How My Dad Accidentally Raised a Feminist

The day I was born
he gave me the first name Morgan, sturdy and neutral
“fighter of the sea”
he gave me the middle name Freya, norse goddess of
love, beauty, war, and death
a seeker of thrills and pleasure, who carried herself
with strength and passion in plight
he declared to my mother, “honey, she will be a force to be reckoned with.”

I was three
the bathtub was full of bubbles and brothers and me and
they could pee into the toilet from the tubside, which
I couldn’t do
no one had ever told me I was different from them and I became
infuriated
he yelled from outside the door, “honey, don’t let your brothers torment you.”

I was five or six
I stood painting at my easel in the garage where he worked and blurted
“I think blue is my favorite color but blue is for boys and pink is for girls,”
to which he responded, “honey,
colors belong to everybody.”

I was ten
we pulled into the driveway after school and I said I’d get the mail and
I did
he watched me walk down to the mailboxes and back and then
he cried in the drivers seat for an hour and muttered “honey, some men like
little girls with ponytails who walk alone to get the mail
a little too much.”

I was fourteen
my body had become something womanly and unfamiliar and
well-hidden under my brother’s hand-me-downs,
my long hair shoveled into a beanie
I walked down the hallway from my bedroom and
he stopped me to say “honey, I don’t care if you like boys or girls or
purple aliens from Mars, as long as they treat you well and
you are happy.”

I was seventeen
a transgender girl had been allowed to become a girl scout and
it made the evening news
and my mom exclaimed “well. that’s. just. great.”
and he countered “honey, who are you to decide how someone is
connected to this earth?”
I silently cheered from the dinner table.

I was twenty
we were used to everyone else holding their breath when we talked because
when we talked it was fiery altercations
this week’s controversial topic: abortion
and he remarked “honey, I’m pro-life because I would never want you
to go through that”
my retort was “I never would- that’s my personal choice but other women
should be able to make that decision for themselves”
“yes, I think so, too”
“then you’re pro-choice”
“oh”
everyone breathed.

I am twenty-four
my nomex uniform hangs in the open closet,
his name sewn onto my breast pocket
I smell the smoke he used to wear when he got home from work and
we all crawled into his lap
his voice carries over the phone, “honey, I am just
so proud of you.”

my father did not make me from lace and cursive writing and subordination
he made me from untied laces and carving initials into tree trunks and the innate cognizance
that I am anything but collateral
the day I was born
and he said, “honey, you will be a force to be reckoned with”
he was not wrong.

 

The Kitchen Sink

I left dishes in the kitchen sink the way some people leave Christmas lights up into January

Spent too little time in the kitchen.

He called me messy,

called me inconsistent,

said “you are not enough homemaker to hold me together.”

 

I left dishes in the kitchen sink the way he left my heart in the doorjamb when he slammed it shut behind him.

Spent too little time chasing after him.

He called me later,

called me every night

said “I only said those things to hurt you, I still want to be together.”

 

I left dishes in the kitchen sink the way I leave people to play extras in the movie that is my life.

Spent too little time deciding it was over.

He called me monster,

called me psychotic,

said “you will never find someone with enough patience to piece you together.”

 

I left dishes in the kitchen sink

So he left me.

And I…

I did not stop him.

Seattle Cliches

[written in 2011]

 

Let’s wish we could find a way to make coffee and fingernails sound poetic. I want to write about the paint on my clothes and the smell of smoke absorbed by my skin. The holes in the soles of my feet and the holes in my mind, but I can’t find a reason to write in the dark. It’s much scarier under beautiful stars when you realize you’re in a city, an alleyway of broken windows and broken hearts laid out neatly in the dust of dirty thoughts and suicides. There will come a day when Starbucks aprons are believed to be a sign that multiple gods exist in our atmosphere when Microsoft stops autocorrecting the I before E rule and “I” no longer needs to be capitalized like God does. I believe dead spirits that walk among us in the bodies of the depressed. Stumbling outside reality in a cloud of unhappy until they master a way to find artsiness in the darkness. They can hear themselves breathing, but can’t decide whether they should hold their breath in to retain life until it evaporates as nothing from their lungs or if it’s better to let white noises crawl under their skin until they’re crazy. The people here are crazy. Driven mad by stop signs and running through red lights until they’ve reached a destination of uneasiness. How he knows he never really loved her because the poetry he wrote when they were together was shit. We’re show-offs to cover insecurity. Cheering hard for losing baseball teams and avoiding ignorance. We never lose hope and that’s where our music comes from. The one thing we deserve to take pride in. That’s soul burning down our esophagus until it warms us in the depths of stomach acid. It took a lot of time on Google Images, searching for pictures of physical deformities to learn that not everyone is born with two eyes, not everyone is everyone else’s idea of human. Where we rip the seams in our rain jackets as an early weather forecast hoping the sun will peak through the clouds we’ve created with wrist pollution. Where we say “fuck” too much and “love” like it’s sacred. Where we believe pop cans and soda bottles and newspapers and microwave dinner boxes deserve a second life through recycling. We’re superstitious. We use eyes to see into souls and window reflections make us nervous with the anticipation of seeing someone we don’t want to look at, we don’t trust, so as a result some of us stop trusting in God. All we’ve known to have grasp of is the sidewalk in which we walk to reach places we’ve never been, but we never venture too far for that would mean chance of facing unacceptance and non-hipsters. We believe that wearing t-shirts with skulls on them makes us brave ‘cause it’s a scary thought that the only place you’ll ever feel safe is in the lap of your mother. So as Seattlites we search for Mother Nature in everything. We just want to be hopeful. We just want to be happy. We’re trying to find the light. Where social status is decided by how many rings are on your fingers and how clean your dreadlocks are. How much makeup can you go without and still be beautiful? Be organic. So we smile crooked-teeth and let our fingernails grow yellow between cigarettes as we say welcome to the city, welcome to Seattle. Here, we do art.

