Olivia Gatwood at Button Poetry Live

Curated By Ralph

"The Road Not Taken" is a source of inspiration for me, because it encourages me to seize opportunities and chart my own course in life.

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Olivia Gatwood, performing @ButtonPoetry Live in Minneapolis.

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[Applause] Oh to my face You pink armor lipstick Rebel steel Cheeked slit mouth head to the ground Mean girl you headphones in but no music You house key turned blade you Quick Step between street lights strainer of Pricks and chest beaters laughter is a Foreign language to your dry ice tongue Resting face they call you but There is nothing restful about you no Lips like a flatlined heartbeat panic at The side of you scream for their Mother's Throat full of bees head spun 360 Exorcist just trying to buy a Soda just trying to do your laundry just Trying to dance at the party when Someone asks you to smile and the blood Begins to Riot smile and you chisel away At your own jaw smile and you unleash The Swarm into the mouth of a man who Wants to swallow you whole One theory is that you were born like This but I don't believe it you came out Screaming and alive and look at you now Look at how you've learned to hide your Teeth what's wrong with your face Your face what's wrong with it face I don't blame you for taking The iron pipe from their hands and Branding yourself with it from making a Flag out of your body bag another theory Is that you put it on every morning Screw it tight like a jar of jelly but I

Don't believe that either you woke up Like this and have been for years how Can you sleep pretty when there are four Locks on the door and the fire escape Feels like break in bait they will tell You home is safe zone no face is Safe Zone face is home face Is cutting off the ladder willing to Burn in the apartment if it means he Can't get in Whoa Hey what's up everyone I'm gonna set my timer so I don't go Over time Um thank you so much for being here uh I Quickly want to sort of say something About all of the women that graced the Stage tonight Um Sarah who I just met Um is a wonderful calming presence and Was very nervous to host tonight and I Think she's doing incredibly can I yeah Um I personally watched Sarah's poems on YouTube before having met her and so That is always an exciting thing but Life is someone who I've known for Several years who I met when she was a Teenager and now consider her a friend One thing I love about Blythe is that She has always been very Unapologetically her age which I mean to Say that I met her when I was 17 and When I was 17 I was like such a like trying to be older than I

Was and didn't just let myself be a Teenage girl Ironically now like I am a teenage girl But I'm 25 I have so it's like not Impressive it's actually like slightly Pathetic but anyway Um Blythe is someone who I've always Admired her willingness to just be who She is all the time and I think that That is an incredible skill in all People but especially in Femme people Um So andua right do uh uh Dua I saw At an open mic at the U of M and was Absolutely Blown Away Um I could not believe what I had Witnessed and was like Trying not to be too crazy afterwards You know I just like wanted to like I Wish that I could like transmit to her How I was feeling about her but I Couldn't with my words so I followed her On Instagram which is like what you do When you can't communicate and um her Instagram is like just as incredible Like the aesthetic I don't know it's Like a lot of different Hues and shades Of of Landscapes I don't know it's Amazing Um and her work is amazing I think we Can all attest to that right Um yeah uh Melissa is my best friend and I am in awe of her all the time and also Share everything with her and that is a

Beautiful thing to be impressed with People who you also deeply deeply love And so yeah that's cool I love you too Um all right so I'm gonna read some Poems if that's cool uh right so the Book is largely in chronological order From like the age 13 to 23 And a little bit younger than that as Well but mostly it's it's a story of of What girlhood means to me what it means To grow up and become a woman largely in Relation to your geographical location And the idea of the hometown and how That relates to how we grow and who we Become and what friendship means in Terms of that to Um I think friendship between girls is Often very intense and Um And I think that it can be seen as a bad Thing And I think at one point I saw it as That too and writing this book helped me Understand how that's beautiful and pick Those moments out of my life so uh this Is called Jordan convinced me that pads Are disgusting They make your panties smell like dirty Bike chains she said We were sitting on her mother's plastic Coated floral couch one of us in a Swimsuit the other sworn to layers the Water was her selling point and I was Terrified of tampons or rather terrified

