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Pushcart Prize Nominee


Brittle Bones

Last week a guy did something to me.

I don’t think I need to elaborate.

Because to draw out the tale would be to get tangled in the web

and the web is not what is important.

I am what is important.

And I stopped myself from talking about it

or from crying to my mother,

because I was scared of what she would think.

Because some days, I look at my bare thighs and recall

every time I have asked to be kissed and I cannot help

but to conclude that is why he had deemed he could.

I know that no one is ever asking for it but

when it comes to my own body,

sometimes, I feel like the exception.


It’s not like the first time this has happened, but it’s still so raw. Not like

unpicking the stitches on old wounds and allowing them to ooze but like

a fresh cut,

and I think it must be because he seemed so nice. He seemed so

nice. But there were a thousand red cards held up

from the time he told me he could feel no empathy

to the bodies in his likes

and every late night text that lay in between.

I’d argue I was moth to the flame, bull to china shop but that is derivative

and if you are still reading this you already know what I mean.


Because it seems like we broken people

are drawn to those who are most dangerous

like we find comfort in the hurt and the instability

of those we know will never love us. Because real love risks

rejection, abandons the safety nets, and free falls into the dark,

and I cannot handle rejection.

I know repression is the root of obsession but it’s a week later and I am

drinking wine from the bottle, unable to cry, on my bathroom floor, where I

have come to feel so at home and everyone who knows me expects me to

spiral but I don’t but I don’t know how to unravel

because it all feels too tightly wrapped inside, like a cord restricting my

throat and I know I have already lost the thread of this metaphor somewhere

inside this poem.


I unfollowed everyone he knows,

just in case.

I’m trying to find a way to process what happened;

And saying it out loud sounds like a threat.

And there are words we never say.

Words that hurt too much.

And poetry once felt like an escape

but if language is the bed.


If language is the bed can I just say

that I no longer feel safe sleeping on my own.

I still can’t explain what happened

Or how I feel about it. But here’s my best try:


My bones began to splinter when I turned 15

and realized there would be secrets to hold forever

and the pressure of it all

started to grate on me

until little by little

I crumbled away.

Caitlin Mckenna is a Masters student and poet from Leeds. As a queer, socialist vegan, Caitlin spends her time baking, napping with her cats, and falling in love many times a day. Her work focuses upon mental health, identity, and self expression. Brittle Bones, in particular, is a confessional piece that tried to tackle the predicament writers feel when something significant befalls us and words seem to fail. It's an brutally honest piece but one I'm honoured to share.

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