Jess Del Balzo


Who Let You Out of the Womb?

Now, I know what you’re thinking: one in three women—isn’t that a bit redundant? I went to school for writing, shouldn’t I know a cliché when I spit one out? And therein lies the problem: there are too many like me, trying to outrun the shadows crowding close until we realize, one day, that somehow we’re only haunting ourselves here.

No time for “why” and “how,” we’ve learned the oldest, truest arts—honesty and pried-open legs— the proper names for what we can’t say out loud. Before we stood onstage, products of cause-effect collisions on rushing rivers of statistics, we had names once too, you know.

I was not born to be your electric light, your future daughter’s shining example. It’s pretty to think that danger can be labeled clearly and the path away well lit, but really, kid, you’ve got to be kidding me. If you hear “rape” and think “victim,” then that’s your problem.

Seriously, who let you out of the womb? Guys like you are the reason I take birth-control pills with my vitamins: The last thing this world needs is more privileged assholes, more big stupid mouths sprouting opinions on things they’ll never have to worry about.

Telling me you have a bra-burning mother won’t make me hate you any less. The way she may have been too busy throwing symbols into a bonfire to tell you why, we get tired, kid. I worry about how I’d explain these dark circles under the eyes to a daughter, how to tell a son not to draw any for the girls brave enough to let him love them.

Your lineage isn’t a “get out of the doghouse free” card. If you really knew all about that “blah-blah feminist thing” and that rape has been “done before,” you’d know it’s only going to get worse if you’d rather hear a well-rounded three-minute poem called, “How I Got Over It.” You don’t just “bounce back,” turn the other cheek and sew the wound between the legs back together. You put on your boots and you start fucking walking.

Do you know what it is to survive, kid? To get in bed at the end of another long day and sigh with relief that you made it through? Recovery isn’t just something that happens—a neat beginning, middle and end—it’s something you live for the rest of your life.

So maybe you’re a little young to have met too many of us. Why don’t you come see me in a few years, after some pretty thing you love cries through the night in your arms over something you can’t fix. We’ll see how far your blah-blah bullshit gets you then.

My work has appeared in various print and online journals, anthologies and other publications, most recently, Damselfly Press, CRIT Journal and DecomP Magazine. A graduate of Emerson College, I was also an active member of the Boston performance poetry scene, appearing in venues in and around the city. I have self-published two chapbooks and released an album of spoken word and music called Lampshade Girls & Other Renegades. I currently live and work in New York City.

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