Phoenix: A Poem

by Aleenah Antonette Spencer

I’m awake in this bed on a school night and it is 3:42 a.m.
I am not asleep because I found a vice in caffeine.
So I brace myself against the back of the person I’m lying in this bed with for support while I think.

7 years old
The game “daddy chase Aleenah around the house, catch her and body slam her onto the couch” got me 3 stitches and a dinosaur band-aid that wore my face like a champ!
Note: Banging my head against a wall wasn’t always on purpose.
A girl tells me my scar is ugly. She says she can cut me some bangs. This is the 1st time I changed myself for someone else.
I ask the girl down the street, “Do you want to be my friend?” She says yes.
I ask the girl in my lecture hall, “Do you want to be my friend?” She says no.
I tell a man “I love you” He doesn’t say the same words back
A chocolate lab lifts his leg on my chest and marks me as his territory
A man asks me to be his girlfriend.
I tell him, “I’m already another dog’s property, why would I want to be yours too?”
He calls me a bitch.
The phrase “loose lips” quickly becomes interchangeable with the word “whore” after confiding in my best friend that I lost my virginity after I said no.

After reading my rape poem to a roomful of strangers, a woman comes up to me and thanks me for telling our story so well.
I tell her,
“Rape does not define you.”
20 ½
Feeling mature, I finally take my own advice.
Fact: Being a black, female, college student who was previously raped once
before, statistically makes it impossible NOT to be raped again.
If you say no and are forced to have sex after midnight on New Year’s Eve do you have to take “not being a statistic” off of your resolution list?
I am 10 times more likely to be raped a 3rd time than I am to get in a car accident.
So I throw all this baggage in my car, drive around Texas for 8 hours and end up unpacking everything into my mother’s chest. Jesus, that woman carries such a heavy heart for me.
Note: It is exhausting to hear myself talk about this so often.
Note: It is discouraging that rape manifests itself in my poetry.
Note to self: If I’m not happy on paper, am I truly happy in person?
At a bar, a woman I have never met tells me her own story.
I am an open heart.
She hugs me and says, “Rape does not define you.”
6 ½ years old
While arguing with my father, he stops right in the middle of all the tears and smiles.
He says, “Always stick up for yourself knucklehead, be confident in what you believe in.” Note: When arguing with my father nowadays, I can see that he almost regrets ever telling me that.
So to that girl in my lecture hall that didn’t want to be my friend, the girl that said my scar was ugly, the man who never said I love you back, the two men that I never let beat me and most importantly to myself:

You have got to get the fuck over yourself to get up and unchain that ego that is weighing on your ankles. 
Look around and breathe it all in.
The world is not a shitty place filled with shitty people.
We all still have simple childhood perceptions, we’re just “used to what we see”
It’s all taken for granted.
I think my bangs are pretty dope and most recently I don’t think anyone should be frugal with the word LOVE.

But I digress.
So it’s now 4:43 am. I’m still awake and wired on caffeine. Time is still moving. And everything in the past has passed.

Hi, My name is Aleenah.

I’ve only been alive 23 years now, but I think I still got a few more left in me.
Do you want to be my friend?

Photo: Shutterstock

Aleenah Antonette Spencer is a 23-year-old aspiring veterinarian, who is continuously striving to express herself in any form of art. She is currently attending graduate school at Texas A&M University.