If They Stayed: A Letter to Myself by Kristin Ryan

After Jeanann Verlee

You must learn to forgive. When you lose sleep staying up keeping them safe, do not be bitter. When it is engrained in you to flinch when someone is angry, it is not your fault. When you read the charts of the children you take care of, swallow back the acid when you read, “witness of domestic violence”. You must learn to forgive. Stop saying, “It was my fault” when another bruise shows up or the neighbors call the cops for the third time that night. When you see your mother cry wish the asshole death. When you save her from being killed say, “Stay away from her”. Your voice will shake but this is okay. You must learn to forgive. You will be bitter for years. When your mother remarries after the asshole is dead, learn that not every person wants to hurt those you love. Do not be afraid to cry when you ask why they stayed. The bile will rise again when she says she kept photos of her injuries in the glove box thirteen years after that night to remember that she could survive anything. “I stayed to keep you kids safe.” You must learn to forgive. You must learn to forgive everyone.

Kristin Ryan is working on her MFA in Poetry at Ashland University. She was a 2013 Goldenrod poetry finalist at Western Kentucky University. Recently her poem “Stomach Acid” was included in the anthology Sweet Wolverine.

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