It is summer.
The smell of beer and hotdogs
is sweet in the air like a national anthem.
It’s baseball season, and you love baseball,
and going to these games
with your boyfriend.
And today might be the perfect day
as you watch the little boys with their sticky grins
on their father’s shoulders. As you watch
all the happy people on the Jumbotron—
and then you see your own face
and your boyfriend down on one knee.
and then you see an engagement ring
so big it blinds the screen.
And the way he looks at you
like he caught the home run ball.
And then you look up
and see the thousands
of people in the stadium, rooting for you,
to do it, to say yes.
This is for the woman who says no:
They will boo you as you run down the stadium steps
because it will never be the wedding aisle.
Someone will throw popcorn at you
because it will never be rice, or confetti.
Someone will catch your wrist
because it will never be a bouquet.
They will call you a villain. A bitch.
They will call you worse.
They will curse the day you learned any other words
besides yes and sorry.
The ones who think themselves kind will ask
why you couldn’t just fake it for the screen,
why you had to make no a public thing.
There were little girls in the audience after all
and you denied them their fairytale.
Someone will tell your now ex-boyfriend
how undeserving you are, how any sane woman
would have loved that proposal,
and you must not have been shit anyway,
probably crazy, and he will nod.
And somewhere a man calls to a woman from his car window,
Hey sexy, come closer. She says no,
—Cunt, you are ugly anyway.
Somewhere a woman argues for a higher salary
and her co-workers call her a bitch in the break room.
Somewhere a woman’s friends sign her up
for a makeover show. The audience laughs
when she says she loves her sweatpants.
The audience laughs when they throw them out anyway.
Somewhere a woman is told that if she doesn’t want to
hear the song about rape, don’t listen to it, but it follows her
in the supermarket, the gym, the girl’s clothing aisle,
and now she knows all the words.
Somewhere a woman is told to get naked at a frat party.
She refuses, a boy with a kind smile puts his arm around her,
offers her a beer, filled with the magic that erases No from her vocabulary.
In the manager’s office of my first job, I am sixteen
and my boss whispers a list of the things he would do to my body.
I say no, and he threatens my next pay check.
In my long-term boyfriend’s bed,
after having sex five times that morning, I say no,
he says, this probably isn’t going to work.
In Connecticut, a girl is asked to senior prom
by someone other than her boyfriend. She says no
and his knife blooms a corsage in her chest.
In California, a young virgin boy thinks about you,
and the ones like you, the ones who said no,
and the audience of boos, and the poor sucker
who was owed something
then denied it
and cocks his gun.
Megan Falley and Olivia Gatwood are a feminist, interactive poetry duo who use the spoken word to educate entertain and inspire. They tour worldwide with the SPEAK LIKE A GIRL show.
View this poem being performed at the National Poetry Slam Finals 2014.