Collateral Damage

Young girl, 13

You just know you’re playing your cards right

Your parents don’t know

That you snuck out last night

Swore you were just protecting your friend

But you kind of liked the thrill

Kind of craved the attention

And you don’t see that

No matter how genuinely spoken

Those words and those hands

Should not pass from a grown man to a child


And the summer stretches endlessly

Sunburns to match the hurt

Of being alone, being scolded

You didn’t know, you didn’t know

And you’re so alone that

You lash out, reach-out

Through pictures on a screen

Baby, those pictures have no business being seen

Have you not had enough of cops in your house?


And you need me, need someone

And you know my heart breaks with yours

And I’m caught in your collateral damage

Prepared to break your fall


Young girl, 14

You know you’ve got to toe this line

The girls can’t know

How you snuck out last night

But girls are mean, and they drag you

Through the dirt, calling you out

And your mother hears from a principal’s office

Of your misdeeds and mistreatment

You beg her to leave,

You want another chance

But chances cost, and so if you get one

You’ll have to try to not to blow it


And another summer finds you

You hide in pool floats and sun-kissed skin

And find something new to hold onto

But is it really new if it’s just a replacement model

Of the last boy, who calls you names,

And hoards your body among the others in his collection?

So you try to break it off, to break yourself

Baby, you have to want it for yourself

Have you not had enough of name-calling yet?


And you need me, need someone

But you’re so angry to be back here

That I become your collateral damage

A dangerous comparison that may just rip us apart


Young girl, 15

And at this point, you know

What you’re doing and you know where it leads

So what was going through your head?

When you were with a friend’s brother in her basement

When you snuck another friend out at night

When you Skype him after we’re all in bed

And he calls you names and talks of other girls

While you’re parading yourself around

Not covering your body, leaving naked your heart

You say you’re trying to save them-Save who?

Baby, the only one I see who needs saving is you

Have you not had enough of this yet?


And you can’t even get to summer this time

As you blow your disguise and our mother

Finds your pictures, finds the records

Of the slurs, and the names and the way

That you play so hard into it

She finds your lies, and it wounds your pride

Because you say you wanted attention

But now that you’re getting it all you want

Is to go back to him because

Being called a bitch is easier for you to hear

Than being called loved


And you need someone, need me

To take all of this out on

So you call me names, threaten me,

Comb over my body for anything that you

Can make seem worse than anything you’ve done



And you need someone, need me

To comfort you

And hold you and be your friend

But I can’t be that for you

Because you’ve buried me so far

Under in your collateral damage that

You can’t hear me screaming for you anymore



This poem is about: 
My family


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