Allyson Voerg

Letting Go of Past Shame and Guilt

I wove words into his hair

that I could not say aloud.

To speak them into existence

would be to awaken a shame

so deep inside me.

To see them hang low in the air,

would be to bow my own head

down with guilt, as I do every time

the memory hits the back of my

throat, where his tongue tried to reach

every time.

He would hold my head down,

a wide hand at my nape,

a slab of concrete that stole

my voice so I could not speak.

Now I hold my own head down,

chin inching towards the stones

sinking deep into my stomach.

Each time I recall that memory

is another pin tacked to

the board of my skin,

each time I dare to imagine

what he will think of me,

what he will see in the story:

that I am weak; I am guilty.

The words come slow, grating my

throat, each one becoming a

methodical blow to my self-esteem.

I begin to cinch myself closed,

but somehow he does not flinch.

He moves only with his words,

which serve to remind me that

my image in his eyes is

unwavering. His love is a

gravity that tethers me to safety

in a swirling storm of uncertainty.

My shaking fingers find

his smooth gold curls, and

I curl and re-curl and recall

all of my past mistakes.

So I may braid them in

to his long hair, hidden within

his acceptance of me.

So I may forget, for even a second,

all that has been done to me.

So I can begin to pry up the

pins and stretch out my neck,

wringing my spine dry of

my shame and guilt,

and stand straight within

my self-sovereignty.


Allyson Voerg is a senior at SUNY Oswego graduating in May 2022. She is an English and broadcasting double major with a Spanish minor. You can often find her in the library, working as a writing tutor, and at the ice rink playing hockey. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, yoga, video games, and reading. She plans to one day publish novels and books of poetry.