A drawing of a woman crying, being embraced by another woman. Emotional, high-intensity black lines.

“Stay” by Casey Shah

Casey Shah graduated from USask with an English degree and has grown to love literature and poetry even more since. “Stay” was inspired by her own journey to understanding how her past has shaped the way she views and engages with the concept of love. The poem shows how understanding her past helps her shift from a destructive perspective to a gentler, loving one.


I tied my blood a tight knot —
Loosened or slashed,
I’d sew it back together,
Needing my ties to stay fixed.
Though it tasted
A metal freezing my tongue
In place. Still
It felt necessary, a kind
Of sustenance.

My family was a regime.
And love A condition.
I tried to trace the shape
Of the system, latch on, suckle
The sweetness of being held, loved.
Love’s conditions were not
So much a verb, but
An unspoken song I heard. Listened to it’s
Rugged sound, Its warnings:
Don’t question the rules,
We’re trying to keep you
Safe, stay silent the kids at school don’t need
To know, don’t be friends with them.
Mostly love’s main rule was the same as mine;
Just stay.

I grew to linger on kisses,
That held me
Flying in the sky for seconds. Then
Grasping onto air where a hand was
Supposed to catch me. I tried
To unravel, untie the knots in my tongue,
Begging it to speak, say
The little girl inside my rib cage was screaming.
But Falling makes my words freeze like
Rain slamming, then
Transforming on asphalt.
I shut down, then stay
Like winter’s frozen silence as it clings to trees.

I never believed in anyone
Staying, so I tried to stitch them to my
Heart, hoping they would.
I am learning:
To let them go, let them land in my memories,
Or let them stay.
I am learning to see the love already there.
I am learning how to hold the girl full of screams
When she falls into the pit of my stomach
And explain it was not love that left,
Only its conditions.

This piece is part of the in medias res Jan. 2021 “Reflection” Issue. You can read the full issue under the tag “Jan. 2021.”

Image: Consolation (1894) by Edvard Munch (Public Domain)