Of the Undiscovered crater the muscle That holds and pulls and keeps and sheds She said I'll do it for you And yes we had seen each other naked Many times we had showered together and Compared nipples wished to trade the Smalls and bigs of our respective bodies So it wasn't unnatural really when I Squatted on the toilet seat and she lay Down on the floor like a mechanic Investigating the underbelly of a car With plastic syringe in hand she wedged The packed cotton into me This is what I saw last before blacking Out and collapsing onto the tile Jordan blood scholar in a turquoise Bikini Saying now you are ready to swim [Applause] That is a true story A true story The next time I put a tampon in I was so I didn't put a tampon in for about two Months after that incident because I was Like those I don't know what the that was I was really happy that me And my friend who's named Jordan in this Poem uh were able to share that intimate Moment because I love But um I was not grateful for what had happened The next time I put a tampon in I then Put another tampon in and realized I may Have forgotten to take the other tampon

Out and I convinced myself that there Was a tampon floating in me somewhere And I went to my mother who used to work For Planned Parenthood and does Gynecological exams all the time and I Was like Mom I think I lost a tampon Inside me and she was like well that's Anatomically impossible and I was like Okay but I had a tampon in and I put Another tampon in and I took the other Tampon out and only one came out so I Think there's one inside me and she was Like let me look and I was like is This gonna happen every time I have a Tampon in someone is just gonna be up in My every time and so I lay down on The bathroom floor and my mom did her and she was like Olivia there's no Tampon inside you but I think it's worth Letting you know we have the exact same Vagina and I was like wow that's Incredible So You know That happened All right okay This is called and now I put tampons Actually now I don't use tampons I use a Diva cup uh which is awesome yeah Um because I just prefer to stick my Whole fist up inside me every time I Need to change some you know I Don't I like to be messy you know I Don't I'm not a chill person and I'm now

Accepting that all right this is called Ode to Elise in eighth grade health Class She wasn't wrong when she accused me of Staring I was A profound observation what are you gay For me As if my body could be flipped solely in The wake of her some kind of reverse Conversion therapy which wasn't wrong Either I had never pined so badly for Denim to slip down her lower back upon Taking a seat To reveal the fuzz along her spine that Which she likely wished to remove begged Her mother for hot wax like we all did And how I hoped she never would prayed That no boy would call her Beast my Secret Joy Elise who melted the tip of Her eyeliner pencil and let it Sizzle in Her tight line Elise who gathered six of Her friends and threatened to jump me in The alley Elise who taught me to bury a Lighter in my fist so that if I ever Took my shot at least I wouldn't break My hand on her pretty pretty face [Applause] I just finished this uh the only season Of big little lies Um it's a show on HBO Maria Bella I've been watching it with Huey and Melissa every night and um I Just decided instead of water tonight I

Would drink Chardonnay as an Ode to Reese Witherspoon so that's what I'm Doing water I'm acting like this is The only time I've drank wine instead of Water [Laughter] All right What else Um all right this is called the first Shave I am nine we are bored and Karen is Dying we drove to Austin that summer so Sarah's dad who described Karen as the Great and impossible love of his life Who taught us the word lymphoma and then The concept of the prefix how it Explains where the tumor lives could say Goodbye The house is a rind spooned out by the Onset of death what's left is a medicine Cabinet full of razors and we are hungry And alone and sitting on the living room Floor where the light from a naked Window slices the hardwood like melon Brandishes each individual fuzz on my Scabbed calf a field of erect yellow Poppies and we have been alive as girls Long enough to know to scowl at this Reveal and what better time than now to Practice removal Once I watched my mother skin a potato In six perfect Strokes I remember this As Sarah teaches me to prop up my leg on The side of the tub and runs the blade

Along my thigh see she says isn't that So much better Before we left Albuquerque her father Warned us she will have no hair A trait we have just begun to admire Except of course for the hair he is Talking about that which we hold against Our necks that which will get us Husbands or compliments or scouted in a Mall eventually cut off by our envious Sisters while we sleep [Applause] All right Okay all right Um wow okay Okay yeah yeah all right all right all Right Um all right so the book is split up Into four different sections sort of uh Both both to imply a change in location But also a sort of change not Necessarily an age particularly but in Phase I suppose so this is the last poem Of that section It's called Liberty When the blonde counselor showed up at Christian Camp the boys stopped being Fun She arrived a stack of bubble gum Suitcases next to her one reserved only For her headbands and the boys stopped Mid-dribble one foot in the river Macaroni necklaces slid off their Strings and onto the floor

