Don’t Use I. a poem by Jana Tzanakos

Jana Tzanakos

Don’t Use I 

Some days hurt consumes you
Latches on, paralyzes, numbs, refuses release
You sit for minutes that feel like hours
Staring at the wall
You are whisked into the past

Stuck now

Feel like the future doesn’t exist
Talking to yourself to calm you down
You realize they are trying to settle now
those boys you slept with when you were 16
those boys who most likely never left 16

They text you now
They call

You block them

Because you’ve blocked yourself away 
from the hurt

but sometimes 
you long to feel it again
to cry in an alley with dirt and gravel between your fingers
that time one of them pushed you into the dirt
and you fell farther than the ground

that time you wanted to end it all

You don’t drink anymore, haven’t in years
You realize these events would now only interest you in a movie 
So that you could relate somehow
And to experience it again would probably end you
But beginnings usually hide at the ends
And you’re still not quite sure 
What exactly Love is supposed to be
But you’re more okay with it now
Than you were before
The only thing you know for sure about Love is 
That it is the child you gave birth to

you touch lives in dreams
fingertips on chest bones
lips on the crease of your neck
necks that lead to head; lips—


You realize now that Love doesn’t always live in electric bodies
You can’t always be plugged in
And part of you is still lying in that alley with gravel between your fingers

Part of you is still in that basement your father locked you and your brothers in as a child
with only a toilet and a rusted sink behind a curtain to go to the bathroom
and he took away the phones so you couldn’t call your mother

Part of you is still a child standing on the porch 
as your father is trying to convince you to eat dog food 
because it is cheaper than groceries

Part of you is still passed out in a stranger’s bed
Part of you still screams for acceptance
and it still feels like that may never be possible

Part of you still feels worthless

But it isn’t academic to tell people that though 
“Don’t use ‘I’”
So you do your best to block the past—move forward
Find somewhere maybe you are valued—maybe. 
Somewhere to learn
You keep people at a distance so that they don’t hear the screaming
You are still trying to settle
Despite marriage
Despite being a mother 
Despite a degree

Still longing for connection
With yourself more than anything
And I wonder if Love will ever settle for me.

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Jana Tzanakos is originally from Saskatchewan but now resides in Calgary, Alberta. She is a fifth-year student at Mount Royal University. She is an English major with a Creative Writing minor. Jana loves spending time with her family, playing pinball, exercising on the treadmill in her pajamas, and taking trips out to the mountains even though she is still terrified of bears. She believes writing is a form of healing and a great way to analyze things that are difficult to overcome or confront. Jana has been a part of the Creative Writing Club and the Film and English Student Society at MRU.

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Published by darcie friesen hossack

Darcie Friesen Hossack is a graduate of the Humber School for Writers. Her short story collection, Mennonites Don’t Dance, was a runner-up for the Danuta Gleed Award, shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Ontario Library Association's Forest of Reading Evergreen Award for Adult Fiction. Citing irreverence, the book was banned by the LaCrete Public Library in Northern Alberta. Having mentored with Giller finalists Sandra Birdsell (The Russlander) and Gail Anderson Dargatz (Spawning Grounds, The Cure for Death by Lightening), Darcie's first novel, Stillwater, will be released in the spring of 2023. Darcie is also a four time judge of the Whistler Independent Book Awards, and a career food writer. She lives in Northern Alberta, Canada, with her husband, international award-winning chef, Dean Hossack.

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