On Finding Permission to Talk About My Childhood

I didn’t tell this story often
but now I do.

When it was a secret thing
a Don’t tell Mom thing
a Don’t scream thing
a midnight-when-I-was-supposed-to-be-sleeping thing

I said nothing
I did nothing
I felt nothing—
nothing except what I was supposed to feel

I wasn’t mine but ours
and then he grew up
and I did not,
seeking sex and approval
from people who had no business getting either
when I had no business getting either

I always dated older
I think this is why—
the lab-rat conditioning—
I slept with my best friend the first chance I got
& still called him my brother
because what was different
except the pleasure I received?

Ashley Elizabeth (she/her) is a Pushcart-nominated writer and teacher. Her works have appeared in SWWIM, Rigourous, and Honey Lit, among others. Ashley’s first chapbook collection, you were supposed to be a friend, is available from Nightingale & Sparrow and her sophomore collection, black has every right to be angry, is forthcoming from Alternating Current. When Ashley isn’t teaching, editing, or working as an assistant editor for Sundress Publications, she habitually posts on Twitter and Instagram (@ae_thepoet). She lives with her partner and their cats in Baltimore, MD. Ashley is Black before she is anything else.

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