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Smile More 


Poem by Meggie Hollinger 
Illustration by Jane Hawthorne

I keep a list
of comebacks
for when you tell me
I should smile more

I obsess over
 showing you
   how a sharp tongue
    can whip your head around
     faster
      than the thickest, juicy, apple booty
       your rude ass has ever seen

         I keep a cast
          of salty looks
           where I purse my lips.
             hollow my cheeks.
              make to spit
               but hold it in
                Because I want nothing that can trace you back to me

                                          But in the moment
                                          When you go “cluck”
                                          my heart sinks
                                          and my cheeks get hot
                                          and I do the thing when I can't stop blinking

                                                      Cause I feel supremely embarrassed
                                                        Like this is some kind of prank.           
                                                         And the feeling reminds me of a time
                                                            Before I knew what beauty was
                                                             And who decides if I am with or without it

So when you interrupt my thoughts like
HEY
ARE YOU ALONE
LET ME CHANGE THAT
CAUSE I THINK I LOVE YOU, BABY

                                        Without thinking the thing I say is
                                        LOVE YOURSELF

And as I walk away in my head is a chorus
                         of all the things I could have said, or should have said,
                                  that would have
                                         what
reversed centuries of social conditioning
       that now makes it acceptable for you to shout
                BABY across the street to someone you don’t know?

                               As I round the corner I throw in
                               I HOPE YOUR MOTHER’S PROUD OF YOU
                               and I know he’s making some excuse
                               for why I bit back
                               Probably calling me a
                               STUPID BITCH
                               but I see right through it
                               because we all know it aches to be scalded by something
        too hot to touch

I call up my best friend
    and as the phone rings I tell myself
        it’s okay to feel violated
            by something so unwelcome
                like stepping through shit
because if she just saw that
she would be fucking mad
for real



                                                                                                                               

      
                                     
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