|By Monica Sok|
|You and your friend stood |
on the corner of the liquor store
as I left Champa Garden, takeout in hand, on the phone
with Ashley who said,
That was your tough voice.I never heard your tough voice before.
I gave you boys a quick nod,
walked E 21st past dark houses. Before I could reach the lights
on Park, you criss-crossed
your hands around me,like a friend and I’d hoped
that you were Seng,
the boy I’d kissed on First Friday in October. He paid for my lunch
at that restaurant, split the leftovers.
But that was a long time ago and we hadn’t spoken since,
so I dropped to my knees
to loosen myself from your grip, my back to the ground, I kicked
and screamed but nobody
in the neighborhood heard me, only Ashley on the other line,
in Birmingham, where they say
How are you? to strangers not what I said in my tough voice
but what I last texted Seng,
no response. You didn’t get on top, you hovered. My elbows banged
the sidewalk. I threw
the takeout at you and saw your face. Young. More scared
of me than I was of you.
Hands on my ankles, I thought you’d take me or rape me.
Instead you acted like a man
who slipped out of my bedand promised to call:
You said nothing.
Not even what you wanted.
|Copyright © 2020 by Monica Sok. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 20, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.|
“After this incident I asked myself: What is it like to feel safe, seen, and heard all at once and all the time? In this poem, I wove two complex experiences together (getting jumped/being ghosted), while considering the layers of silence in both. I wrote this as an ode, not to praise the boy who jumped me but to directly address him, to let him know that I saw him that night even when he could not see me.”
|Monica Sok is the author of A Nail the Evening Hangs On (Copper Canyon Press, 2020). She is a 2018-2020 Wallace Stegner Fellow in Poetry at Stanford University and lives in Oakland, California.|