You Taught Me I Couldn’t Say No
You taught me I couldn’t say no.
I couldn’t say no to doing chores
or to leaving my phone in the hallway at night.
I couldn’t say no to church every Sunday
or to lights out at 9:30, no matter what day it was.
I couldn’t say no to changing into “less slutty” clothes
or to you holding me back a math class, even though I had straight A’s.
I couldn’t say no to you making me break up with my boyfriend over text
or to being grounded for weeks on end for “having an attitude,” ironically, another way of me trying to say no.
You would scream at me about how selfish I was
and that this was why I was bullied in school,
that this was why my suicidal brother doesn’t think I care about him.
So when a boy told me I didn’t care about him
unless I had sex with him,
who was I to say no?
When my best friend spread rumors about my sex life,
who was I to tell her she was just being cruel?
When my classmate yanked me over my desk
and shoved my head into his pants
what could I have done except laugh awkwardly with the rest of the class?
When my boyfriends roommate started rubbing my legs under the blanket,
what else could I do but sit there and take it?
When my childhood best friend’s brother tackled me to the ground
and grabbed my chest when I was seven,
who was I supposed to tell?
You taught me I couldn’t say no
in a world full of people
just waiting to violate me.
Raw and vivid. Well done.
This is powerful Michaela. I’m sorry you know it well enough to write it but I’m glad you did.
This is a very powerful poem and I commend your courage for putting it out there. I’ve always appreciated the voice that your poetry takes, and that makes such heavy content hit that much harder.