I looked up “synonyms for power-hungry” and I got
In our power-over society with lust for control,
we are taught that, “Stop”
is a four-letter-word,
is disrespect to our elders,
is just fine
for a girl, barely aged nine
to speak and receive from
men with desire for dominance.
This poem is for everyone who was never taught
to utter the word, “No,”
who were told to erase it, instead, from their lexicon
and replace it with, “Sorry”.
You have nothing to apologize for.
This is for the girl who said, “Stop, no,
but couldn’t be heard through the palm, open
over her mouth
so she shut it.
This is for the boy on the street
that was beaten for walking to a foreign rhythm,
who could not say “stop” because he did not know
the language of white terrorists.
This is for the girl at the party who can’t remember if she said no or not
because that’s what the drugs were designed for.
This is for everyone who has witnessed a crime
but choked on their words when they went to yell, “Stop”
because the crimson glare from his knife was too much to bear
and the sweat on their palms crippling, cold
so they shoved them in their pockets and ran
with the guilt and the shame of their silence.
This is for the ones in the street
for their next hit
crawling on damp pavement,
searching for a needle
because they couldn’t say no that one time
they will struggle to ever say no
to the regret corroding their veins.
This is for the child
on the internet
of her blossoming body
who couldn’t say, “no”
because he was a grown-up
and her parents
were not there to teach her
or let her
This is for every time you blamed me
for your addiction
and I couldn’t scream, “No”
as your hand gripped my throat
because I was afraid
that any breath of air I exhaled in attempt to escape
would never come back to me.
I have nothing to apologize for.
This is to remind you that your words are worth more
than the pearls that he gave you in attempt to excuse
each time he would beat you
to convince you
it would never happen again
to keep you
around until he could choke you
with that necklace of manipulation
until you had no lips of your own anymore to speak or say, “No.”
This is to remind you that you are more valuable
than your legs or your breasts or the way that you move
your hips when he begs you and pokes you and
holds down your wrists
as you wish you remembered how to spell “Stop.”
I learned to say, “No”
I learned to spell “Stop”
with an escape route, my two legs, twelve steps and
a restraining order
to leave behind lies,
the bruises and scars,
that “No” meant “yes”
because I was his woman,
like I owed him,
like he was doing me a favor
by intruding my body,
of a soul by his –
– did they call it ambition? –
for control –
He is lost.
And I ran
with a climax of character,
the prowess of principle
an orgasmic oration,
I won’t stop.