May I Offer You a Rose

by Zoe Gurney

There once was a time when I spoke freely.
Without a care in the world, I would voice my
complaints, compliments, worries, and aspirations.
Seen. Heard. Living.

But now, with a maturing, thinking mind,
I realize that the world is unwilling to listen,
to see, to appreciate its beauty without
judgment or discrimination.
Its unfairness and inequity strike down the
while raising the

And yet, amidst all the pain and temptations,
We choose to struggle to survive another day.
Even if we must embrace the
countless voices
that sweetly suggest succumbing to a
painless end,
We embrace life. We embrace community.
We work to embrace ourselves.

Today, I still work to claim my voice.
Although there are people who try to steal,
to discourage,
to erase,
to undermine me,
they are not my greatest threats.
Above all, I seek to remove a
claw of steel
locked in place by none other than

The claw rests gently on my throat. A constant
Disobedience is met with strangulation.
To voice my true self, I must accept the pain,
the bruises,
And remind myself that pain is inevitable but
suffering does not have to be.
Most bruises heal in time, and any that linger
shall serve as honorable battle scars when I
emerge victorious from the
soul-sucking whirlpool of my mind.

In this ever-changing, cruel world, I journey on.
Treasuring the beautiful array of colors that
shine through moments and people,
I crawl through the thickets of the rose bush
with the optimism that I will, one day,
be able to extend a thorn-pricked hand
to the steel claw and kindly offer
a rose in place of my neck.