For sister survivors

Image: Kim Villagante

when time is army marshalled
against you starved and alone

I write in celebration your survival
each molecule of courage you collect
sunrise and sundown.

when you cannot move with the music
laughter blade in your belly

I write in celebration your strength
mourning self and body
no longer answering you.

when nobody holds you through
a thousand sleepless nights

I write to share my parts with you
take what you need to continue
let me kiss you where it hurts.

when you hate yourself for being
made of things softer than steel

I write to witness your rain
washing blood seeping stubborn
outside the neat confines of skin.

when you are asked to relive your war
so the privileged can get a concept

I write to be silent with you
reordering rooms in your heart
leaving the key in a moth’s nest.

when others sweep your bones
feathers of good intentions

I write to build a wall with you
scratch poems in the dark
without ever seeing your hand.

when you are labelled self-destructive
instructed to get your shit together

I write to breathe chaos with body
you hurl hurricane speed at anything
solid, sharp and terrible.

when you encounter new intimacies
distrust your own judgment of safety

I write to push and run and hide
with you in the anonymity of libraries
the smell of a child’s hair.

when memory burns a hole in your head
road to retribution is unfinished

I write to paint with you banners
in our blood match the beat
of your footsteps in march.

when language closes herself
to eloquence of your grief

I write to author with you
hammer for severing her
bondage to pleasant cruelties.

when the thought of being touched
gently makes you weep

I write to learn with you
how to accept love on your own
terms and in your own time.

when your body conceals herself
beneath rotting leaves and gasoline

I am still.

there are no promises
after rape we choose
the distance and measure of our lives

so I write to find
with you in the aching vastness
between our bones

holy things.

Hailing from Bali, Indonesia, and Vancouver, unceded Coast Salish Ter­r­itories, Cynthia Dewi Oka is a New Jersey-based poet, editor, activist, mom, and the author of Nomad of Salt and Hard Water.

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