“When I Say I Bruise Easily” by Kelsey Hagarman

Kelsey Hagarman


I mean you played movies when you wanted
sex. Abstinence in the temporary form
of Tarantino bloodbaths we had seen
before. After you led me by the hand
straight to the dark basement, I met the epileptic dog
you were paid too much to watch over summer
vacation. Work was easy then—rich white boy
house-sitting turned couch-sitting on red leather,
smooth enough for gawky limbs to slide
across the basement distance. Near the film’s middle,
you pulled me to your lap and kissed to keep me
quiet. Speak, I want to hear about the time
I couldn’t tell the difference from your bruises
and the dog’s again. Once, you were in New York
and said the city reminded you of me—
today I found a welt on my arm
and thought of you and your girlfriend—
she’s happy she makes you happy,
according to her Twitter, everything is
better. Worse things have happened:
the same fingers made warm inside yours
also trembled to type the lie I found someone else too
then tried to write a poem with nails
to rake down your skinny thighs like a dog or a boy
who will never say sorry, but are really only fingers
that can’t stop the poem from ending
with the shame of somehow I still miss you.

from Rattle #51, Spring 2016
Tribute to Feminist Poets


Kelsey Hagarman: “When I was twelve, my sister and I went on a walk around our neighborhood. A man followed us. Every time I looked into the glass windows of storefronts, his reflection trailed ours. We ran and didn’t stop until we locked our front door. Besides the fear, I remember the wonder that I wasn’t even wearing makeup. As a feminist, I write against gender expectations, to make sense of memories, for myself and any reader who wants to understand the fear and self-loathing of girlhood.”

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