An excerpt from Defenses by Krysten Hill
They follow me out the bar.
Want an apology for the untouched drink
they sent over. It’s funny that I won’t
turn around or slow down, that my flight
gives me away. That they can put my name
and shape it any way in their mouths.
They catch it with the phlegm in their throats
and spit it on the sidewalk.
Because every man is the one
who took me into a room and wouldn’t let me out,
I carry a pocket knife. Palm it on my way home.
Even for the man I love,
there is a knife inside my nightstand.
Because a bitch can’t say thank you,
a rock catches up to my heel
and I am down on the ground.
They laugh at the noise I make when I fall,
the animal that comes out of a wilderness in me.
They back away with their hands up
because it’s a joke after all, and to prove it,
one tries to help me off the ground. I reach out
and slit another laughing mouth
into his hand.
In the writing workshop, he asks:
Is there any way
you can write this poem
from his perspective?
My mama never taught me to fight
not because she didn’t know
how to turn her own black body
into a baseball bat hiding
behind a bedroom door,
but because she thought that everything
would be different for me.
Could spare me the lesson
of what it was to prepare my body
for a war I was already standing in.
Krysten Hill is an educator, writer, and performer who has showcased her poetry on stage at The Massachusetts Poetry Festival, Blacksmith House, Cantab Lounge, Merrimack College, U35 Reading Series, Mr. Hip Presents, and many others. She received her MFA in poetry from UMass Boston where she currently teaches. Her work can be found in B O D Y, Muzzle, PANK, Winter Tangerine Review, apt, Amethyst Arsenic, Damfino Press, ROAR, and Write on the DOT. She is the recipient of the 2016 St. Botolph Club Foundation Emerging Artist Award. She is the author of a chapbook, How Her Spirit Got Out, now available from Aforementioned Productions.
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