What is the first word

you remember that lit up a burning

ocean, a flesh burning of its owner

whose name was burned into your back

unsaid and unknown.

            Where was the first time

                                    you remembered anything?

What now? You remember nothing but your other life.

                                    You are blank. 

                                    When the last time you remember not being


                                                            Men scare you.

                                    Careless men have made

a world what it is,

            this world

and we’ve had to follow


            When I left that place called home

                                    I was godless

                                                            a landless monster

                                                            who never had the baby you wanted

            who never gave you exactly what you needed, so you left

                                                with someone else

                                                            to destroy like a siphoned lake

                                                                        gasoline killing all the lives

            of animals you consider less

                                                                        than living.

                                    I am less than living to men

                                                                        like you.

            Whose truth is this? Was I blind to the truth the entire time?

                                                Or finally understand the trick

                                                I’ve been under the entire time,

                                                            told to believe a power lie

                        so you could be big

                                                and I could be small to let you fit;

smaller than a bottle

of painkillers with my name

on them.

I flushed them down after days

of wondering, after days of realizing

            I am worthy

                                                            of being alive, of being


                        This is all

 of our mess now.

                                                Where is the mop? How do we clean

                                    this up? How do we clean ourselves

                                                                        from the inside?

JOANNA C. VALENTE is a human who lives in Brooklyn, New York. Joanna is the author of Sirs & Madams (Aldrich Press, 2014), The Gods Are Dead (Deadly Chaps Press, 2015)  Marys of the Sea (The Operating System, 2017), Xenos (Agape Editions, 2016), Sexting Ghosts (Unknown Press, 2018), No(body) (Madhouse Press, 2019), and #Survivor (Arkay Artists, 2020). They are the editor of A Shadow Map: Writing By Survivors of Sexual Assault (CCM, 2017), and received a MFA in writing at Sarah Lawrence College. Joanna is also the founder of Yes, Poetry, as well as the senior managing editor for Luna Luna Magazine.