Souvenir / Things I Didn't Do

[Image description: photograph of a tiger pacing behind the bars of a cage.]   John Morton / Creative Commons

[Image description: photograph of a tiger pacing behind the bars of a cage.]

 

John Morton / Creative Commons

Souvenir

When you think of me later,
after a long day when you just don’t know
why you can’t shake me from you,
when you give in
and settle down to thinking of me,
you will do a little editing.

Smooth me down,
polish me up,
take the edges off.
Make me a little softer,
a little easier, a little simpler;
a little less sharp, a little less blunt.
Finally, there you have her:
just like me
but a little
less.

Because something in you said yes
to my shamelessness,
but not to my curious refusal
to be controlled by shame.
Yes to my rudeness,
but not to my impoliteness. 
Yes to "fuck" as a verb,
but not to “fuck you” -
how’s that for a verb?
Yes to my power, my confidence, my strength…
up to a point. 

You saw an immaculately honed blade
so fierce that you yearned to touch it,
and you went home and took up a butter knife,
telling yourself it was so much more practical.

You saw sheets of lightning starting fires on the dry ground
and longed to throw yourself into the flames,
just to know what it would feel like to be consumed.
You closed your hand around a little pocket flashlight,
thinking that in fact you preferred its dim, manageable glow.

I am wild and unknown,
and you want to stare at me
through the bars of a cage, 
take home a tiny, plastic replica of me,
and keep her.

 

Things I didn’t do

I didn’t catch your eye.
I didn’t look up from the ripe fruit whose juice ran down my arm
and see from your face that you wanted to devour me in the same way.
When I met your bare skin with mine, innocently enough
- hands in passing, an arm brushing by - 
the roar of my heart didn’t reach your ears.
I didn’t hear the beat of your footsteps hesitate outside my door, 
the silence a question to which I did not answer
yes.
I didn’t satisfy my curiosity about the taste of your mouth, your skin: 
butter, lemon, coffee, coriander seed?
I didn’t hear you say that I’m beautiful,
that you want me,
that you’ve loved me for so long.
I didn’t feel the jolt of seeing my real body through your real eyes, 
the raw disobedient flesh
unflattered by the gauzy overlay of fantasy. 
I didn’t meet the clumsy hesitations of an unknown body, 
the shock of finding that you don’t know how to touch me
after years of imagined rehearsal.
I didn’t gather every person that each of us loves
and push them towards a precipice.
I didn’t stop wanting
to do the things
I didn’t do.


Emma Taylor is a psychologist living in the east of England, writing in short bursts in between working and taking care of four young children.