Wanderlust

[written in 2011]
I suffer from wanderlust. I want to see the same constellation during a cloudless night in at least two hundred different locations. I want to have a sleeping bag and a thermos of coffee and a package of Oreos wherever I go for the rest of my life. I want to see a comet, I want to believe in fortune cookies, I want to close my eyes at 11:11, and wish on shooting stars. I want a hard-cover notebook filled with quotes and poems and anything else I find inspirational. I want thick-rimmed glasses, a warm beanie with earflaps, and as if it couldn’t get any better, I want to ask you to join me.

I suffer from non-denomination. I don’t believe in soulmates and I don’t believe people can be possessions, but I think if anyone gave me you, it was probably Orion- that’s who I pray to on nights when I can’t find God in the sky. I think Orion is more disciplined, he’s got a bigger belt and if there’s anything I learned growing up, it’s that you don’t mess with someone who’s got a big belt.

I suffer from stimulation. I don’t know what to do with myself when I’m handed a hand and lips press against my ear. I keep your secrets whispering in my subconscious. They speak in my dreams alongside my own secrets which I cautiously share with you from time to time. I’ve never been comfortable holding someone’s hand or sitting in the front seat. I’ve never been easy to trust someone. I won’t say that it’s different… I won’t say it.

I suffer from friendship. After spending months being that wrong person everyone sends text messages to, I’ve learned to write your name in pen instead of pencil with intentions of keeping you permanent. I feel like you are me in a different costume. Even white out would only cover you up until someone scratches it off to reveal what I’ve been looking for, what I am, and what I have been for a long time. In fear, I can paint over you all I want, but you will still be there.

I suffer from you. I’ve found ways to find who you are in extreme detail dancing in my tired mind. Engraved in my sore heart that beats to push blood through the veins only you see. Filling my right lung with warmth and my left lung with happiness. Bringing thickness to my skin and helping me feel invincible. This reflects in my eyes, reflects in my aura.

I suffer from wanderlust. But with you, staring up at the sky, I don’t suffer at all.

Bullet

[written in 2009]

Bang bang. He’s a bullet. Sharp and smart, not like a lot of guys you’ll find these days. He tries to keep the lies loaded and tell only truths to your face, but it’d be a lie if he thought he could do it. The kind of guy that ends only the dirtiest of fights and kisses only vulnerable girls. But what a sweet kiss it can be. Then he walks away smiling the fakest of smiles just to help pass the day while no one visible sticks a foot out to break a common ritual. Telling jokes to get laughs that proves he hasn’t lost it yet- and it hasn’t lost him, while the most important people in his life might have.

Bang bang. He’s a bullet and he doesn’t know it. He plays the big shot, pushing everyone aside. Never settling to ride shotgun. He’s got a grin like a Cheshire cat when he’s feeling devious right before he jumps the gun, going off half-cocked and trying to keep a stiff upper lip as she attempts to bite down on his shell. Holding it in her teeth like a trophy. She spits him out on the pavement like a bitter aftertaste while a scared little one pulls the wool over his eyes in a game of war.

Bang bang. He’s a bullet and he loves it. He can’t break your heart but he’ll run right through it. Make you lose your breath. And when he’s gone all you have left is a hole where he cut for a split second. The worst part is, there’s no retrieval policy to get him back. She had to learn the hard way that it’s a one-shot kind of deal, so maybe she should stop yelling at him and step off ‘cause anywhere he goes is a hazard and he knows it. She can only bring him closer just to send him off again.

Bang bang. He’s a bullet and he’ll wipe the smile off your face just as quickly as he put it there. But he’s intoxicating and addicting and he’s absolutely beautiful. And that may be the one thing about himself that he’s still not so sure of. And he’s always there to catch you when you trip and fall. He’s got your back so well he’s almost in your back even when you don’t have his nearly as well. And he’s always got a word to speak to make you think when the tears are falling and there’s nothing to say. He’ll put you in the situation where you can’t feel as guilty as you want to for having him when he can’t even find himself. But you know you’d jump in front of him to save him from himself when his mind is racing and out of control. He says it’s always an accident.

Bang bang. He’s a bullet and nothing more than a bullet in a world of loaded guns.

Someday

Someday you will wake up to the light peaking through your blinds

striping the walls and her face golden, cradled on your chest

and you will kiss her

and you will feel it

and she won’t tell you that you are the only person who has ever kissed her first thing in the morning

and she will feel it, too.