Ones Who Got Away With It
I still fantasize I can do something about it.
That girl in the outpatient-care facility for teenagers
confided to me that she sneaked out to see a guy
at his frat party, and he shared her with his three friends,
to have a taste after he was done. “Is it supposed
to hurt so much?” she whispered to me. “I mean,
for this long after?” She was bulimic, and we both
hated our mothers. The next day I said, We should
tell someone. And she said, “I’ve talked it over
with my best friend. She says
I should be proud of it.” She was thirteen
and I, sixteen, recovering from those endless nights of shrieking
across the house, out into the yard and
into the cold moonlight to wish myself into some
other species; the endless silent Stooges’ bangs and thwacks,
some self-preservation up against inherited solitude;
bent almost in half, the copper piping of my family grief
that always raked itself across me
until I was deformed by it,
until I was defined by it—
I hope that girl’s doing well.
I hope she can keep food down
and it’s nourishing her. I hope her cells are cheering
like parents in the stands at a game, even if those men still exist—
important men, I imagine. Men who now run conglomerates
and have well-to-do families. Or maybe men I see
every day at work. Or whose books I read.
And how am I here? With my life intact?
I’m painful to the touch only when I don’t light
a candle and praise oblivion, give myself over
to nothingness—and is it every day
or was it long ago,
that I’d slid shut my teenage self’s veranda doors
onto the world’s fancy balconies
and was prepared to do something drastic
like live and live and live.
This week’s poem reads like a friend telling you an all-too familiar story. Situated in a collection that abounds with scenes of the dead performing for the living, “Ones Who Got Away With It” rejects mortality for the time being and chooses a “drastic” alternative present, in which living itself is a radical act. – HK