you became a total stranger when I was a teenager
somewhere between burgeoning chest, hairy legs
awkward curiosity about the boys and the bees
you were someone who always seemed to
be able to stand between me
and my happiness

it’s funny how the bad memories
can erase all the good ones
funny how we hold on tight to the bad ones
so we can keep being angry
and keep having good reason to

I know there were times when we were happy

but I can’t seem to remember it
somewhere between crayons and breasts
I became your enemy

now there’s cancer cells
moving through
lymph systems of my yesterdays
destroying healthy tissues stratified with
our laughter and intimate moments

I’m like an archaeologist
bereft of treasures
yet desperate to unearth
pieces of…

picking me up
lifting me to sky
so I could reach out and wrap cumulonimbus cape
around me like a mighty superhero
diving off the edge of your brown feet towers
gliding into the skydance
of both our footsteps

I only wanted to love you
because out the millions and billions
of daddies in the world…
You were mine…

but after many attempts
of diving deep
into bloodshot oceans
of your eyes
hopeful for warmth
and never finding it

the little voice
in the little me
started to echo whispers of forgetting
of just not caring of
the times when we were pals

somewhere between surviving and living
your amour grew tougher
as your heart grew weaker

now I didn’t know
how hard it must’ve been
to wake up at ‘men’s hour’
and walk to the battlefield of the workplace
trading life force for prejudice and pay checks

they stole nature from your brow
planting creases between them
where my kisses
should have been
I was too young to understand
the depth of institutional
racism on a man’s psyche

I was just a kid
watching sadness-shaped cartoons
crawl out your work boots
creeping into the living room
to have dinner with
this family, uninvited

you hurt mom
imprinted an indigo ring around her eye
launched ballistic missiles
into the pillars of this home
in an attempt to control,
to reclaim your power as a man
to demand to the respect
that was stolen at your workplace

you say nothing
but the silence occupied the air
like in a gas chamber
and like mirrors neurons firing neurosis
mom retaliated
with her tongue tipped
in plutonium warheads

stuck between enemy lines
we took cover under the bed
from the cross-fire
trapped in a war zone
but confused as to
who the enemies were

now all I can remember is
the deafening silence
of broken glass
seconds, minutes,
after it had been smashed
like spilt milk
gone bad
curdling pieces of stifled words
and knotted tummies

never inflict violence on a woman
no matter how much you
think she deserves it
no matter how she cunningly
provokes your anger
just to get some energy from you
just to get you to gaze or even glare
into her eyes
so she can feel like she at least
still exists
beyond the cups of coffee
she perfectly brews
to gain your affection

hurt people, hurt people
and no one ever taught you
to be the man I needed you to be
told you that the pen or the heart
is mightier that the fist

if I could’ve hugged and cradled
the 10 year-old-you
in my arms
I would’ve stroked your hair
and told you it was ok to cry
to be soft and vulnerable

just as much a victim of patriarchy
as I was
you showed me love
in a language I didn’t understand

you dropped it into the sweat
that fashioned the bread
you put on our table
dyed your love into the fabric
stitched it into the lining
of my school uniforms
embedded your love in school fees
paid bills and rollerblades

you put your love
everywhere around me
but to the little girl
your temper
spoke louder than your actions
and I have never been good
at treasure hunts

I failed to find your messages
hidden beneath my warm bed
between the pages of my textbooks
in the pocket
of that sparkly dress you bought me

but to be honest

there came a time
when I stopped looking for your love
and I started plotting my escape

when did you start believing
that all women can’t be trusted…
raising me to fear what I will inevitably

so this girl left for Australia
with nothing but a backpack full of dreams

the calcification of words unspoken
made my bones stronger
my shoulders perfectly
sculptured by these struggles
my rebellion
became my saving grace

and somewhere along this journey
I became a leader
when I could’ve been just another statistic

now I am Woman

I finally found the treasures
you had hidden under my sleep
and in my dreams
your sweat metabolized as my possibilities

time carved you back into my heart
and you are more beautiful to me
than ever before

I know you did the best you could
with what little u had

hardworking blue-collared brown men
had no time for yoga
healing sessions and therapy

wounded boys
grow up to be broken men
no one ever taught you
to be the man I needed you to be

I understand now

I love you

I remember now…

all those times
you told me
I could be anything
that I wanted to be

how could I ever have forgotten
you had said that to me?