The first time I heard the word pussy
was from a boy at the bus stop.
My mother told me to tell him
I didn't have a cat between my legs.
The first time I learned to resist
was when a boy at daycare kept touching me.
My father told me to kick him between the legs
and he'd stop bothering me.
I don't remember the kick but I remember
that I paid for it, banished to sit solitary on the steps.
How much of your childhood
are you supposed to remember.
I learned sex's slurs, weaknesses, punishments first.
Took me 30 years to remember what I was bullied for—
—because bullying wasn't the worst of it.
Not that I talked about any of it.
Took me just as long to learn
to be pleasured by a partner
and to remember standing silently beside my father
sure to the bone I had nothing inside me worth hearing.
My mother told me to tell my story but it recurs
in scrambled, unformed chunks, like a miscarried child.
Was it as bad as you remember or
was it worse than you remember.
Re-member (v): to join again
a part or parts to a whole.
My only accountability
is to my past and future selves.
Mallory Imler Powell is a writer and editor and works in health disparity issues. Recipient of the 2017 Fugue Poetry Prize and a Fulbright award, she is currently an MFA candidate in poetry at New York University, where she coordinates the KGB Emerging Writers Reading Series and serves as an international editor for Washington Square Review. Her poems have appeared in the Aesthetica International Creative Writing Anthology, The Offing, PRISM international, ZYZZYVA, and elsewhere.