Poem: Eleven + Better Now

[Image Description: ink line drawing of three figures]

Poems by Jess Robus

eleven

I was eleven years old in a bright pink bathing suit

walking along the beach with my friends, sixteen and seventeen,

when a group of men three times our age started following us

getting closer and closer before my mother chased them away

if I had to describe it like a psychologist would have me, I’d say

that I could see the surf, the sand, the sun, the sky and their shadows in the corner of my eye

I could feel the sunblock on my arms, the sand on my feet, the towel beneath my arm and their eyes on the back of my neck

I could hear the crash of the waves, the seagulls screeching and their slurred voices

I could smell the salt water and the booze on their breath

and I could taste the salty flavour of fear in my mouth

although I was eleven and disgusted,

eleven and afraid,

I was eleven and lucky

Because she was nineteen

and her burned body was found dumped in a township

She was sixteen

and her rapist was treated with leniency because he was “from a good family” and college eligible

She was five years old

and left for dead in the back room of a house

she was fourteen, fifteen, twenty-three, forty-one and she was silenced

I shall not be

Because I was eleven and lucky

But she was not.

[Image Description: A line drawing of a girl with long hair and cracks on her face]

better now

there was a girl in our town

who would scratch-

and bite-

and kick-

and shout-

and make a fuss

just to get the noise inside her head to be quiet


and her parents thought - what will people think?

and her teachers thought - what will people think?

and the people thought - what will people think?


so they took her to hospitals 

gave her drugs to shut her up

quiet her down


they say she's doing much better now-

she is still because she cannot move

they say she is doing much better now -

she is silent because she cannot scream

they say she is doing much better now -

she lives because she cannot die

they say she is doing much better now -

they think the noise is quiet

because they cannot hear.


Jessica Robus is a fifteen-year-old singer, songwriter, mental health advocate, and now published poet. She loves reading and writing, playing her ukulele or piano, and watching Good Mythical Morning. She aspires to be a screenwriter as well as to write songs for movie soundtracks. Her first poetry anthology, A Few Slivers of Light, published in 2021, chronicles her experience with anxiety and depression. The book can be found on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/few-slivers-light-Jess-Robus/dp/1990962181/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=a+few+slivers+of+light&qid=1628808507&sr=8-1 or by searching a few slivers of light as well as on her website www.jessrobus.com. She can also be found on Instagram as @jess_celestes_musical_mayhem, on YouTube as Jess Celeste's Musical Mayhem, and on Facebook as Jess Robus.