Five Thank Yous

Prompt by Franny Choi: Make a list of 5 people who have wronged you. Write a poem thanking one of them for what they did.

1. To W:
Trust is a wren I watch fly between my body
and the shapes that approach me, hands filled
with offerings. Each new heart is a treasure; a chest hiding a blade.
The shape of empathy burrowed inside me
the day you wrung my body out for the schoolyard boys
to scuff their shoes on. I did not know what it meant to take
when you have nothing, did not know the meaning
of a house so quiet it orphans you. You taught me
some creatures make kindling of others
to keep warm. Thank you.

2. To T:
A lie can start anywhere. It is not just the child of deceit,
not just purposed for crueler things. You taught me it can
trick even the speaker. That a clear and sound mind is
a privilege. When I texted you from the bathroom about the blood
on my thighs, you passed the phone around the circle
to free your hand to pour drinks. The strikeslip fault that split you was one
you would run from for years. Even now. Even today.
You taught me that some lie for the sleight of hand,
to keep the crowd from seeing you sweat. Thank you.

3. To B:
A sapling kept in shade can keep growing; the monk
who saw the pale, stunted tree on the cliffside brought it
home to pot. He kept you stunted. You grew in curation.
You loved in reserve. What worship fell among my green thumbs
would keep a wonder alive; where had years of my life gone, this
unaffected surface? Thank you for being too weak to leave. It forced me to
grow wings.

4. To P:
Some stories we need to live through to believe them. I was
a case study in aftermath — how it can stretch out and on,
like the girl gathering jewels from the seafloor as her brother
holds the ocean in his throat. Further. Farther. Forever.
Thank you for teaching me that women too paralyzed
to say No were never givers of Yes.

5. To F:
On the blue mats of an SFU gym, I bruise my spine,
pull a rib, redden my fists. I walk out onto the mountain
knowing how to escape a choke hold.
I can loosen a bear hug. I can gouge an eye.
In the middle of Winter I move houses. Stop answering phone calls. Watch as
a crowd forms at the foot of the bridge: near-strangers offering their hands in this
trustfall. Thank you for being a plunge in my stomach;
the decoy mallard that readies
my barrel.

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