Laney DeBrabander

i look down at you with the word pretty at the tip of my tongue
i don’t say it
i remember the last boy i called pretty
all sharp mouthed and angry
he tells me boys can’t be pretty
my protest dies when i see the look in his eye
and i know it is not up for discussion

this is how i come to fall in love only with boys who paint their nails
and who put their hair up like kids
with none of the bumps smoothed out
i fall in love with the soft edges that won’t cut me when i try to reach out
i fall in love with the small smiles of your kisses
not just the shape of your mouth

i fall in love with the fact that you can pin me down
and i still feel more free
than when the look in his eyes tells me to shut my mouth
i guess i swear too much
and that’s only okay when other people do it

i learn when to let go
i tell the boy with the long hair that we are just friends
and i wonder which box do i put my cowardice in
is there a difference between protecting yourself and shutting everyone else out?
if so, i do not know what it is
when even pretty boys remind me
what it means to be a sin

handsome*, sorry
i wash pretty out of my mouth like a bad word
i forget that there is no god here to protect me
from boys who know it all
or my body being poised to fall right off the edge of the map
and i wonder where in the bible does it say i am so disposable
throw me away in last week’s trash
move on

i learn to fall only for boys who cling to things
you bury your face in my shoulder and i know
you will not let me go
you tell me you miss me between kisses
and hey, maybe there’s hope
maybe you were never taught to keep your hands in fists
and your feelings in your throat
i am used to boys who vomit guilt and fall apart in my arms when no one is looking
boys who could never admit that the next day

i learn to fall only for boys who do not lie to me about whether or not they have a problem
i learn i cannot bottle things up
like the liquor he told me i wasn’t allowed to drink
being drunk is a sin too, didn’t you know?
i fall in love with boys who do not use the bible as a weapon
the sharp edges of the paper may cut my skin
but what does that matter when i’m already in shreds
i fall in love with boys who do not think they need weapons to use against me
boys who bring tape to put me back together
but step back when they realize i already have glue

i never wanted to be fixed
and you listen when i tell you that
which is new
i am used to being in love with boys who say they can save me
and leave me wondering what it is that i need to be saved from
there is nothing wrong with being broken
it doesn’t make me any less whole
you believe me when i tell you that
and when i find the scar on your shoulder
you are not afraid to tell me what it’s from

i learn to fall only for boys that i think are strong
and i think that you are strong
because you are capable of telling me the moments when you are not
you do not zip your jacket up past your chin
and hope that closing yourself in will somehow make it easier
though you do pull on your shirtsleeves when you’re sad
the same way i do when i’m sad
and i think, perhaps, that this is actually real
and i am terrified to let you out of the box that i put you in in my mind
because i do not know what will happen
i do not know what will happen with us but more importantly i do not know what will happen with you and i know better than to fall in love with a ghost story.

Laney DeBrabander is a junior at Aquinas College studying Psychology with a minor in English Literature. She began writing poetry as a way to express herself, which evolved into writing poetry as a coping mechanism. This particular poem woke her up in the middle of the night, and she couldn’t go back to sleep until she got all of the words out.

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