They say a woman is only ever
brave when she sets the streets
in flames, sucks
on gasoline and roars
out a fire, turns the mundane
into gold, gold into ash.

One summer, her knuckles break
in attempt to escape from the violence
hovering above, pinning her down.
She hears flesh sizzle. She hears
just how her soul begins to crack.

One summer, she became a wildfire: a swollen third-degree burn bleeding
from within, hoping to god that she’d simply start to clot, limping
away from the crime scene, bone exposed for men to judge. After all,
they say a woman is only ever a woman
when she is unburnt.

Wearing her pain like a brand, she
gives her pain a name. Believing
in how movies say that demons die
when you say their name out
load, she calls hers rape, but they refused
to call it as it is. You wanted it, they told her,
using her own blood to paint a giant A across
her chest. You asked for it the moment you touched
the match.

One winter, she learns
that she needed her own lexicon to survive, that
so-called made-up words such as what she called her pain
are necessary in a place that only read the back
cover of a book in the dark.