feminine sublime [poem]

if,

indeed,

the earth belongs to

those who work it with their hands

then

to whom do our bodies belong?

who has claim over the

expanse of skin

of curves, of hips, of breasts

of the feminine sublime?

divine! they say

as they tear it apart

the sharp-nail, razor-toothed men

who conquer the fertile lands

between our thighs

so many uninvited strangers

drilling, cutting, removing, replacing

claiming ownership over who we are

planting their names and

the smell of their breath

into our precious soil.

women, like the earth

bear fruit untold

but who is it that owns us

unless we hold ourselves sacred

and protect our peaks and valleys

from the foreign invader?

when we are plundered

we must rebuild

and continue to work the earth

that is our bodies

our selves

our femaleness

until the ships that line the shores

have sailed off into the night

and we belong to us again.

.ashley juárez.

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he made a movie [poem] [TW: sexual assault]

I told him I didn’t want to make a movie.

he told me I was a bad girlfriend

if I didn’t give him

the fodder for his fantasy.

the light from his camera phone

burned a path across my eyelids

as he turned the lens towards me and said

“it’s time to make a movie”.

he’d woken me up from a restless sleep

and, with his knee,

pinned my shoulder to the hotel bed

he was naked, I stayed clothed.

he told me I didn’t need to be nude.

he gripped my arm tightly and said

“you owe me this memory”,

and as he yanked me to the floor and down onto my knees

a single tear fell to my cheek

“don’t fuck this up for me”, he said

as, with one hand, he slowly forced himself into my mouth

while the other hand memorialized my shame to his camera roll.

time passed in centuries

I’m not sure what was making my eyes water.

was it him choking me?

or was it the tears I cried

as my shame was immortalized?

“you’re a good little whore”, he whispered

and

as he finished, he grabbed my head

and pushed so hard

I couldn’t breath

couldn’t speak

couldn’t think.

his taste still burns my throat

the same way his words did as he clicked off his phone and told me to clean off my face.

“don’t fucking cry, no one will ever see it but me.”

I don’t know if that’s true,

but years later

I still can’t remember

if he filmed me saying “no”.

.ashley juárez.

I experienced it too. [TW: sexual assault]

The last few weeks have tremendously traumatizing for me, and I am sure many other women can relate.

Hearing so many other women talk openly about their experiences with sexual violence is beautiful and painful. I am reliving so many instances of abuse and violence I have experienced myself.

I think it is incredible that so many folks are willing to come forward with their stories about the sexual harassment, assaults and rapes committed by wealthy, powerful men. And yet, I’m disheartened.

What’s missing?

The national conversation has expanded in such a way that people are being forced to listen to these stories. But what about those of us who have suffered at the hands of regular men? Many of the men being accused have much to lose as they are held accountable for their behavior. But what about when we open up against our attackers who are not powerful famous? We are still silenced.

Sexual assault, harassment and abuse happens every day, and it is perpetrated by ALL classes of men. ALL men have SOME level of power over women.

I applaud what is happening. I want it to continue.

But I want to be able to talk about the multiple instances of sexual assault I have suffered and see my attackers held accountable.

A few years ago, I was in a highly toxic and emotionally abusive relationship with a man who consistently belittled me, taunted me and coerced me into sex or sexual acts I had no desire to participate in. Once, he coerced me into performing oral sex on him while he recorded me with his smartphone. Later, he referenced the event in conversations, stating that he had friends who were willing to pay him for sex with me. He would often joke around about it, asking me if I’d like to make some extra money.

This is only one event. He will never experience consequences. He will never lose a job, lose friends, lose social privileges.

He’s fine.

As our nation comes to grips with this outpouring of women who are brave enough to share their stories, let’s also hold space in our hearts for those who are traumatized at the hands of men who will never pay for what they’ve done.

–Ashley Juárez

the bread line [poem]

it always smells the same / anywhere you go, the shame never changes / you want to cry / you maybe want to die / when you remember watching your mom sign the forms / and 20 years later / as you beg for an extra bag of food or gallon of milk / you remember how you told yourself / “I’ll never need the food bank when I’m grown / yet here you are / counting loaves & cans / asking yourself / “did my mom leave me or did I arrive alone?” /

.ashley juárez.

one blue box [poem]

I still have dreams of empty cupboards
and the acid snarl of an unfed belly.
I can taste the hunger imposed on me –
transcendent and violent and
lacking an escape route –
a hallway with no doors.

when I was four, I opened the door
to a cabinet that held only one box.
Kraft Macaroni was all I could ask for
and on nights when the pain
is too great to bear
I find myself wanting the same thing again.

I had one red Gatorade
to last me all week
for the gymnastics classes I took
without ever questioning who paid for them
I made it last with sugar and water
because I was a four-year-old
desperate to live.

once, when I was four,
I went searching for sustenance;
I would have taken crumbs if
they were on offer
and I remember the taste of my father’s beer
which I drank in the hopes that
my belly would slow.

