I stopped believing in forgiveness after my friend
tasted the word slut like sour milk on the sandpaper of her tongue.
I stopped believing in forgiveness after her body was ripped open.
I stopped believing in forgiveness when I sat in a room full of women
and when the question was asked, half the room stood up.
What I learned from all these stories is that “forgive and forget”
is just an old wives’ tale spread by people who will never know
what being invaded feels like. My friend’s body was a beautiful war
the men marched right into without bothering to ask her for permission
to deploy the troops. My friend’s body was a foreign country
occupied by soldiers who spat bullets between her legs
and bit every inch of skin until it turned blue.
Forgiveness is not an obligation.
For some it comes in time, and for some it never arrives,
and either one is fine.
To open your arms to a person who caused you incredible pain
is more than most bones can handle.
The human body did not evolve that way.
Sometimes clenching your fists and closing yourself is easier
than saying “it’s okay.”
My friend never forced those words from her mouth
because too much was already forced from her.
And the words she was able to keep are more than enough.
It is not her responsibility to forgive.
I know you forgot who you are,
that for the past year
you have only seen the scars on your skin
and remembered weakness
but look again,
see the way your body has healed?
It has done so messily.
Sometimes your hair is a mess,
and you don’t shave you legs for weeks
but you are so beautiful
and this year,
I won’t let you cover that up.
You will not bend your body
so it can fit into his,
you will not give pieces of yourself away
not your father, not your best friend,
not the demons who pass through your head.
You will remember that you
are mostly water,
and more powerful that the earth beneath your feet.
you will listen to your soul first
and the world second.
This year you will belong to yourself.