CEEAS | 2017 Words Unlocked Winner: Red Ribbons
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2017 Words Unlocked Winner: Red Ribbons

Title: Red Ribbons

School: Granite YESS School, Utah
Teaching Artist: Joanna Timothy
Poet: K.H.


A girl, seventeen, you think of the world as a million opportunities.
But, a girl, shying away from mirrors, you see the world as a cage.


You grew to love everyone and everything,
the ocean, the sweet sound of a woman’s lullaby,
the crook of a man’s arm, the cry of a baby boy —
your mother, your father, your brother,
a life of no troubles, no fear, no times
stolen by tears and screams of terror.


The time shifted as your mother flung herself into a life of white powder,
obeying its every beck and call.
Your mother was no longer someone you could love,
a stranger in the body of a familiar woman.


Age of eight and there’s an imposter in your home,
a new mother, a large woman, a fake face caked on, strange beauty.
Relieved to have a mother, you grow comfortable.
Little do you know she is a raging tank, the battlefield your family,
turning everyone against each other,
the war, bloody and ruthless, every man is for himself.
The tides turn, you lose everything,
your father, on her side, your brother, turned against you.


Thirteen, another battle,
a warfront, a facility that promised safety.
A school you attend under false pretenses.
Nobody told you there would be mean girls.
Nobody told you there would be gossip that would revolve around you.
Nobody told you that you would have to claw for your own sanity,
ricocheting into a never-ending war with your mirror.
There would be only one way to fix things . . .


The edge of a blade, a razor so tempting and friendly.
It skipped across your skin with a smile,
the razor, your new best friend, slashing red ribbons right into your skin.
They asked you if it hurt. No, the ribbons were cloying,
a sweet reminder of your pain. It wasn’t anything you feared. The razor was your friend.
Until it lead you in a hall with bright lights, a psychiatrist with a never-ending grin.
“We’ll help you get better.”


Now and then, throughout my recovery I ache for the ribbons, red and swollen,
across my skin but, never do I choose to act.
I remind myself that the release would only be temporary,
the aching will never end. My suffering will never cease with red ribbons, satiny
athwart my throbbing skin.
The razor’s edge can never change the damage of my childhood,
can never take back what those mean girls said,
can never change how I feel about my body.


Only I can. Everyday. Get up. Get dressed. Eat. And learn from my mistakes.
Never will I turn to the smile of the razor, never will I give up my power.
Never will I value somebody’s idea of me more than my own.
I will embrace my pain like it’s an old friend.


A girl, shying away from mirrors you see the world as a cage. But, no more.
A girl, seventeen, you think of the world as a million opportunities, and more.