My mother used to say
My uncle left town
After getting sober
Because of the shame.

It’s not that simple.

It’s more like the discomfort of
Standing next to a girl in Starbucks
Knowing you know her
And she knows you
But, “Hey, Abby,
Sorry I made you cry in tenth grade.
I’m not an asshole anymore.
I go to church now.”
Isn’t quite ok to say.

It’s more like anxiety
When your therapist’s office
Is right next door
To the apartment
He threatened to break into
For kicking him out.
When, if you forget to remember
Not to look that way,
You can still hear him saying,
“I’ll pray for you for being a cunt.”

It’s more like a heavy exhale
Driving past your old high school,
Past the bleachers where
You kissed your friend’s boyfriend –
When you didn’t even like him
Or her.
Past the parking lot
Where you kissed a girl for the first time.
Past the heart-racing agony
Of realizing how much you liked it.

It’s frustration
For all the people at all the parties,
All the bars,
Who only know
What you’re like when you’re drunk,
Even when you’re two years sober.

It’s how no amount of growth,
Can change the harm you caused.

It doesn’t have to be Boston,
Just somewhere where no one
Knows my name –

Just somewhere
That I can live and die
Beyond who I used to be
Without constant reminders
Of everything it took
To get to who I am.


Written by Helen Rose on March 18, 2019

2 responses to “Knoxville”

  1. Shirley McGuire

    “It’s how no amount of growth,Repentance,
    Improvement,Can change the harm you caused”
    Helen, Look at it this way, now they have a chance to grow by learning to forgive you. Be kind to yourself.
    Sending positive energy, peace and hugs to you.


  2. Nathan

    Powerful. Thank you.


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