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To The Strongest Woman I've Ever Known

they say that bravery
and strength
are both measured
by their smallest
and most humane
respects

not storming in,
guns blazing,
kicking down doors
but rather through drying tears
taking a deep breath
and saying
I am worth more than this

and now
at seventeen
I realize that you’re
the strongest
and bravest person
I’ve ever met

because I was there
with wide eyes
and an innocent mind
when the landlord walked to our house
and treated you
like you weren’t worth his time
because of some sort of
"masculine complex"

and I was there
when you waved goodbye to
the "Times-Democrat"
and opted instead for
a desk job
and grinding a cheese grater
against your head
for ten hours a day

and I was there
when you let me cry
about a C in seventh-grade math
because neither one of us knew
what the future held

and I was there
but I was consumed
by things like seventh-grade romance
and bad pop music
that I didn’t realize what was
going on around me

and then I was locked
in my own mind,
drowning in silence
and a thousand shades of grey

but it doesn’t excuse
how I could have missed it:

the strongest woman
I’ve ever known
is not in history books
or the subheading
of french existentialism texts

but rather
she sat across from me
at the breakfast table
for seventeen years
and I never
even
noticed.



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