Poetry Contest

I Don’t Feel Safe

January 6, 2021

By Maggie Swofford (she/her)

I don’t feel safe. To love

my neighbor means pulling up

the string on my shades,

bracing against the fresh

wind, embracing their frosted

sleeves and dewed shoes.

I want to know the imprints

their soles make on the white

ground, the way they knock, 

friendly, unassuming 

of an entrance. How do I 

love, then, when their boots

slice the snow’s throat,

dark caked cracks climbing

up the steps into my house,

barging in, breaking in,

desecrating my yellow 

rug, the only way to stop

the mud from spreading

through my home?

I don’t feel. Safe to love

behind closed doors, protected

by mere whispering plaster, 

echoing glass, ensnared 

wood—I am as simple

to burn as anyone. Simple

to erase. Simple to stun.

I have so little left to nudge 

into this space—all the less 

to remember.

I don’t feel safe to love

myself: loosening

and swerving muscles;

the quick snap of sunlight 

on my forehead; numbness 

in my fingers intertwined 

with another’s; the adrenaline 

of piercing and scratching

pen against paper—my

beginning, my ending.

Riots never end.

Rioters would rather 

scorch the cords dangling

in my throat, steal the finger

of vows, own the vacant 

space where I choose 

emptiness, disavow my 

humanity rather than 

let me live. Who will

guard my life when

I don’t feel safe to?

Maggie Swofford is a queer poet who loves outer space, fashion, and Georgia O’Keeffe’s watercolors. She reads and writes poetry that explores reality via unique imagistic language and metaphors. Maggie also works in marketing for a publishing company in Boston, MA.

Love her work as much as we do? Check out more of her writing on her website!

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