When I was eight years old
and I went on walks with my mother after the rain,
I splashed in every puddle we passed
and she told me I'd ruin my shoes.
My mother had long lost her sense of adventure.

I am guilty of this.

I no longer splash in puddles,
afraid of drowning because a human being
can drown in an inch of water
and I've felt myself drown with every inch I've grown.

Make a mark on the wall every year
and you will see,
as I grow taller,
I hunch my shoulders so maybe the world
will let me pass by easy.
No one passes by easy.
We all take our low blows and call them our flaws.
And some of us lose the courage to stand tall.

I am guilty of this.

In my eighth grade year of school,
for the first time I asked for help
but my mother's eyes said,
"I cannot help you."
But cannot and will not sing a similar cadence
when you're thirteen and sure you'll never make it to seventeen
because it takes a lot of courage to wake up in the morning.

I am not brave.

But there were poems in my veins,
and poems are something that you can't pull out by force,
something you can't tease out with an X-acto knife
you sneaked from your father's art studio.

Poems can only whisper,
and they asked me to give it one last chance.
Wake up tomorrow.
And I woke up for three years wondering how to wake up,
I am guilty of this,
but I suppose it was only when I slit my wrists
that I realized the life running through my veins.
And maybe there were better ways to figure that out
but when you're having a nightmare, you have to wake up somehow.

I realized the poems I couldn't tame,
I realized that love has other names.
Like help me.
I looked in the mirror and said,
"I can help you."
And can and will sing a similar cadence
when you've given up on waking up
and it just seems to happen,
as if something inside you refuses to quit,
as if some part of you is determined to grow.

I am guilty of this.

I have never stopped growing,
my hunched shoulders can't fool me forever
I know I was meant to stand tall.
But the threat of life drowning us threatens us all.

We are guilty of this.

In my first year of college,
I listened to a boy dismiss the Rwandan genocide
with a casual comment that,
"Helping would've cost too much."

We are all guilty of this.

It costs us to open ourselves to this life.
Waking up in the morning carries its price.
Look at yourself in the mirror,
can you meet your own eyes,
How many times have I said, "I cannot help you,"
How many times have you said, "I cannot help you,"
I can't pay that price.
Helping would've cost too much.

Like my sister told me two weeks ago
that my mother never offered me therapy
because she was too proud to admit
that any of us needed help.

Her eyes told me, "I cannot help you."
And I would guess that when she looks in the mirror,
she tells her reflection those same words.

Dropping our weapons,
standing armorless in the blinding sunrise of this world,
knowing at any moment we could be struck by our own bullets,
yes, this carries its price,
but let us pay it,
please, let us be guilty of this.

I want to be guilty of this.

If my spine carries the weight
of one more broken promise,
one more regret,
one more look in the eyes of someone
I "could not" help,
heartache might just drown me.

I am guilty of this.

So let this guilt be my wakeup call,
I want to pay this price,
I want to look in my mother's eyes and say,
"I can help you."
I don't want to pass by easy.
I will be brave; there are poems in my veins.
We all know that love goes by other names,
I can help you.
Please help me.

Poems can only whisper.
But they asked me to wake up tomorrow.

I will be guilty of this.