In less than a year I’ll be able to drive
til then I’m at the mercy of Mom
Shiny bags of new clothes perched
on my bench in the empty parking lot
I’m listless but fearless. The day is bright
and this is my Valley, my home and
I’m safe and as happy as fifteen can be.
I’m vaguely aware that there’s
someone else near.
It’s a boy a bit younger than me
He swings from a bike rack next to my bench
I smile just like I was taught.
(Good girls must smile, be sweet to the boys
be nice to the coach
to the teacher
Men deserve your respect and your smile
for nothing they did, but because they are men
we’re taught from the day we are born)
My breast is suddenly squeezed hot and shocked
and that boy, he is running away with it now
are the words that instinctively formed
I was otherwise too stunned to move.
My words would haunt him the rest of his life
whenever he had the unquenchable urge
to grab at a breast — he would stop
he would struggle, and hurt, then
go home and beat off
because that first breast he grabbed had a voice
Except that those words
full of power and truth
stuck in my throat
as he ran
The loud silent lump
turned from anger to pain
and stayed there
as he disappeared.
I felt it for years
as it strained to break free
but always the good girl,
I swallowed it.