“An Alternate Universe Where Safety Is Something I Get to Keep” by Raquel Franco

Raquel Franco


The boy does not grab my ass 
with shark teeth hands as I walk to class.
I am in second grade. Just a girl, 
untouched. He waves, offers a smile and 
fear does not hug the roof of my mouth. 
I get to keep safety in the pocket of my cardigan.
In social studies I do not get called 
into the counselor’s office where eyes 
bore into me a guilty verdict. He does not tell me 
I have to go home, have to change my shirt. My body is 
not deemed inappropriate. I am not banned for 
the space my chest takes up. 
Standing in his unlit kitchen he does not 
ignore my lips when they say, 
“I don’t want to do this.” When I pull his trespassing hand 
out of my jeans he does not force it back down. He does not prefer 
my silence over the crowd of his own voice. He tells me 
I am remarkable, offers to drive me home, opens the 
passenger door with gentle palms, kisses me 
on the front porch. When he leaves, I climb into
bed with safety and I dream of beautiful things.
I sit on a barstool snug in a little black dress 
and it does not mean consent. Men do not offer 
me mock drinks of hope with the intention 
of taking what I did not offer. I keep my confidence 
and shame does not get an invitation. I am safe.
I am on the phone with a publisher who makes corrupt 
promises to poets. My wrists excited and eager as I grip the phone 
like a prayer. He does not use my ear as a place 
to build his ego, does not take advantage 
of my wanting dreams, does not send the dick pic. 
We only discuss my art, and I am safe. 
My boss does not take my arm and pull me 
into the stock room closet sick with palpable danger.
He does not look at me with 
counterfeit eyes of sincerity and tell me 
I’d be so much prettier if I lost some weight. Instead 
the only line he crosses is the one on the way 
to my desk to tell me he’s impressed by my hard work.
At a party on campus where the air is thick with thirst 
and wild lust, my friend, Andrew, does not leave me.
After the beers and shots of Fireball have coaxed 
my limbs to soften, he holds my hand, calls me 
a cab. I do not pass out in an empty guest room 
and wake up to a bed with strange and hungry hands.
Here I do not have to stitch the word mine 
across my neck, forget the aftertaste of
anxiety from the pepper spray pressed 
in my small palm. My teeth release the grip 
of my pink tongue. Here my voice carries 
bite. Women no longer drink rainwater from 
wine glasses served by trespassing hands. Safety hangs 
like traffic lights where men no longer see green 
when they look at you. Men take the time to learn 
the language of a woman, offer up worship, jars for our tears, 
a soft place to land if you need it. Here we are not
hanging apples. We are the trunk. We wear red lips 
and it is not an alarm for promiscuity. We are given space 
to take up, an untamed kingdom of girls.
We are safe here. We get to keep our safety.

from Rattle #75, Spring 2022


Raquel Franco: “I wish I truly knew what this alternate universe looked like or felt like, a world where women were not objectified and made to feel small. I don’t think men realize that even the smallest of acts can shrink us. I hope this piece sheds a light on the world we are in and maybe how it can change.” (web)

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