(TW: Sexual assault trauma)
They walk with me like ancestors —one step, two step, gone— flickering in and out of being like fireflies before the world’s first sunrise. Some walk as whisper-soft as sighs breathed in isolation, some step with the agitation of a pounding heart, looking back over their shoulders until the end of time, some twitch and twirl with madness, fingers pressed to their ears so they won’t hear their own screams. Each morning when I dress it is these amazing women who lace the ties on my armour, these warriors who strap on my sword, these betrayed whose lips mouth prayers and whose eyes shift and change with the shadows of the present and the past: the same pain that churns in my gut, the same fear that courses through my blood each day when men hold me at knife-point shivers through their forms like the songs they can no longer sing. Their feet pad softly like teardrops hitting the smoking earth, united by injustice, united by bodies and spirits ravaged and destroyed, abandoned to the darkness when they most needed help. I thank them for reminding me of truth in an endless night, of hope and community as poison seeps from the lips of those who forget. The assaulted hold vigil at my bedside like witnessing a graveside service; I scream into the same pillows they did, eyes swollen, heart bleeding, clothing torn by the claws of creatures I can’t bear to look at, heartbreak the seductive tongue of madness, fear choking me as completely as this world that can’t stand a woman’s voice. I promise them —as their phantom forms fade— that I will always remember, that when the lies of sexism hit my ears, I will rally beneath their broken words, scream with a voice that isn’t quite gone yet, that when my power is sucked from my lips like the dark kiss of this world’s ending, I will breathe the air they lend me and shake the earth with all of the power of a woman.