The first time that you ignored my “no,”
I have a distinct memory of my stomach churning and
twisting and curling and contourting
into a bow.

Like the ones you rip off of your presents during Christmas.
Except this was not a gift.
I should have known by the shape of your pocket-knife
fingertips that the tool you used so loosely was
not the only sharp object
in the room.

When I shook my head from side to side, your palms
gripped the skin around my lips
like they wanted to mold themselves into a mask.

Halloween was always my favorite holiday,
never yours.  But I learned quickly that
monsters roam our world.
I was giving one a home.

Moisture stained my cheeks as your legs pressed down
onto my thighs like a concrete slab.
Cold, heavy,
and holding me in place,
like the grip of your threats weren’t strong enough to
keep me in my space.
To be honest, for a long time, they were.

I want you to know that
My “I love you”s
were never an invitation
to cover my canvas with your pastels.

Blues and purples healed into yellows and reds.
I used those words to justify the bruises beneath
my hipbones that resemble
the pieces of a xylophone.
My waist sang a melody that you
pretended not to know the words to,
Your fingertips burned a harmony
that would never match mine.

The second time you ignored my “no”
Your lips shattered against my skin like glass,
And it was raining.
Shrapnel lodged itself into my spine.
My limbs went numb
I tasted metallic on my tongue.
My ears wouldn’t stop ringing, but I know that my voice didn’t shake.

My lips started writing you a letter.
I just kept saying that I was sorry.
I’m sorry for the way that I used my memories
as a sheet for my bed
And the way that they left stains on
your favorite moments.
I said “no,” and
The echo of your pillow-fight palms against the wall
was a reminder of the force behind your fists.

The third time you ignored my “no,”
It turned into the fourth, the fifth, the thirteenth,
I don’t know anymore.
It was always those fists that hid the exit signs,
But It was the palms around my throat
that made me lose
my voice.
I lost count.
I lost count of the times that you ignored the protests,
The picket signs in my eyes and the
body-mind union strikes.

The last time you ignored my “no,”
I didn’t know that it would be the last time.
This was over a year ago now.
I finally realized that I have never been
answering a question.
No knock on the door, no looking at my face
to see a welcome sign, you didn’t even RSVP
because you thought this home was yours to own.

I kept writing the letter.
I’m sorry for the day that I’ll tell you
that you are the worst thing to ever happen to me.
I forgot that honesty
can feel like a noose wrapped around your throat,
searching for a bannister.
I’m sorry that I learned about autonomy.
I closed my lips for the last time.
I didn’t know that my voice mattered
I didn’t know that my no’s had meaning, so
I threw away the letter.

In my lesson on sovereignty I learned to never raise
a white flag.
To conquer your territory, you only raise red.
Like the lips that rang with the objection
My anatomy cannot be bargained for.

In reality,
I wrote the apology letter for
I don’t owe you a damn thing.

Not my body,
And not my sorrys.




Skyler Jaye Rutkowski resides in Buffalo, NY. She’s been published in Ghost City Press Review, as well as Cringe Worthy Collective’s quarterly chapbook. Most of her free time is spent facilitating workshops in her chaotic home and finding adventure wherever she can find it.

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