still

her voice shakes, courage escaping
out of each word.

She sits, cross-legged, and I wait while she asks.
Is it okay? to tell you this?


I nod, and wait some more, and remember
just how black my own silence was at first.

I don’t know how to say this, she says, but
I know:
it is a story I have heard a hundred times.

I am still.

She speaks.

This is what he did to me.
I should have fought back.
I shouldn’t have been there.
I shouldn’t have worn that.
I shouldn’t have encouraged him.
I am disgusting.

I am still.

She is crying now, and her hand,
small and cold as a tombstone,
clings to mine.

If I had answers in my soul,
I would pour them out to her like blood,
like ransom.

I am still.

Black silence, red sunrise.

I can tell you all of it:
It’s not your fault.
You didn’t deserve it.
You’re worth more than that.
You deserve respect.
He is disgusting.

But I won’t try, because we both know
that you will still be afraid of the dark;
that it won’t get better, not right away.
But I will promise
that I will not let go of your hand.

She nods, and she cries some more,
and even though I know
that the end of the story
is always a sunrise,
I cry with her.

It takes weeks, months.
Broken words string together,
longer and longer sentences.
Fragments of the light she used to carry,
but fragments pieced back together by
each hand which holds hers and does not let go.

So the day she tells me,
in a half-ragged whisper,
I am worth more,
the black sky of her silence
is, finally, transformed by dawn.

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