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Hillary Leftwich


I’m calling you out.
You’re a dream
but never a reality.
You’re everywhere
on the streets and in my sheets.

I work all day and catch
the Colfax bus home at night.
You’re everywhere on the bus;
your smells, your faces, your rage.

There is a woman
twitching in her seat
from withdrawals.
I’m too scared
to sit next to her.

I see the face
of the man who tried
to kill me every day
in my son’s face.

How can I love this boy
with all my heart when
he looks like the one person
I hate the most?

I can’t wake up.
I can’t move.
The psychiatrist tells me
it’s sleep paralysis but
I think it’s you.

I can solve Algebra equations
in my dreams
but I can’t figure out
how to live
off $2300 bucks a month
with three jobs
and a son to raise.

Soon he will lose
his Medicaid because
of a man who cares more
about the size of his hands
than the size of his heart.

There’s no equation that solves
how I can save my son
from the seizures
that are going to kill him.

My eyes aren’t brown
they’re hazel
but who gives a fuck
when no one looks you
in the eye anymore?

Men tell me it’s so cute
when I try to write poetry
and read in front of people.

This is how the world is, honey.

Put your big girl panties on.

You’re prettier when you smile.

Swallow next time, will ya?

I can’t get the smell
of bleach
out of my nostrils
that I use to scrub
the black mold
off my son’s bedroom walls.

It’s killing us.

My credit sucks
and I can’t afford to move.
You have me in a choke hold.

What happened to the bed
I slept in when I was five?
What happened to my baby blanket
that protected me
from the hands
of strange men and women
trying to touch me?

My dad threw it away
like you’re throwing us away.

I can’t scrub everything clean.

The bleach makes it look
like the mold is gone
and the walls are clean
when they’re really not.

Some of us can see it
but too many of us can’t.

It was never gone.

It’s still here,
Growing.
Killing us
with every single breath that we take.

Hillary Leftwich is co-host for At the Inkwell, a NYC based reading series and organizes/hosts other reading events around Denver. Her writing can be found in print and online. 

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