Not All Men

Six: a Qari in the dining room held a tablespoon
poised against my forehead, ready to strike,
Replaced by a kiss when I cried; but now I see
that it won’t be every man I meet.

Nine: one-story house, green carpet in the living room
my hand forced on a servant’s crotch by his own;
his grip a metal vice; I scrubbed my hand raw that night.
It wasn’t all men, you see, but I was nine.

Fourteen: alone on the internet and no longer unaware of
Violence against womxn being a sexual trade; fourteen, I learned.
Fifteen: I abandoned God. Sixteen in New York City,
I hated my thighs when I sat down. Lonely;
I was sixteen when I met him. I loved him at sixteen,
I loved him at seventeen, I loved him at eighteen.
I hated him at nineteen, I loved him at nineteen.
“You’re not a feminist, are you?” No, because
It isn’t all men. Seventeen. Eighteen. Nineteen.

Seventeen in his room: “You can leave when you
Do what I want. If you love me, you do what I want.”
Victim of seventeen, I bled on his bed and when
he frowned, I stuffed all my clichés in his mouth.
Eighteen, he would change; eighteen, I would stay.
Cutting myself; I was only eighteen. Stuck in the rut
of his promises; I was eighteen when I left him.
I cried out dreams of saltwater with my hand between
my legs when I was nineteen, and it wasn’t all men.

Twenty, in another man’s bed: I thought I was healing,
he had a wife he didn’t believe in mentioning. Twenty,
and it still wasn’t all men. A survivor, I was twenty.
Twenty-one, more beds and a protest. Womxn marched,
I vomited at the emptiness I felt as I tried to fuck it away;
Because I was twenty-one and not enough.
I survived, I survived, I grew into myself. Fell in love
and kept it to myself because he was scum parading
as an ally. It isn’t all men, you see. They say it’s me.