True Beauty

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I remember being a child
with wild and wide eyed imagination
in utter fascination with my mother
and all the other mothers
and grown women in my life
who I wanted to be like.
I couldn’t wait until I was old enough
to wear deodorant or makeup
or, most important of all,
an actual bra.
But the day when I could shave
would certainly mark the next phase
though the little hair on my legs
was barely displayed
I begged her to let me start shaving
because behaving in that way
was something grown women do
and for all I knew
a smooth body was the sign of womanhood.

I remember being in sixth grade
gazing in the mirror, elbow raised
where wisps of hair splayed
from under my arms.
Armed with a blade
a pit in my stomach gave way
to what must be done.
Just earlier that day
at rehearsal for the Christmas play
a classmate who had the part of an angel
lifted her angelic limbs
and the sin of having underarm hair
caused classmates to stare
and snicker, laugh, point,
anoint her with nasty words
that couldn’t even be heard by her
from where she stood.
By I could.
And I would remember them.

I remember being sixteen
still a novice at the dating scene
and barely comfortable in my own skin
let alone with who I was within.
I wore a bikini that summer
for the first time in years
finally overcoming the fears
of what others may say or think
of my body,
what I knew of as a commodity,
for the visual consumption all who saw it.
I remember the flush of red
when he pointed at my upper thighs and said,
“Eww you don’t shave your bush?!”
The whoosh of embarrassment I felt
pelted me like summer’s first rain
and the pain of realizing his disdain
drained me of any confidence
or self-worth I thought I had unearthed
just moments before.
It had never even crossed my mind
that anyone would find
the hair down there to be repulsive
and, after that moment,
shaving it became compulsive
my body became a source of shame
and the game of modifying
and commodifying it
took on full reign.

Growing up it was so rare
to see women proudly displaying body hair
that we would call them revolutionaries
or anarchists,
gender bending nonconformists,
or eccentric artists.
The very notion of an unaltered physical form
being so far from the norm
we had no idea what to make of it.
And maybe they were those things
which is great
but why do we associate or speculate
that unmodified bodies
represent some sort of oddity?

And I can’t forget to mention
or bring attention
to the hair adorning our heads
and the ways society has said
what is considered good hair
enough hair
too little hair
too rough hair
too slight hair
the right hair.
So we look at what’s there
and loathe what we have
and crave what don’t.

A friend asked me recently
if we have ever even seen
what our bodies really look like
without any of the plucking or waxing,
the tweezing or other means of extraction.
Have we ever taken a moment
to simply look at our bodies in utter awe
and atonement for all the
groans of growing
for all the ways of knowing
that live inside our bones,
the microphones of our voice box,
the tick tocks of our heart’s clock,
the softness of our bellies and thighs
the windows of our eyes
the sighs of our breath
and the rest of our glorious figures.

When will we get to the place
where we could not care less
if we or someone else was hairless
or hair full, careful not to assume
based on what we presume
to be the standards of beauty,
or hygiene.
It’s not our duty
to assess someone else’s body.

So at the end of the day
it’s not really my place
or the place of others to say
which way is the right way
but what I can say
is that your body is yours
to adore and explore
and what you choose
to do with it is up to you,
not society or propriety
or prying eyes of girls or guys.
It’s what makes you feel good
and that should be understood
as true beauty.

Drawing of a woman in a skirt with leg hair

Courtesy of artwhoring’s Instagram page

Drawing of a woman shaving her face

Courtesy of New Women’s Movement tumblr page

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An Open Letter to My Period

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Menstruation,
the red current,
that time of the month,
dripping with red honey,
painting the town red,
riding the crimson wave,
a visit from Aunt Flo,
whatever name I call you,
I want you to know,
I hate you.

Now, now before you start crying
(no, seriously, I’m still drying
out from your last visit)
I must insist you hear me out.
It’s not about you personally,
It’s me.

