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Sometimes the Protagonist Needs to be Weak -- poetry by MacKenzie Taylor

If I ever finally open my book

and read you the pages of my story I’ve left untold—

do not praise me;

do not dare say “you’re so strong”

or that these battle scenes against my own antagonists

“made me stronger.”

That will just make me strike a match and burn all of the pages away,

leaving only the ashes of my story and your pathetic cliches.

You are telling me that this is strong?

To flinch at slammed doors?

To shake when driving by every white truck?

To choke on my own throat when a man raises his voice out of anger?

To suffocate in the scent of alcohol?

To wake up in sweats every night from night terrors?

To ache when I hang up my mother’s phone call?

This isn’t strong.

This is mutilating my muscles and breaking my bones.

This is the furthest thing from strong.

Do you not understand?

I didn’t need them to make me stronger.

I needed to be a kid,

to play outside without cigarette smoke captivating my lungs.

I needed to make childish mistakes,

not learn from my parents’ detrimental decisions instead.

I needed to be emotional, maybe even throw some tantrums,

not swallow mine and clean up after his.

I needed to beg my parents to check under my bed for monsters,

not beg my mom to realize the monster was drunkenly sleeping in hers.

All I needed was to be a kid. Why didn’t I get to be a damn kid?

Is this so hard to understand?

Stop shoving your cliches down my throat.

Can’t you see I am already struggling to breathe?

Let me panic when the doors are slammed.

Let me pull over and slam on the steering wheel when I see that truck.

Let me collapse into myself when I am strangled by an angry man’s scream.

Let me heave hysterically when the smell of alcohol conquers the room.

Let me scream louder than the monsters in my night terrors.

Let me mourn the fatal abduction of my childhood.

Let me blaringly bawl when the phone call with my mother ends.

God damn it, let me ache.

Spare me your pitiful banalities.

Don’t make me burn these pages.

Read between the exquisite lines full of pretty words

and find the little girl screaming for someone to listen—

Let her be weak.

Let me finally be weak.


MacKenzie Taylor is a future Ultrasound Technologist with a serious admiration for poetry. Although she has not been published just yet, she is hoping she can have a future with writing. She is a senior in high school from Massachusetts that spends her days going on long drives, blasting music, writing, and fueling her caffeine addiction. Some things she really enjoys include candles, babies, puppies, and laughing at really inconvenient times.

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1 Comment

Layla Abdul
Layla Abdul
Jan 04, 2021

This is so beautiful. This poem poignantly combats some of the toxic positivity surrounding trauma and just general hardships. My breath has been taken away. Bravo.

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