The weight of a boulder sinking from your tongue to your belly button.

The sound of a clock at the back of your brain; a feverish ticking that will never cease. Unspoken words sunk to the bottom a dark abyss like an abandoned ship- waterlogged and seasick.

Dear Shame,

When I was a child, you draped over me like an old quilt.

You placed your finger over my lips when my cries interrupted the peace of passengers on airplanes. You squeezed my shoulders tightly when I could not paint inside the lines. You were a library with no exit signs, an eternal home for silent speakers. With flushed cheeks, I learned to apologize for the sound of my voice.

You slowly climbed up my legs and down my throat like a malignant vine until you became a part of me. Now, when I inhale air into my asthmatic lungs, I exhale shame as carbon dioxide and poison from all the lives I have not lived.

You've devoured my insides and placed them carefully in a recycling bin- now I see them in plastic bottles and refurbished furniture. I hear my stories in the mouths of other girls who look nothing like me.

You are the sand I consumed on the preschool playground. Grit in my teeth, I did not tell anyone I had tried to swallow the beach. I did not want to be scolded for silly sunbathing. You are elementary school slivers, when I walked barefoot to feel the ground beneath my toes. You are school lunches I was hungry for, but was too afraid to eat. You are carrot sticks and celery, and pizza stains behind my bed.

You are ghost skin in middle school hallways and boys with cruel intentions. You are bottled sunshine and liquid gold that streaks my kneecaps. You are sports bras that I wear to make my breasts smaller. You are the two bras that I wore to make them look big.

You are olives on finger tips that I ate like blueberries. The scales I counted and the meals I skipped.

You are the tiles I measured in high school hallways.The skirts I held down when I walked up stairs. You are the shoulders I covered with two-finger straps. The fingertip lengths my dresses did not match. You are the ripped jeans I wore on weekends. The cigarettes I wanted to smoke. The friends I wanted to have, the friends that I lost.

You are the mountains on my skin that erupt like volcanos and craters that got left on the moon. The scars on my wrist that I covered in tar. You are fingerprints left on my bedroom mirror. You are roses left on my bedroom floor.

You are the nose that I pierced so that I would always smell metal instead of the perfume of my almost lover.

You are the shadows that I used to hide in my closet. The clothes that are too small and the clothes that are too big. You are the letters I wrote but never put a stamp on. You are my legs the moment before I trim off the hair. You are the sadness with which I play hide and go seek.

You are the boys that have looked at me like penny-candy, and the girls who have looked at me like gold. You are broken piano keys and a pas de deux where I always step on my partners feet.

You are in my throat, and do not let me speak.

Dear Shame,

You've fertilized flowers in my small intestine and bees sting my insides whenever you are near. It hurts, but God, how good it feels to grow daisies.

Dear Shame,

My acne scars are purple constellations dotting my pale skin. My sexuality is a map of bruises and self discovery that leads to glorious places. My sadness is low tide on the ocean, and oh God how I love to swim. My weight is measured by the meals and conversations I enjoy with friends.

My skirts are hiked up, you can see the creases of my skin. My legs are unshaved. My poems do not rhyme. My homework is unfinished on my unmade bed. My nails are chipped, my lips are chapped, I am undone.

I have mailed my letters. I have forgiven myself. When I sing off key, I write it into the song. I run naked on the pavement to feel the lives I live boiling inside of me. I paint outside the lines and strangers call it art. I tell my stories to strangers and recycle them into soda cans for the girl who is too thin.

The sand between my teeth has created beautiful scratches of enamel and beaches are blooming in my bleeding gums. I am a hot air balloon, I am a noisy airplane ride. I am a screaming child in the library in town. I am a torn flag waving in a summer parade. I am free.

Dear Shame,

You are a five letter word...but so is "pride".

Dear Shame,

I lived within your darkness for a while, but I had to see the light.