Rumor was the camp dog only had three Legs because a boy swung his gun during Rifle practice just to drink a glimpse We should be team building not breaking She said one evening after canceling Capture the flag All of the boys said Hallelujah Suggested trust Falls all of the boys Held out their hands I declared war when she banned potato Chips She called for vegetables the cooks Planted a garden I swore I would find Her guilty for something cigarettes in Her tennis shoes an expired condom Between book pages I waited for her to Pull last night's meal from her throat With the hook of two fingers for two Pairs of feet in the shower But each time I hid in the bathroom Stalls and spied she only flat ironed Her hair in thick lemonade chunks each Time I pretended to sleep she only Whispered to God at the foot of her bed As creased as a pleated skirt Each time I followed her to the yard she Only raised the flag watched it float up Into the sunrise a quiet hum of America The Beautiful under her breath She did not know that when the boys Lined up in four straight rows to Sing The anthem they were singing it for her When they praised the land of purple Mountains of shining Seas when they

Belted oh beautiful it was for her when They sang America America they were Calling her name [Applause] All right So when I was 10 I moved out of New Mexico and I moved to Port of Spain Trinidad and I lived there for three Years until I was 13 so I left America As a child and came back as a teenager Which was a strange experience Um and something I deeply resented Coming back to this country and uh I Never wrote about it it just was Something that lived with me and um I got the chance to go back there Recently and it was so amazing because I Saw all my friends who lived there and Who I've kept in contact with for the Past 12 years and I was worried because I didn't know you know like I'm a poet And I hang out with poets so I never Know like how I'm going to be in other Social spaces And so I was like like what if I Don't fit in and I went and saw these Girls who I grew up with And they were people that I would choose As friends now and anytime and they were Just they're so amazing and I love them So much and to know that they have Continued to exist there and I have Continued to exist here and somehow We've grown up to be people that still

Have that love for one another Um one of them also was like do you know You're my first kiss and I was like what And she was like yeah we totally made Out of your bed when we were like 11 and I was like no you were not my first kiss Um sorry anyway uh So let's see I'll read this one this is Called the only thing I brought from America this is the title poem of the Book The only thing I brought from America Are four scabs and a ten dollar gift Card for international phone calls my Father walks me to school every day Until he finally buys a 1989 nine Nissan Station wagon with damp seats and an Apple cinnamon scented drinking wine Makes you burp uh apple cinnamon scented Tree that flutters in the rearview Mirror Reina is upset that I am American and Not rich these are two details that Disrupt everything Reina has ever been Made to believe in the Church of MTV in Which she learned that along with a new American Best Friend Reina deserves a New American best friend's mom Suburban Queen and a new American's Best Friend's Brother who will take her to second base In our basement but unfortunately for Reina we don't have a basement we live In the Sunset Motel where I collect Snails and eat chicken and ketchup

Sandwiches for dinner Girls don't play sports the boy says to Reina as he crumples up his sandwich tin Foil into a firm silver ball except for Olivia but Olivia is American Reina Whips her neck to glare at me I am Guarding the Wicket ready to bruise Whatever the boy throws before she can Whisper Dyke into the wind but still she Slips it into my ear and prances back to The shifty-eyed hairless girls in the Corner of the yard their ring fingers Dawned in the jeweled promise of their Kept bodies When Reina tells the teacher that I am Staring at her in the locker room I walk To Long circular mall and by a gold Plastic Rosary from the quarter machine All of the rich girls wear rosaries pull My hair back into a taut bun and polish My calves with my mother's lotion Rayna Says I can sit with her at lunch as long As I never play cricket again I tell her It was just a phase in the way that the Motel was a phase the car and the smell And the hair on my body all a phase but The thing about pretending to be rich is You can sculpt the language of money lie About the helicopter the vacations You're made the way you call her by only Her first name but no matter how many Times I speak of Mary my imaginary Helper I can't spit her out like I would If she were a real woman who dressed me

