First published in Cooties Zine, Issue #2: Ladies of Change

A poem exploring how women’s voices are often silenced or ignored and the lengths we will go to be heard.

I do not wear red lipstick to draw eyes
to my lips—I wear it as a warning

that this mouth has something to say
and these words might bleed

as red as the blood between my legs
when they force their way out from between my teeth.

Every girl knows the best way
to get blood from her sheets:

cold water and soap
rubbed in as soon as possible.

We know the best way to speak
is with a blade for a tongue

and we know the best way to survive
is to let it cut up our own mouths

rather than to risk starting a knife fight
when we only wanted to defend ourselves.

I am tired of cutting myself up
with the thing meant to make me my own savior,

so I’ll open my mouth wide,
as wide as it will go, and I’ll let the blood

running red rivulets down my chin
do the talking for me.

I wear red lipstick so that the blood
feels right at home on my face.