for every woman i’ve ever known

Amani Mahmoud

Artwork: Angelina Tran | @gna.trn

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Content Warning: Domestic Abuse, Blood, Injury, Death, Violence

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my mother’s hands, protruding veins embroidered on aged skin

like roadmaps leading to nowhere 

hands that have kneaded too much atta 

hands that have held too many broken things 

i watch them drown in the moonlight 

and i can’t help but say 

i want a life that is nothing like yours 

i don’t want sacrifice

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and she recoils

retracts, 

she says this is my choice 

she runs on open, bloody wounds

toward a narrowing horizon 

toward a sunset perpetually out of reach and says to me 

“these are my choices don’t you ever look me in the eyes i gave you and have the courage 

to pity me”

she says choice but how can i see choice 

when i see her mother, her mother’s mother, 

all the women in my family, all the women i have ever known

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i see the wounds they held closed with calloused hands

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i see the sewing of smiles into tired, weathered faces

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i see endless unreasonable compromises

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i see them standing in shallow graves

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i see them just being in the wrong place at the wrong time

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think of all the slit necks and all the blood spilt just so he could drink, just so he could see something red

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i see acid tears burning their hands that they made the mistake of crying into

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i see generations of frustration that she’ll only ever show through a single sigh

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my cousin calls with a split lip and with a joker-like smile, says “what? nothing happened?” and then she drowns in denial 

and i’ll always ask why she stays and goes 

through exhausting mess

people i know have left 

for a lot less

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she said don’t you worry 

i’ll drink the blood that they took 

till it pours from my eyes 

and maybe then you’ll realise that i don’t need help, i don’t need pity, 

i’m doing just fine

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she’s free from him now — at least there’s that,

but she told me she can’t 

help but miss the knife in her back

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i remember when a different cousin’s abuser died 

she said it doesn’t matter

and that her jaw still clicks 

and her mind plays tricks 

when she sees him at night 

and when someone’s touch makes her flinch

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i tell my mother i still pray 

for a life nothing like theirs 

and i know we’ll always disagree

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but she says instead you should pray to be 

anything, anything like me.