“Touched”: A poem by Kaylie McLaughlin

Dramatic stage lighting only helps this K-State student's solo performance on Dec. 5, 2017. (Brittany Reed | Collegian Media Group)

Why do you walk like that, they ask

and I say it is because my life has been weighed down

by the knowledge that a man lives his life in proximity to mine

with unpermitted evidence of what exists beneath my skirt,

folded up inside me in the most intimate way possible

and ripped away with the press of a button

and without thought of the way it might make me shake

at the thought of the sanctity he stole from me.

Why does she act like that, they ask

and she says it is because the only man who ever said

he loved her was also the one that unbuttoned and reached

into her jeans before she was even allowed to agree,

his rough, guitar playing hands on soft and forbidden skin

as he had such a nasty habit of doing with other girls,

playing them and stroking them as if they were instruments

he could add to his repertoire.

Why does she cry like that, they ask

and she says it is because someone she trusted

took the bottle of wine out of her hands and as it shattered

into a million pieces on the hard wood floor, he broke her into a million more

and he ripped into her body as if it was a garden

only meant for him to plant himself in, but from the soil,

daisies didn’t grow, instead self-hatred sprouted in the spring

and doubt bloomed as the leaves began to fall.

Why do we talk like that, they ask

and we say it is because our lives have been defined

by moments we would trade back for the naivety they

stole in a heartbeat, staring at our bodies in the mirrors,

haunted by the war zone that they turned us into,

carrying the weight of their hands on our skin

because we don’t forget.

We can’t possibly forget, the way their touch seared

into our skin burned into our minds until the sunsets.

Why do they laugh like that, we ask

and they say it is because they got to keep living their lives

as if nothing had ever happened and in that moment

that we can’t move beyond,

we were just another tally mark to add to their list,

another body they get to call theirs and while we remain, lost,

getting pulled beneath the sea crashing all around us,

the clock on the wall never stopped ticking for them

Why won’t you touch me, I ask

and he says it is because he can still see

another man’s hand print pressed on my chest,

his name branded on my body claiming me

like an animal he purchased to raise

and slaughter at his flickering whim,

never once stopping to think about the way he’s ruined my body and

stole from me all I could give to the man that I actually love.

My name is Kaylie McLaughlin and I'm the managing editor and audience engagement manager of the Collegian. Previously, I've been the editor-in-chief and the news editor. In the past, I have also contributed to the Royal Purple Yearbook and KKSU-TV. Off-campus, you can find my bylines in the Wichita Eagle, the Shawnee Mission Post and KSNT News. I grew up just outside of Kansas City in Shawnee, Kansas. I’m a senior in digital journalism with a minor in French and a secondary focus in international and area studies. As a third-generation K-Stater, I bleed purple and my goal is to serve the Wildcat community with accurate coverage.