gaslit - Liliana

I keep wondering: will I let him hit me?
I have spent my entire life
intimately learning the subtle threat of violence.
The crescendo of a shout. The flexion of an arm.
There’s a way to see it in the faces of men,
men on the street and men I let
enter my home.

Sometimes my aunts say they hate him.
That they hated him, that sometimes they still do.
There’s a joke somewhere in a story
that ends in my father with a bat in his hand
and his sister’s date in a car with screeching tires.
There’s a joke somewhere in the way I flinch
whenever I see an elbow tossed carelessly backwards.

I still find myself drawn to men
with angry faces, and in each of them I find my father.
In each of them I find someone worth saving.
I know I’m not the only one.
I’d like to think I’ve drawn a line somewhere
but hope is arbitrary, isn’t it?
Love is arbitrary.

I think back to the strong line
of his shoulders and the set of his jaw
and the way his mouth would purse
when he was too proud to ask for a kiss.
I wonder if I dodged a bullet
or a fist with him. Perhaps
an open palm and my mouth bruised like fruit.

Liliana is currently working on a degree in English and Spanish, an endeavor made even more exciting by her constant forays into Latin America. In her spare time, she does research on Latinx liberation, aided her constant efforts to save the world one protest chant at a time. She enjoys Ben & Jerry’s, Spanish rock bands, and dogs almost as much as she does poetry.