Michelle Sanders

W 116th St.

West · Edgewater · Poetry

He knew I lived on the second floor
in a small closet apartment on West 116th Street
that night
I opened my door and ushered him in.

kindness worn with the flash of large
gold chains
encrusted with diamond-like naivety.

It felt familiar and so did he
And I thought I knew him.

But I couldn’t have known him

I grew up with five brothers in a Detroit bungalow
Where I learned that some men aren’t kind like
my brothers
They take what they want and tell you that you
wanted it in one smooth motion

This man, I let into my home
used manipulation
Like baseball cards from the ’80s
And gaslighting was his MVP pick.

I knew better.

I thought I knew better.

I thought I knew him but that night, I learned
That my female body was never human to
That my female body belonged to him because
to be a woman is to be a

A trinket

A trophy

A toy

That night I gave him shelter
Because he said he was in need

And I

I should have listened to my gut
I should have created better boundaries
I should have
I could have

I wish I could have wished myself back to that
Warm urban bungalow in Detroit
With my brothers
Because West 116th Street at the far end
where the Starbucks on the corner
touches Clifton
in this Cleveland neighborhood

Doesn’t feel like Home

The last bit of love I had for Cleveland died that
In that neighborhood on West 116th Street
In my small closet apartment
As he held my wrists as tightly as this
neighborhood grips my lungs
making it harder and harder for me to

Michelle Sanders

Michelle Sanders is a Detroit native who has been living in Cleveland for nine years. Professionally, she works as a Technical Fashion Designer for a local company within the city. In her free time, she writes and creates art that examines ethnicity, trauma, and introspection.


Neighborhood Voices is a city-wide creative writing project designed by Literary Cleveland and the Cleveland Public Library to engage writers across Cleveland, allowing residents to connect with neighbors, share stories of their community, and draft new writing about what makes their neighborhood unique.


Cleveland Public Library
325 Superior Ave.
Cleveland, OH 44114

Project Created By Literary Cleveland

Literary Cleveland is a nonprofit organization and creative writing center that empowers people to explore other voices and discover their own. Through an expanding roster of multi-level classes, workshops and events, Literary Cleveland assists writers and readers at all stages of development, promotes new and existing literature of the highest quality, and advances Northeast Ohio as a vital center of diverse voices and visions.

Project Presented with Support By the Cleveland Public Library

Founded in 1869, Cleveland Public Library serves the residents of Cleveland through its network of 27 neighborhood branches, the Main Library downtown, Public Administration Library at City Hall, homebound delivery services, and mobile services to daycare and senior centers. From a collection of 10.5 million items, the Library lends over 5 million items a year to its 330,000 registered borrowers and to 43 other CLEVNET-member libraries in 12 counties across Northeast Ohio. Cleveland Public Library is home to the Ohio Center for the Book and the Ohio Library for the Blind and Physically Disabled, serving all 88 counties in the state of Ohio. For more information, visit cpl.org.