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Severed

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all i know of the story
is what’s written on bathroom stall walls
in the girls’ change room

disagreements about what really happened
etch themselves under the toilet
paper dispenser, so everyone sees

it starts with somebody
calling her a sl*t, scratching it
where she’ll find it

where she’ll see it until she starts
scratching it on herself in lines
she says are from a tape dispenser

it progresses when somebody replies
in thicker marker
no -

she’s not, she just wanted somebody
to love her, to help her out
when the world was turning in on her

and its gloom
felt like it was swallowing her
whole

someone else weighs in
on a story that’s not theirs
but it doesn’t belong to her anymore, either

because now everyone
who goes to that washroom
sees her name stained on the door

someone writes
that’s the wrong reason to have sex
and that you should love someone first

it’s a back and forth of
agitation, gut reactions
scrawled in between classes

it keeps going even after she leaves the school -
the conversation is ignited by
this is why she moved

i don’t see her all this time
few people do, only seeing the words
other people have written

i wonder when she moved
why she moved, where
she is now: i only knew her

as a girl innocently playing volleyball
in the junior gym, now
her legend is immortalized on bathroom stall walls

now she is severed from her school
but not from her community, because this
was never a home for her

i debate after school.

i go to the debate classroom and we form
organized teams, sign our names
on the boards representing each opinion

our speeches all mimic each other’s,
begin with thank you mister speaker
close by thanking him again

we are told what to do, what to say,
what to think and how to convey this information,

but
in the girls’ change room, things are different.

no names are signed.

no formalities are said.

everything is anonymous,
spit from emotion
and scribbled fearlessly

in debate, we put a face to the words
and win medals
win tournaments based on faces and speeches

in this stall
a different kind of prize is won -
the spoils of speaking up.



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