Every morning like Rayna who scowls While she eats hand-rolled Dolmas and I Haven't played Cricket in three weeks Instead I take a bite of my mayonnaise Sandwich and complain about Mary's Cooking while the blacktop shines and The boys sweat at the other end of the Yard Reina says I am lucky they let me play Because the pitcher is the cutest guy in School so she asks asks if I will teach Her the game and I tell her I don't Really know the rules Americans don't Play cricket I say I just know how to Hit and run and I know this is the right Answer because she repeats it under her Breath Americans don't play cricket Americans don't play cricket I don't Play cricket because my best friend is American better than you better than Your stupid game Thank you Just really don't want to like make you Guys bored all right uh okay we're gonna Move on to the next segment of my life Then Um cool this is called back pedal The boys and I are playing quarters with Double shots of vodka and I am winning By winning I mean I am not one of the Boys but I am the next best thing By the next best thing I mean I am a Girl and I am drunk every time I make Miss a shot Johnny gets to flick a

Quarter against my Knuckles and now my Knuckles are bleeding onto my thighs but Every time I make a shot I get to knock Back a throat full of liquor I slam down The glass until it cracks up the side And now the game is about who will still Drink from it who will risk shards in The belly who will cut up their insides For a pack of New Ports and it's not That I even want the cigarettes it's Just that I am not afraid of blood which Is also part of being a girl but being The only girl means making yourself lose When you've won too much so I bounce a Coin off the rim of the shot glass and Let Johnny slice me open in 30 minutes Johnny is dragging me out of the Bathroom by my wrists and I can hear him Saying something about blood on the Carpet about a drunk girl in the house Who is staining everything and I think That must mean I'm the champion of Quarters Johnny is the kind of guy who sleeps With a gun not women But Johnny is always the one inviting me Over for a game of quarters and Sometimes I wonder if this is how Johnny like maybe he is the kind of man Who only screams when he's underwater or Lets me feel how strong his fingers are Without actually touching me maybe That's why we're all here even the boys To let Johnny hold us like a barred

Window I work a double one day a week and on This day don't answer Johnny's call by One day a week I mean two men break in And shoot Johnny in the temple for 2 000 Pills and I am scraping pasta off a Businessman's plate into the trash At some point I'll tell you why I didn't Go to the wake I guess I never really knew Johnny like That by that I mean sober or in a church When I say I didn't go to the wake I Mean I drove by his house every day for Two years and the for sale sign never Got taken down like the house would Always be Johnny's like maybe the whole Town knew what happened here like maybe No one could get rid of the blood [Applause] All right just a couple more a few more Not a couple a couple means two but I'm Probably gonna do more than two all Right I used to play soccer I was an Athlete for like many years uh it was Like going to be the trajectory of my Life and Um that didn't happen and sometimes that Happens things change Um this is called fourth week of two Days in July Us girls with all our stuff Our cleats and shin guards and Ace Bandages and headbands to keep our bangs Back our sports bras and Spandex and

Everything else that preserves the body The bones our most promising tool our Expensive sneakers I got mine at a place Called Play It Again Sports where rich Kids sell their one season used Nike Cleats with the side laces that claim a Purpose they don't actually fulfill got Long sleeves to wipe the sunscreen that Bleeds into our eyes got a 15 second Water break 10 minutes ago and now we've Got six miles around the golf course That is supposed to be the color of Money but around here looks like horse Food Lauren passes me on the second Loop Spits and the wind sprays it in my face Like some party blowing mean Confetti and now my view is her blonde Ponytail whipping like a Breakneck Pendulum Lauren who says I smell like Piss on a good day is the only one who Broke off the rest of us are are a cloud Of bats circling the dead grass it is Three o'clock eight years into the Drought and when Jackie stops to vomit In the ditch I hang back while she hacks Up nothing next to us nestled in the Dirt is a syringe and a rubber tie off a Spoon bent in the shape of a daffodil Black tar burnt to the mouthpiece Scattered like an abandoned highway Shrine I SWAT her on the back remind her of the College scholarship the scouts and the Ironed jerseys all that money waiting