Fuck it, I can’t lie, it’s you.
I remember the first time you showed your face,
it was in health class of all places,
and I rushed out to the bathroom
feeling utterly doomed and dismayed
too ashamed of what someone might say
to ask for a feminine product.
So I stuck a wad of toilet paper
in my underwear
and staggered back out there.

It took me several years to figure out how to stop you,
contain you, and I still can’t help but blame you
for every time I’ve checked the back of my pants for stains
for every basketball game you interrupted
for every eruption when I thought you were done
for every one of my underwear you destroyed
for every joy you turned to perpetual fear
for every tear your cramps brought full force
for every intercourse opportunity you blocked,
shall I go on?

Period, you embarrassed me one too many times
like when I first tried to insert a tampon
on that camping trip with my family
and, calamity of calamities,
I had to tell my mom I couldn’t get it in.
And instantly she asked me,
and I quote,
“Are you putting it in the right hole?”
Period, she asked me if I put it in the right hole!
How many holes are there?!
Do you know how terribly embarrassed you made me?
Even more than when she
made me talk about the birds and the bees!

Now, let me calm down
because somehow
someone will try to use my distressing
as an excuse to accuse me of PMSing.
And the only thing I hate more than PMSing
is someone accusing me of it.
It doesn’t matter if I actually am
because, dammit, that nonsense
is sexist and I will not stand for it.

And speaking of things I won’t stand for,
men who refuse to get me tampons from the store!
“Oh you’re embarrassed to be seen
with my feminine hygiene products?
You poor thing,
and here I thought I had it rough
having to shove said products up my crotch
about twenty times a month.”

And speaking of monthly,
you have to know how unfair and disparaging it is
to bleed out of my vagina
once a month for decades
on the off chance that I may one day have a baby.
Why can’t you just be like a kitchen sink
that I just turn on when I think
I want to become pregnant?
But no, that would be much too easy
and appeasing
and we both know you’re a tough woman.

But so am I, Period.
And I guess I owe some of that to you.
You taught me that blood
is a flood stronger
than most any force on earth.
You taught me that I am the earth
because the blood from my womb
is connected to the tides and the moon
and the wombs of other women.
When we live in close proximity
we begin to bleed in community,
a sisterhood of beauty,
synchronized and dignified
and ready to supply the next generation.
Women are the arbiters of creation,
and ain’t that some kind of power?

And, Period, I have to thank you
for reconnecting me to my body.
Oddly, I’ve separated the physical
from the emotional
from the mental
and it’s been detrimental to my health.
But you’ve brought me a wealth
of knowledge by showing me
that all things are cyclical
and that my cycle links me to something biblical
and holy.

You taught me that while I bleed
freely from my nether regions
enduring legions of cramps
and waves of nausea and tears
with fears of leaking on my clothing,
I can go out without anyone knowing
the fountains flowing within me.
That’s why women are a mystery,
a form of poetry,
we hold the secrecy,
of a thousand moons
within our wombs
and still do what we need to do
making it true that women are master jugglers
and multi-taskers.

And I have to ask,
why do we even call you Period?
There are a myriad of other punctuation marks
like comma or semi colon or parentheses,
any of these are much more fitting
because you are not an ending,
you are a beginning.

And I realize that you’re a force
that cannot be ignored,
a metaphor for the woman I want to be,
freely me, uncontained,
unconstrained, unashamed, untamed,
naming my truth and plotting my course
with a force so unstoppable,
it’s not possible to control.
Yes we find ways to hold you up,
like with my beloved Diva Cup,
but those are only temporary measures,
that you’re sure to get around
and find your way through.
And I guess what I’m trying to say to you
is that maybe the reason I fight you,
why I insist I don’t like you,
is that I am more like you
than I want to admit.
There, I said it.
I guess when it comes down to it,
we’re like sisters, you and I.
And that means we’ll fight and cry
and try as I might to deny you
you’re part of me.
After all, you and me, we
are related by blood.

