is living proof that this is wrong.
She had said this moments before screaming
that she was going to bash in my brother's skull
for drawing on the walls with a blue crayon;
she'd said it hours after she'd grabbed at the door
and accidentally thrust it open in a drunken haze and
the dog had escaped and was found dead in the road an hour later.
She blames everyone except herself for everything that has gone wrong.
I often look in the mirror and wonder if I do the same thing.
Do I let people hurt me? Or am I just doomed to fail at every opportunity?
The mirror doesn't answer, but my mother always does
with a fermented burp from the other side of the table.
We will not share futures, I promise,
if I can survive for that long.

When I left and came to this new town,
there was a boy who lived down the street
who'd told me he loved me before he'd ever even kissed me,
before he'd ever held me close or felt me cry on his shoulders.
Love became meaningless when it came from his throat
as it became when I returned the words,
empty and hollow. I don't feel guilty about it.
I couldn't care less anymore.
This is the same boy that pinned me to the bed,
said those empty words and stabbed me in ways that only a boy could.
Of course there was blood. There is always blood.
I can't say I've been the same since that day.
The word hangs over my head but I can't say it aloud.
It's like death, a lurking shadow that follows me home,
to class, to another lover's bed.
I don't feel safe when I sleep anymore.
The fear pierces harder than when his skin touched mine.

A man I once loved, a real love, drove me home a few weeks later
and I shuddered and confessed everything except for how I felt about him
and he held me close and told me it was going to be okay.
I didn't cry until I stepped into my house.
He didn't leave until he saw the light in my room was turned on
but he couldn't see my glistening face and smudged, blotched make-up through the window.
He had a girl of his own to get back to instead.
So I was home alone that night and I wondered
if he'd ever thought about me the way he used to,
if he felt guilty, as if he'd wronged himself
by breaking my heart so many years ago
and leaving me to be who I was now,
destroyed by another someone I thought I knew.
I wonder if he thought "This never would have happened
if I'd stayed."

And i thought escape would be my accident,
escape to that little school on a hill
where the students wear matching shirts and skulls
and flash their straight, white teeth with no fucking troubles in the world.
My friends are beautiful but couldn't understand
the syllables pouring from my drunken lips
if I'd spelled it outloud, letter by letter, memory by memory.
I'm as silent as the walls of my room.
And another man who could, perhaps,
contain the mind that my mother talked about
would likely turn his back at any mention of
a history I wished to forget.
He gave a swift 'goodbye' to my protests one Autumn day,
one of those "I'm sorry" speeches, complete with a
"I-hope-I'm-not-making-a-mistake" line to quarantine any hope.
Yet the words didn't change the calm that embraced me in
his presence, the classroom conversations, the party scene.
In his room, I never felt the death-shadow peering
over my shoulder, warning me that the boys and mothers of the past
would haunt my dreams forever.
They had disappeared when he was there; yet now they return, as strong as ever
and I can't help but wonder if freedom will ever be my niche.

I'm a weak body with a strong mind.
I'm complicated and I prefer it that way
because anyone who truly cares would want to know why.
So far, I have yet to tell anyone
because no one has wanted to know my story.
For my story is the after-effect,
the morning hangover, the funeral pyre.
It is the empty, free-verse poem
wrapped around my fingertips, around the keyboard,
guts spilled with each passing page.
No love of mine will ever read my words.
It hurts too much to share the depths of truth.
So I stay silent and the people I love
continue their lives as if nothing's wrong
because nothing is wrong, everything they know is perfect and unique.
They too are intelligent but not wise.
They are no worse than my mother is.
Maybe I'll find someone who has the intelligence and wisdom
to hold a decent conversation during the love-less pillow talk
that puts me to sleep at night.
Maybe someone can heal me
when my wounds won't let me heal myself.