To my daughter, on sexual education

The system will likely fail you
with diagrams and figures 
at an age where the tangential co-occurrence  

of images of genitalia and the expectation of
subsequent social interaction
cause a withering mortification, and yet

you will be expected to understand
that your body bears the weight of decision. 
If you learn nothing else, they tell you, learn this:

sex has a purpose. Your womb longs even now
to swell fruit-ripe. Tell me
what price are you willing to pay for your longing? 

I will be the first
to allow you your desires
you the product of my own mistaking— 

I hope you will forgive me
I never used the word want. If I could
teach you better, I’d have you know your body 

a beam of light, arcing. To want
is only human. Touch yourself first
know your own tenderness. You will have to teach, someday 

a foreigner how to travel in your 
sacred spaces. There is pleasure in being known.
I grew to myself believing 

love was bought by a body, mine never enough
or always too much, I wish for you
a comfort in your skin you are willing to share 

for sharing’s sake. Perhaps a mother 
should discourage promiscuity
but your body was made to be 

touched. When you look to the future
do you see yourself giving or taking from this life? 
Nothing here is linear. There are very few answers. 

To my son, on consent

I cannot count how many times I have been convinced
to give what was asked, by a hungry mouth
and hands and eyes, and me afraid 

not to satisfy, though never considering my own wants
I have never been difficult to persuade. Is it the fault
of the men I couldn’t refuse that I was never taught 

how to say no? I could feel the texture
of its syllables in other words like don’t or stop
my muscles unwilling to flex its form. 

A part of me has always allowed the taking.
And yet, I cannot forget the darkness
of the room where I was first held 

by my own desire to be needed and the hands
of a man who wouldn’t let go, no matter how much
I begged. If you’ve ever felt yourself

be taken like a photograph, you know how it feels
to be frozen in a moment long past. Does it
bother you to know what was stolen or 

how little I fought? I have never seen myself
a victim, never asked for pity. I only want you
to understand how words can mean 

more than just what they say. I don’t know
what the world will make you, and I can’t say
I’m not afraid. You are, after all, my son.  

Samantha Imperi

Samantha Imperi is a student at the University of Akron in the Northeast Ohio MFA program. Her poetry can be found in The Dewdrop, The Lighthouse Weekly, and Beyond Words Literary Magazine. Her recent work includes a collection of poems that grapple with the grief of deciding not to have children.