altars and mass graves | a poem, discarded and recollected

you told me to grin

touching me

hurting me

you told me to grin


I defended the cheating man

because he put his trust in me

because he turned a vice into a virtue in his mouth

and I believed them all since birth

they have raised my faithlessness


I blamed wives for not doing what they’re told

and men’s opinions turn my mouth acidic

betrayal knows a lot of forms


I was a child in a woman’s body

and they were men who wanted to play

I thought I knew how to


I was convinced that it must be her fault

if everything’s wrong with him


responsibility is a shirt worn and torn and overused

but sets itself on fire when it is asked to stand in sunlight


he slowed down the car

stopped the car

a street away from my house

I still pointed the finger at my house

his hand found my knee

the married man

I was still an employee

the voices of men who taught me

took over my facial features

don’t be rude

he drove you all the way home

be a nice girl

be a good girl

don’t you dare be rude, girl

grin, girl

even if it hurts


I don’t do silent pacts


they controlled my face

so it wouldn’t defend my body


the outside world can’t see the inside world


and it was conveyed to me early in life

that girls are dutiful

and duties overrule consent

My own drawing © Laura Gentile 2021 | Instagram: @melpomenepaintings

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