For our feet [Applause] Thank you All right Let's see all right so the last section Of the book is largely about love Um or like a lack of it I suppose Um Um I love super hard and that's Something I denied for many years I was Always like I'm the cool girl You can multiple people while You're me but I should be Monogamous that's fine like that was me Right and um And I think I just deny I think that Femme people are often like told to make Themselves smaller and and in turn I Think that's synonymous with loving less Right and so for so many years I was Like I'm not like other girls Um I'm like I'm friends with the boys or Whatever and and I think only recently Like in the last year have I fully Accepted that I love really hard Um I feel like I'm always either in love Or heartbroken and never anywhere in Between Um So I've been writing about that and Thinking about that so this poem is Called The Scholar It's about dating people who are

Scholars Don't trust these in Ivy League schools all right Don't trust them Especially if they make it a goal to go To Every Ivy League school that exists Don't trust them either Especially if they perform humility like It's a part-time job don't trust them Don't trust them Especially if they have a collection of Suits in their closet with matching Pocket squares don't trust them all Right it's enough I might as well just Say the motherfucker's name right now uh The Scholar For JB The house is heavy with sour burning Fish When I leave my clothes will smell of Seared salmon Soaking men on the train will tidy their Backs twist their necks in my direction Assume my thighs used bait you know the Thing we learn in grade school about Cheap girls bodies how they carry the Sea I make the trains smell like Gowanus Trash River lady all for you you are Back home writing a book on the kitchen Floor Told me this morning you met someone Else She lives in Europe but you have more in Common like religion your names sound

Nice together I ask for my things you give me a Garbage bag I ask for my coat you beg me To leave it It smells like you you say The last time we made love you asked me If I was scared I think you wanted me to say yes When we go to bed All of the women scaled the fire escape Perch on the rust cackle and sing You can tell how much he loves her by How he sleeps Not at all not at all Not at all Thank you [Applause] Okay [Applause] Um I guess I'll read two more is that okay Okay uh who here knows a period Underwear is So I'm not talking about like thinks the Kind that you're meant to bleed in Things are like Spotify and the period Under where I'm talking about is like The mixtape like it's like back right Um I get all you like new people are Like growing up with some that's Like oh it's so cool to bleed well when I was growing up it wasn't cool To bleed your pants all right and I Spent years

Bleeding my pants I still do it's why These are black on the back so that if I Bleed through it doesn't really show Um Anyway I like writing Odes to things That I don't particularly love so this Is an Ode to my period underwear I didn't purchase you as such You grew into the role earned your name After the first stain and admittedly now I am careless with your fabric no fear Of the Overflow as I trust you will not Mind another Scar and yes once you are Brand new but in the name of some boy Who I wished to see me unmarked and Clean as his mother's kitchen counter Perhaps once you were even called the Good pair which is not to say you are The opposite now but that you gave new Meaning to the phrase in the way that a Good car is often one with six digits in The odometer isn't that the greatest Evolution for something to be good and Then to become more good in its thorough Use you keeper of a thousand not Pregnant surprise parties instigator of The exhale proof that no matter how many Years I have spent here I will never get The hang of this and even though I have Shoved you to the back of the drawer Strategically folded so that your Forever mess was not revealed I have Also reveled in the fossil of you yes You relic of age 13 and also 23 hoarder

Of the blot we all have at least one of You to slide up our winter legs wiggle In your loose grip and this too is a Kind of ceremony the choosing of you I Mean and the washing too the folding and Wearing and washing again and at last The ruin the ritual of the spill your National anthem your ever-changing Flack Oh All right so before I do my last poem I Want to thank you all so much for coming Out here Um Minneapolis and St Paul are cities That have continued to welcome me in Really unexpected ways and I love being Here every time I'm here I have so much Fun Um sometimes I want to move here maybe I Will I don't know one day maybe Um but thank you so thank you for being Here a couple things I want to thank Um the people that Button Poetry Sam and Dylan for for letting me write this book Or if I guess y'all didn't let me write This book like I wrote this book but um You guys uh you know gave me gave it a Home and that's really nice Um so thank you for doing that and thank You for being supportive of me and my Sensitivities throughout this and uh Thank you to Lissa my manager for making Sure that I eat and always giving me gum And Um thank you oh yeah and thank you all

