New Poem by Anna Kaye-Rogers
I am meant to protect myself, to scratch and tear, a cat hissing in the night. I bare my teeth. Everything is sharp and pointed. I am meant to be fierce, on fleek, my eyebrows rubbed raw. I tear my own flesh and relish the pain. When I am found they will examine each nail, to see what traces have been left behind, that what was underneath was more important all along.
My kitten kneads me, each claw dangerously close to connect. I am covered in fine red lines, a correcting pen to each stretch mark, every scar, all the places the bumps and bruises settle along my skin. She curls into the caverns in my collarbones, the slow curve of my belly, an outstretched arm threatening to fall off the side of her world. When she is cornered she is afraid, she spends days under the bed, yet now when I sleep the blanket that once protected me feels too thin. There are monsters inside cocoons, and I have met my share. She sleeps on my back and holds me to the world I try so desperately to escape. Tiny claws mark the passage of time, and when my nails chip I peel the rest away. I cannot abide my imperfection, I must cover up all sign I ever was flawed. The soft cotton balls stink of strong poison that I willingly apply to myself.
And when I drink I am told to protect myself, to measure the liquid against the color of the polish. If it changes it means I am not safe, I have been seen as harmless and marked. Why must we teach our girls to dip their fingers in their own drinks, why are our young men not keeping fingers to themselves? Our nails get longer and sharper, we file them to points and bite them to the quick, always peeling and ripping and building anew. We blanket ourselves in pastel pinks and metallic purples, bright blues and soft white lines, until lips and nails match and everything is blackened, for there is power in feeling unreadable.
I wish to sheathe my claws, to find a safe place to curl up and rest and be left alone, a hidden space that black cats and soft kittens can find. I wish to enjoy my drinks in peace, to luxuriate in my own silence, the actuality of my own being in my own spot and perfectly enough.
I run my nails lovingly across the backs of necks and shoulder blades, down spines and up sides; to run my fingers through hair lovingly, because I want to be needed too. I want to be capable of murder without breaking a nail, but sometimes there are people who remind you to put your claws away.