Poetry Cave – Ladylike
bend down, not over.
I catch my male friends’ eyes straying to my rear,
straighten up immediately, face beet-red
and pulsing hot. I receive a text message
later that night, a photo attached.
black lace panties? that’s hot.
I throw my phone across the room,
stare at the ceiling as something bitter
and sharp claws its way around my chest.
men don’t like a girl with a big mouth.
my high school boyfriend tries to tie my tongue
to the back of my throat, but fire knows no
restraints. I keep my mouth restless, screaming.
he keeps his hands ready.
no one cares if you’re smart or
kind or funny, as long as you’re pretty.
be pretty. it’s all that matters in this world.
I’m in shoes that pinch my toes blistery-pink,
a dress that squeezes me in all the wrong
places. I burn my hair to anti-frizzy perfection
and wobble to walk straight. a boy catches
sight of me, leans over to his friend to whisper
what he thinks I can’t hear: she’s flat as a board.
I’ll give anyone fifty dollars if they can find her ass.
I go home early and rip my reflection
to pieces in my bare hands.
don’t say yes. but don’t ever say no, either.
what is this fine line I’m straddling? the tongue
that once knew no limits now tiptoes sweetly
in my mouth. I train my face to look coy but sultry
for the nudes he demands, but I don’t know how to ask
him if he sees me as a human being. in the library,
his hands wander down the front of my blouse. past
the zippers of my shorts. I stare straight ahead, like
I can’t watch my own body’s defilement.
people are staring. they’re saying, what a slut.
they’re saying, this is why you need to act like a lady.