by Stella Gleitsman

I thought a towel in my room was a man today
I thought a clothing rack was a man when I went out shopping
I thought there was a man behind the shower curtain this morning.
I keep on being a delusional woman
I keep on seeing shit that’s not there
Is this what being a girl is?

Having a vision that is untrustworthy, a mind playing all these tricks on you.
Making these accusations,
yelling at nothing, screaming at clouds,
At all the birds who pierce through them.
I tell everyone how small that boy made me feel
How he violated my spiritual space, harassed my body.
They burst out laughing, tell me, everything’s fine, no one’s out to get you, relax.
But I can’t relax, see, I am afraid of everything, even shadow puppets.
I see a man everywhere
I see a death everywhere
And aren’t they just about the same thing?
You see the man and then the woman’s body turns up a day later, bloated, mangled, frozen, ripped to shreds.
At times I think what I’m seeing are ghosts, stuck here, going through the motions of violence until it ends differently.
The ghosts are ten feet tall and breathing down my neck, eyeing my every move.
I am frozen and shaky and stupid before them.
I’ve noticed I’m always waiting for male violence to end differently,
to end in softness,
in tears, in love poems.

But the truth is that man was waiting for me to get out of the shower
The clothing rack man had been stalking me in my closet for weeks
The towel followed me home from the corner store– blocked my path, asked me to come back to his place
When I said nothing — when I said I needed to get home
He covered me in his starchy terry cloth
He wrung me out dry
I don’t bathe for years,
I reek of sweat
My hair in knots
Oh, I’m so tired of soap
Oh, I’m so hungry for dirt.


Listen to Stella Gleitsman read her poem “Towel.”


Stella Gleitsman grew up in the Lower East Side of Manhattan and is a Writing and Literature major in her freshman year at LaGuardia. She has been writing poetry ever since she was 13 years old, often about mental health, feminism, Jewish identity, and spirituality. She views poetry as a place of healing, catharsis– a safe place to speak freely–and hopes that her poetry can connect with others and touch their lives in some way. You can find her on Instagram @stell__uh, and as well as her poetry account, at the handle @stellaisapoet.

Image credit: “Towel,” Kevin Steinhardt. Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0.