A Letter to Yale University

Graphic by Claire Sheen

Dear Yale,

We need to talk.

We both know the lingo

to loosen the strings attached,

that regardless of its gift wrapping,

I’m still presenting you

with severed limbs, and

this is the humor of heartbreak.

These words will flex the sighs

of an empty room,

deserted by the messenger: me,

who traded her crave for ambivalence

then crumpled up the receipt,

and today, I am that lighter flame.

The one who swallows

the curled flakes of prestige

into ruin, so—

I completely understand the silence,

interrupted only by

the tremors of a dancing chin,

all the strained gasps for tears,

but everyone knows

you’ve never been the crying type.

Your dry eyes are bright

like a bouquet of flowers

you stole from someone else’s grave.

Remember how you twisted my arm

and said,

“Dance for me, girl.”

You will never know a better lover.

Let me wear your poor,

your woman,

your mother’s hair

as medallions.

Let me save you

with this wealth

stretched from blood

and the skin of puppets.

Pray to my arrogance

every morning,

and the romance will write itself.

And I was proud to have

been caressed by this power,

this ivory that doesn’t wash out

with soap.

I said yes, chew me whole

till I can taste a future

rising like good bread.

Yes, to warm rooms,

to gold statues.

Yes, meant I take my vows

and walk down the aisle with you,

smile for the camera,

as the lights pop

and the diploma

rests easy on my cabinet

and my conscience.

I won’t pretend that saying these words

rinses me of my guilt,

but there is no reason to rejoice

for cathedrals that

ring the serenade

of white greed,

or a mouth that names itself

true to its promise

without my permission.

And here I sit in

your theater of progress,

where defiance is green soil you bottled

to protect your ghosts

that love to roam the earth.

Getting dumped feels like

every hand that pulled you from your


in the morning

stopped showing up to work.

It’s biting into your favorite dessert

and tasting too much salt.

But I won’t make my struggle pretty for


not marketable for you,

not prize, ego, polish, or triumph.

I’m busting the stained glass windows.

And if gratitude is virtuous,

then let me be

the most complicated sinner.

Let me bite the hand

that misleads me.

Here, I am not alone,

nor lonely,

no fixed gate

or empty bullet shell.

Praise the contradiction.

Praise the return and all its desperate


Praise the rise to knowledge,

the rejection of your false utopia,

and the deep breath


“I’m doing just fine without you.”


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