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“Boys Will Be Boys (and Why That Is the Stupidest Thing You Could Ever Say to a Little Girl)” by Fortesa Latifi

when she was 7, a boy pushed her on the playground
she fell headfirst into the dirt and came up with a mouthful of gravel and lines of blood chasing each other down her legs
when she told her teacher what happened, she laughed and said ‘boys will be boys honey don’t let it bother you
he probably just thinks you’re cute’
but the thing is,
when you tell a little girl who has rocks in her teeth and scabs on her knees that hurt and attention are the same
you teach her that boys show their affection through aggression
and she grows into a young woman who constantly mistakes the two
because no one ever taught her the difference
‘boys will be boys’
turns into
‘that’s how he shows his love’
and bruises start to feel like the imprint of lips
she goes to school with a busted mouth in high school and says she was hit with a basketball instead of his fist
the one adult she tells scolds her
‘you know he loses his temper easily
why the hell did you have to provoke him?’
so she shrinks
folds into herself, flinches every time a man raises his voice
by the time she’s 16 she’s learned her job well
be quiet, be soft, be easy
don’t give him a reason
but for all her efforts, he still finds one
‘boys will be boys’ rings in her head
‘boys will be boys
he doesn’t mean it
he can’t help it’
she’s 7 years old on the playground again
with a mouth full of rocks and blood that tastes like copper love
because boys will be boys baby don’t you know
that’s just how he shows he cares
she’s 18 now and they’re drunk
in the split second it takes for her words to enter his ears they’re ruined
like a glass heirloom being dropped between the hands of generations
she meant them to open his arms but they curl his fists and suddenly his hands are on her and her head hits the wall and all of the goddamn words in the world couldn’t save them in this moment
she touches the bruise the next day
boys will be boys
aggression, affection, violence, love
how does she separate them when she learned so early that they’re inextricably bound, tangled in a constant tug-of-war
she draws tally marks on her walls ratios of kisses to bruises
one entire side of her bedroom turns purple, one entire side of her body
boys will be boys will be boys will be boys
when she’s 20, a boy touches her hips and she jumps
he asks her who the hell taught her to be scared like that and she wants to laugh
doesn’t he know that boys will be boys?
it took her 13 years to unlearn that lesson from the playground
so I guess what I’m trying to say is
i will talk until my voice is hoarse so that my little sister understands that aggression and affection are two entirely separate things
baby they exist in difference universes
my niece can’t even speak yet but I think I’ll start with her now
don’t ever accept the excuse that boys will be boys
don’t ever let him put his hands on you like that
if you see hate blazing in his eyes don’t you ever confuse it with love
baby love won’t hurt when it comes
you won’t have to hide it under long sleeves during the summer
and
the only reason he should ever reach out his hand
is to hold yours

~ Fortesa Latifi (@fortesalatifi), tumblr.

“Our Story” by William Stafford

(taking a digital break for a while … hope to see you all soon. love, christy)


Remind me again—together we
trace our strange journey, find
each other, come on laughing.
Some time we’ll cross where life
ends. We’ll both look back
as far as forever, that first day.
I’ll touch you—a new world then.
Stars will move a different way.
We’ll both end. We’ll both begin.

Remind me again.

“Freedom” by William Stafford (repost)

Freedom is not following a river.
Freedom is following a river
though, if you want to.

It is deciding now by what happens now.
It is knowing that luck makes a difference.

No leader is free; no follower is free–
the rest of us can often be free.
Most of the world are living by
creeds too odd, chancy, and habit-forming
to be worth arguing about by reason.

If you are oppressed, wake up about
four in the morning; most places
you can usually be free some of the time
if you wake up before other people.

from The Way It Is: New and Selected Poems
Copyright 1998 by Graywolf Press

***

Originally posted May 26, 2016; Brian Dean Powers included this piece during “Words With Brian” (his week of “hosting” Words for the Year). See his other selections here.

 

“Remembering” by William Stafford

When there was air, when you could
breathe any day if you liked, and if you
wanted to you could run. I used to
climb those hills back of town and
follow a gully so my eyes were at ground
level and could look out through grass as the
stems
bent in their tensile way, and see snow
mountains follow along, the way distance goes.

Now I carry those days in a tiny box
wherever I go, I open the lid like this
and let the light glimpse and then glance away.
There is a sigh like my breath when I do this.
Some days I do this again and again.

William Stafford, from The Darkness Around Us Is Deep

“Peonies” by Jim Harrison

The peonies, too heavy with their beauty,
slump to the ground. I had hoped
they would live forever but ever so slowly
day by day they’re becoming the soil of their birth
with a faint tang of deliquescence around them.
Next June they’ll somehow remember to come alive again,
a little trick we have or have not learned.

“Peonies” by Jim Harrison from In Search of Small Gods. © Copper Canyon Press, 2010.

“Sorrow” by Shara McCallum

There are too many poems on the subject of sorrow.
Why pile one more on this dung heap of sorrow?

Once upon a time always promises wonder. We remember,
too late, the breadcrumb-less woods of sorrow.

You fall asleep nightly rehearsing a lie:
Tomorrow I’ll end it, my love affair with sorrow.

A woman is singing again. Who is she this time?
No matter. Her voice grinds the whetstone of sorrow.

What a choice we’re given: to hold on to the dead
or let them vanish to try to vanquish our sorrow.

I speak my name out loud into my shiny new iPhone.
On the screen, Siri spells it out for me: Sorrow.

Shara McCallum, “Sorrow” from Madwoman. Copyright © 2017 by Shara McCallum.