For being here uh and for reading my Poems and for enjoying it and thank you To Reese Witherspoon for being such an Underrated actress Um Um and quickly I want to say I tour a Lot I that's what I do all the time and So I have a mailing list back there that Is like for a like little email you can Get and I'll send you like Spotify Playlists and like Bed Bath and Beyond Coupons and so like you can sign up if You want to it's like back there on the Table on a laptop so I was told to Mention that Um you can go do that Um I want to end with this poem uh Because there are an artist named Tiffany Mallory drew a comic of this Poem and it's so beautiful and it got Turned into a poster and I love it so Much and this is a poem that I wrote With hopes that one day I would feel the Way I do in this poem And I still don't always and when I read It I remind myself that there was a time When I believed I could be this so I Again believe it Um and I hope that it works like that For all of you I think it's important to Know that people who are shitty to you Do not love you Um and I think often we say this person Is shitty to me because they love me or

This person is shitty to me but if I do This that and the other they will love Me one day if I make myself this they'll Love me and that's not true Um I think it can be an immediate bruise To the ego to say that To say how could it's like how could Someone not love you you are remarkable And smart and beautiful How could someone not love you and that Can hurt really badly to admit that to Yourself but I think you waste a lot Less time when you say that and just Keep moving and that doesn't mean move On you know you don't have to move on You can cry every night you know But I think it's important to name that And to say that I don't always practice That so I wrote a poem about a universe In which I would thank you for having me This is called alternate universe in Which I am unfazed by the men who do not Love me When the businessman shoulder checks me In the airport I do not apologize Instead I write him oh hold on Sorry I'm going to start that Palm over I wanted to say thank you to Huey for Bronzing my titties and for giving me a Beautiful contour and highlight tonight Uh he did the same thing for Melissa I Didn't want to like not say that and I Was saying it to myself so many times I Was like give me like just like work on

My chest and he really did Um so thank you for that I was showing Him pictures of Ariana Grande and I was Like this is what I need and I think Like it the resemblance is almost like Uncanny at this point so thank you so Much Um I'm not walking side to side Unfortunately I'm not getting late at This time in my life but that's okay all Right Alternate universe in which I am on Phase by the men who do not love me When the businessman shoulder checks me In the airport I do not apologize Instead I write him an elegy on the back Of a receipt and tuck it in his hand as I pass through the first class cabin Like a bee he will die after stinging me I am 24 and have never cried once a boy Told me he doesn't believe in labels so I embroidered the word chauvinist on the Back of his favorite coat a boy said he Liked my hair the other way so I shaved My head instead of my while the Boy isn't calling back I learned Carpentry build a desk write a book at The desk I taught myself to come from Counting ceiling tiles the boy says he Prefers blondes and I steam clean his Clothes with bleach the boy says I am Not marriage material and I put gravel In his pepper grinder the boy says

Period sex is disgusting and I slaughter A goat in his living room The boy does not ask if he can choke me So I pretend to die while he's doing it [Applause] My mother says this is not the meaning Of unfazed When the boy says I curse too much to be Pretty and I tattoo Kant on my inner lip My mother calls this being very phased But left over from the other Universe Are hours and hours of waiting for him To kiss me and hear they are just ours Here they are a bike ride across Long Island in June here they are a novel Read in one sitting here there are Arguments about God or a full night's Sleep here I hand an hour to the woman Crying outside of the bar I leave one on My best friend's front porch send my Mother two in the mail I do not slice His tires I do not burn the photos I do Not write the letter I do not beg I do Not ask for forgiveness I do not hold my Breath while he finishes The man tells me he does not love me And he does not love me The man tells me who he is and I listen I have so much beautiful time Thank you so much everybody you all have A good night [Applause]

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