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Performance Anxiety
Delia Barbanti

We play God as

We cradle our idols,

grazing Our fingers over their mouths,

letting the salt from Our skin

seep into their gums,

gnashing Our teeth with vigor,

eyes rolling back with pleasure,

convinced we are somehow better

because we sit on top

Olympia -

gagging on vomit, 

clenching Our tears, 

praying the day will close

so We can sleep;

enter the realm where stillness is allowed, 

for stagnation is weakness,

and we hate the weak.


We play God as

we are bludgeoned with semen

and boyish lies,

forced to reckon with the reality that

inferiority isn’t the result 

of soiled flowers –

wilted promises clinging to broken stems -

but beliefs beyond Her realm, 

beyond Her ability to revolt -

that some minds are not meant to be molded, 

for they flourish in phallic delusions.


So why choose to play a losing game?


You had a choice,


you chose this.

No one forced you into anything.

You signed your life away at seventeen,

slit your palms,

watched as your blood pooled into the gauntlet, 

took the oath of a false idol;

Who are you to question anything?

You want to be the best,



You are doing God’s work.


They say

I am lucky. 

I say,

I am a cog in the machine, 

a cavity for coal, 

a pussy slayer,

a cock sucker,

a drone of testosterone tendencies, 

a proprietor of silence;

What makes you think

you are entitled to a voice?

You are merely a soldier, 

worm food,

a vessel of allegiant distractions.

Except when I’m not, 

except when the diagnosis falls on me, 

“You should really talk to somebody,”

run down the clock 

just to say I did it;

did what, exactly?

Kept my head down 

for the potential of a cold medal, 

a pat on the back? 

a “I knew you could do it,”

except you didn’t.


I am

an instigator

of unreasonable standards,


narcotic nightmares. 

I am

a bird in a cage 

stewing in an upheaval of heavy breathes

trying to fill my lungs to the point

of explosion

waiting for 

tension to

be released

so I can fly. 


Do you know who would kill to be where you are?

Kill for the chance 

to sleep with the devil,

exchange a kiss in the hopes

he will untie the knots in your stomach,

silence the thoughts tumbling through daydreams,

convince you that you are sane, 

that everyone wakes up in the morning

wrestling with themselves

to feel something other than anger,

that everyone fights the urge to sink into oblivion;  

that happiness isn’t a choice,

but a guarantee,

you ungrateful whore. 



 they are right.

This is temporary. 

One day I can be normal,

exist in the real world and 

do as I please,

find purpose in other spheres.

It’s not as though I’ve rooted my self-worth

in my performance,

that mirrors aren’t my enemy 

and caloric deficits a noble friend,

that life will be normal one day, 

just as it is now;

that all of the tears you shed, 

letters you burnt, 

hearts you broke, 

are mended

because the greater Good

caressed your cheek,

kissed your taint,

handed you a shot and said,

“Sorry for the interruption, 

back to scheduled programming,”

no more excuses - 



life waits for no woman, 

especially one of your kind:

a banshee who bleeds, 

wears her heart on her sleeve, 

begs to take the time to find her footing, 

feel the Earth that never stops spinning -



are fine because we say so,

because life goes on

and he doesn’t look back as 

self-reflection is for the weak, 

and we hate the weak.



swallow your pride, 

lace up your spikes, 

and run.

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