I am not four and
I eat till I cry
till the pain subsides and the tears are dry.
when you are a child
and starving
the wolf inside you
that ravenous devourer
will never let you feel
that hunger again

.ashley juarez.

bingeworthy [poem]

let me tell you a big, fat secret:

men love me the way I love food –
in secret, in shame, and with

a primal desperation

for the silent acquiescence and

illicit pleasure

that comes served hot with a side of shame.

fat girls need love too.
men treat my body the way I treat food –
some dudes get drunk & ravenous,

hitting me up at 3am ‘cuz they’re smashed 

and they’re starving and 

so hungry they’ll go to wherever is open,

and since I’m a fat girl, I must be available, right?
other men treat me like a small-town Chinese buffet –

I’m not quite what they want but 

this menu is expansive and

they’re guaranteed to feel full, sick

and a little embarrassed

for the next two hours till

they get what they have really wanted.
and then there are those who see me as a comfort food –

soft, warm and non-judgmental.

they come to me and feast,

‘cuz I’m always around and

they know my love is safe,

like their mama’s kitchen.
whatever it is that

swallows our sorrows as we swallow it

is what helps us pretend that

the pain feels good

and the illusion of relief

is enough to numb us

as we gorge ourselves 

to

death.
.ashley juárez.

i wait [poem]

before I start this poem, I want to say this:
no human being is illegal.


I Wait

I wait for the day you don’t come home.

I chew my nails down till they bleed,
cell phone in my lap as I count the seconds from the time I texted you last
to the moment you respond.

in between Point A and Point B,
I grieve the loss of the future we’d have
if the border between my home & yours
had not been carved into the flesh of the soil
with the same blade that cut so many throats;
brown and black bodies
strewn across the centuries
bloodless and bound
to a system built on their backs
bought & paid for by their bones.

I grieve for you,
how you miss your mother,
how she does not know your adult face.
in her mind, she sees you as
the boy who walked through the desert,
15 years old and
already full-grown,
seeking the salvation of the US dollar,
leaving a piece of your heart
bleeding in her hand.

I grieve for us
and the way
we have to have a plan to make plans;
how the world questions our love,
like you couldn’t love me for more than
a passport,
like I couldn’t love you for
the wonder that you are,
and not because I couldn’t find
a white man.

but mostly
I grieve for
the fruit that may one day blossom in my womb.
the life we create one day
may never know you
if ever you are taken
from our home in the night
or from your day’s labor.
whether our future child gets to know you
is a 50-50 shot.

I can’t promise I will survive if they take you,
for you are
the oxygen in the blood that courses through the veins that give my heart the strength to beat.

so when you don’t text me back
I see visions of the worst
that paralyze me to the core.

I wait for the day you don’t come home.

divine iniquity [poem]

my lips reverberate
with the taste of you
the flavor of your kiss
has a song in it too

I cannot describe
how you make my blood rise
or the way you drink in
the trembling of my thighs

I don’t have the language
the lungs, or the voice
so in my iniquity
I quietly rejoice

at the sin of your tongue
the honey & milk
setting my body ablaze
and unfurling like silk

unfurling like satin
the path to my heart
for your splendor, divine
makes my senses come apart

-ashley juarez-

 

 

 

no small wonder [poem]

soul fracture
a million tiny fissures in my veneer
in the lining of my heart
where all the world’s terrors are stored

breaking across these shoulders of mine
that have held the weight of what I can no longer carry
for some many years of my life

I would die for love
to feel loved,
to be loved,
to know what love truly is

so it’s no small wonder that I’m killing myself
tripping over landmines
as I seek out what I think love is
chasing a ghost that laughs at my pain

I think I deserve this

I must think that, otherwise I wouldn’t let it happen.

no, I know that I think that

the pressure in my head is starting to well up
the steam and smoke from all of this heartbreak that I stuff, stuff, stuff away
in liquor bottles and boxes of Twinkie’s and cigarettes and lies

and I lay in my bed all of my waking hours, imagining a normal life

hoping I’ll find out what it tastes like in endless binges

and feeling the guilt wash away when I purge

I think I’d rather be dead now
not out of sadness, but really
‘cause I’m tired

-ashley juarez-

thoughts on love.

(this is a reflection on the after-effects of an abusive relationship.)

I want to know what it is about love that ruins lives.

I guess, more importantly, what is it about the search for love, the fear of never finding love, the absence of love, and the loss of love, that destroys us from the inside out.

I am starting to see that trauma, which is often (NOT ALWAYS, but often) the root of mental health disturbances, is deeply intertwined with love, connection and perception of self.

maybe it’s obvious to other people, but really what I’m starting to realize is that chasing this ghost (as I have been told by wise people that I am doing) is what is feeding into my depression and since I have little to no coping skills (never have).

mainly, I guess I just need to re-configure my own definition of love and learn that the trauma I have experienced in recent years should not and cannot have any effect on how I view myself, nor on whether I do or do not deserve love (which I do, and more than one kind).

now that I am free and in a healthy relationships, it is high time I work to change the way I view love.