They never tell you in health class
that once you become a woman,
they rip your heart out
and put in a clock instead.
sixty seconds a minute,
sixty minutes an hour,
until your worth runs out
with your youth.
They never tell you
what it feels like,
not being able to get on the subway
without some guy
checking out your ass,
even though the government
says you’re too young
to buy alcohol.
They never tell you that out there,
the word “sensitive” is an insult;
out there, shame is something even Chanel no. 5
can’t cover up.
They never tell you that by the time you find a boy
to love, taking off your clothes will be like
taking off bandages,
like peeling off
That some days you’ll feel
like a broken vase
everyone keeps trying
to stick flowers in.
You are not Schrodinger’s cat.
You are not beautiful or ugly
only until someone tells you so.
But when you want to tell the guy on the bus
to go fuck himself
because he won’t leave you alone,
you’ll bite your tongue instead
and swallow your words,
collecting them underneath your ribcage:
a hornet’s nest buzzing below your heart,
reminding it not to feel too much or beat too hard.