"it might have been more," "it could've been worse," and "one in nine girls"

it might have been more

it can't have been less
everything written down and documented
fingers running down ledgers
pausing six million times
recorded not just by those responsible
but by those who loved
and yet, people get lost,
missing in the final count
and maybe it doesn't matter
to the ones who do the losing
but those who remember
will search for a heart until the end of everything
and still, years later,
someone with no skin in the game will say,
who knows if they ever existed at all?



it could've been worse

says the man across the desk from a few inches above me,
chair high so he must look down, the way dictators do
it could've been worse
not all the girls of this world are as lucky as you

I describe the features I saw over me that night and as the pages flip,
sketch artists don't do their own work these days,
a series of eyes and mouths and chins and noses meld
a boy appearing who looks like any other boy says the man across the desk
leaning back and away, signaling the end of our conversation
as if we were old friends and I must catch a train
it could've been worse he reminds me, eyes on the door, not all girls are as lucky
and I continue living, going to sleep, when I do, with the lullaby
it could've been worse it could've been worse it could have been worse
and I don't tell anyone because then they would know
and the fear of it could've been worse
rising like an echo from someone I love
is more frightening than any hand over my mouth
the times when I remember god,
like an old friend who's caught a train and forgot to wave, I say
please don't let all the boys of this world grow up to be the man across the desk
please don't let all the girls of this world be as lucky as me



one in nine girls

experience sexual abuse says the man on the screen
and my whole body is noise, random flickers of static,
(they call it snow in the states, dots in the UK, war of the ants in Indonesia)
but I can feel myself burst apart and reform and you are looking at me
the tendons in my neck, the clench in my hands, knuckles white
you say my name and our eyes meet and you know and there is a tremor through your mouth
my sweet, kind, beautiful mother,
and why, in this moment, right now, is something revealed, I don't know,
just as I don't know why it happened at all and why almost twenty years later
it is sharp and alive in me still, a cut sliced back open every day
and the shock and anger and apology in every coil of you is momentous
for not seeing what I desperately hid so far under my heart even I could not find it,
afraid of snatching back bloody fingers,
it has existed as a lump my heart had to crawl over
like the one that happens in the back of your throat when a child or dog is threatened in a movie,
but this one real and never-ending and covered in spikes
I've learned pressing your tongue against the roof of your mouth dams tears
I wonder where they go, do they slide down your throat or mix with your blood
or is there a well somewhere deep, filling, filling
in that moment, when you looked at me and saw
I could hear the slosh of salt water
reflections of everything I'd ever loved sliding along the surface
like oil making kaleidoscopes in rain puddles
present but diluted, tainted with the things I endured and lived through
I'm so sorry, you say over and over and over
and the shock and anger and apology fight in me and you don't even known the half of it
and maybe I will never say everything, though the need to hurt you, who did not keep me safe
is a knife I can make out of words, unsheathe at any moment
I'm so sorry, so so sorry,
oh my sweet, kind, beautiful mother
it is not nearly enough and I know it will have to do,
it's all one in nine girls in this deep dark world can ever hope to get



Kate LaDew

Kate LaDew is a graduate from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a BA in Studio Arts. She resides in Graham, NC with her cats Charlie Chaplin and Janis Joplin. Kate recommends Planned Parenthood South Atlantic.


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Tuesday, July 9, 2019 - 00:41