regaining my voice

by Julia Gaskill

I was taught at a young age
that my opinion
would never be important
so long as men occupied my space.

I never had a say in my own household,
testosterone a force I could never win against.
My father – more often than not –
made me cry on the way to school
with chastising remarks.
My brother snuck out at night to teepee houses
and underage drink,
yet I was the black sheep of the family,
always met with disapproving eyes
for being too weird, for being too loud, for being too me.

So I learned to hold my breath.
I discovered that “I don’t know”s and static silence
would not condemn me.
I choked down anger, threw away sadness,
shook off irritability
in the presence of others.

Suddenly
everyone wanted a piece of me.
People found me more interesting
when my mouth stopped moving;
I became pleasantry.
Who doesn’t like a nice, temperate, quiet thing?

So when you ask me
where my voice has gone
or why my birch wood tongue
has forgotten gravity,
please understand
I am trying to unlearn
the only way I’ve ever known how to survive.

It has been eons since my
emotions last cracked the surface.
Not the pretty ones –
the guttural, the damned, the raw,
the feelings I believed best left
buried deep in my gut, in my throat.

I will dig them out of my anatomy
with trowel and scythe.
I will cleave myself open
until every emotion is on beautiful display.
I will come to you,
gaping and unhidden,
just as I have always dreamed.

It may not look like I am trying most days,
but believe me, I am cracking bones
with every waking thought.
Slowly I will peel away the muscles and skin,
until we find enlightenment.

I will unlearn the silence for you,

just give me time
to remember how sweet
sound can taste.

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