Layla Lenhardt ~ When do we choose to stop?

If I would’ve stopped with the boy I kissed
on trampolines and against oak trees – the
boy who tasted like spearmint and taught
me how to smoke cigarettes – I would’ve
never felt the ancient pain I unearthed.

Ten years later, on Christmas,
I lowered myself onto him in his new apartment
(he still tasted like spearmint, but I no longer smoked)
and the next morning he whispered assurances.

I drove home slamming my hands
against the steering wheel, trying to justify
what had happened and feeling guilty
for not feeling guilty. I should’ve
stopped there. But then I wouldn’t have cut
my teeth on growing up

with the gap-toothed boy who broke
bird’s necks. We’d lay on basement-berber
and he’d go down on me and make me
promise never to forget him.
I thought the boy who tasted like spearmint
was just a pebble next to this new boulder of mine.
Until the sweaters unraveled and I realized the gap-
toothed boy was tanned and smart
but terribly broken, making me a
sheep to the slaughter of the many men after
who would end up cutting me
with their jagged shards.

 

Layla Lenhardt is founder and Editor-in-Chief of 1932 Quarterly. Her recent poetry has been featured in Brine, Third Wednesday, Belle Ombre, and Rag Queen Periodical to name a few. She currently lives in Indianapolis with her partner and three cats.

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