Learning How to Breathe

By day, I use words like patriarchy, say heterosexism,

or misogyny, if I’m angry enough.

Let my education speak for me,

let these ideas act as weapons,

think myself well armed.

Protected, even.

Just by knowing

what I’m in for.

I shake my head often.

Roll my eyes constantly.

Move on, quickly.

Let myself feel nothing.

Sunlight can be like forgetting.

Everything always moving,

fast walk, city streets, inhalation, forget.

Smile, forget. Speak easy, forget.

Laugh a little louder, and forget.

Till dark. Dark always comes, and I know it.

And it always comes at night.

The remembering.

And then the words mean nothing.

And the sunlight is gone.

And I feel everything, again.

It always comes at night.

How the men suffocate me.

How being woman feels like all exhale.


An afterthought from Rome

Today I lit a candle for you for a euro

in Saint Mary’s cathedral

outside the Roman ruins.

I always feel like a fake inside churches but

for some reason I keep finding myself

inside them, unexpectedly,

wordless each time.

I know that your God is not my God;

that I don’t have a God at all.

But I thought

maybe if your name burned there

someone would notice.

I don’t know how long it burned for, but

those buildings have been standing

for two thousand years, so

maybe some things outlast longer

than I can imagine.

Maybe it’s still burning.

I’ve always wondered how long a prayer

lives out loud for.

I hope it is a thing that does not die.

This is not the first time I have prayed for you,

and I know it will not be the last.

I don’t know what I do it for.

There’s just something about giving a voice to fear

and, equally,

to hope.

Like it can cut through all the other noise

in the safe but daunting grandeur and silence of

hundreds years old cathedrals.

After it all,

I hope you’re still standing like they are.

I hope you don’t live on your knees.

I hope you don’t call yourself ruins.

I hope one thousand things burn inside you.

I hope they never blow out.

I hope I keep finding myself, unexpectedly,

at your doorstep.

I hope you always let me in.