 

Red ocean wave

The Rush, The Whisper, The Reckoning

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It never looks the same
yet it remains the same
at the same time.
At times it starts slowly
the way fog preys upon the night
creeps over the deepness,
undetected,
until by daylight
it’s collected
everything into its damp, dark clasp,
grasping greedily for more.

Sometimes it sneaks up on me
the way a chill rises up the spine
one vertebrae at a time.
It arrives without warning or a heads up
and before I know it I’m down
and out, unsure of how I got here
or there or how I even got out of bed.
Instead my head is inundated,
saturated with the ever hated
echoes of worry, doubt, fear,
tears threatening to resume
the familiar trails and mazes
they’ve blazed down my face.

Sometimes it takes the form of a gentle whisper
stirring beneath the surface
of my conscious mind
finding its strength and power
with each hour that it feeds upon my own.
“You could end it all now,” it sings,
brings a calming peace with each
breath, it etches, sketches
“suicide, suicide, suicide”
into my very bones,
coincides with my own
desires to take that blade
and score my flesh, pores,
the voice implores me to consider it
like I’ve considered it so many times before.

It shows up as the distinct memory
of that time someone called me
those God-awful things
the wound still stings, aching,
the pain keeps pulsating
I feel like a small child
swirling slowly on the swings
wishing for wings
anything to take me away
to keep reality at bay.
Dazed and confused
intent on making dusty circles
with my shoes in the dirt,
the hurt rising in my throat
like a boat on the ocean
the emotions hard to control.
And the familiar refrain
replays in my brain:
“You are nothing,
you are nothing,
you are nothing.”

It comes and goes in spells,
inexplicable wells
of sorrow and grief
no remedy or relief
can begin to assuage.
Instead it pervades every inch of my being
seeing any opportunity to pounce
any ounce or thread of hope pulled
until it completely unravels.
It travels the routes of my veins
making a dark map of the pain
as it moves inward and outward,
words cannot begin to pinpoint
where it began
and when it will end.

And then just as quickly as it comes
it goes, departing like the ghost
that it was.
It’s finished its haunting,
its taunting for now.
The fog begins to lift,
drifting once again into the abyss,
making space for the light to resume its place,
dry the tears on my face,
replace the aches and groans in my bones.
I reach down into the dirt
to retrieve my weary wounded soul
hold it softly between cupped hands
that land at my heart’s center.
All the while whispering,
“You’re safe now,
you’re safe now,
you’re safe now.
Come home.”

My People

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I’m starting to share some of my older poetry on my blog now. (I say “older” but I didn’t actually start consistently writing poetry until about a year ago so “older” is relative). I wrote this poem last April, largely in an outpouring of love for the Nook for Rhyme Crooks poetry group that gave me life and confidence to start writing and performing my own spoken word pieces but also out of love for beloved communities I’ve been a part of throughout my adult life (looking at you West Philly Mennonite!).

My People

My people are full of questions
never satisfied with first impressions,
or yes or no answers,
advancers of accountability
they see room for improvement,
movement, evolution, revolution
in any and every institution,
searching diligently for solutions
to life’s most complicated problems.

My people are imperfect
and a bit of a mess
sometimes letting the stress
of life get them far from their best
but never down for long.
My people are strong
even if they don’t always feel it, reveal it.
My people hurt and bleed
too full of compassion to be freed
from the pain that comes from
loving someone
or some thing so much
that just a soft touch
or word can bring on the water works.

My people feel
and they feel deeply
from the tips of their toes
deep breaths through their nose
the emotion flows
from their innermost parts
where it imparts wisdom
and direction.

My people are of the dirt.
Mud cakes their knuckles, fingernails,
trails from their boots
molds around their souls,
holds their bare toes.
My people don’t shy away
from what others may say
is too messy or raw or unrefined
they are defined by digging deep down
into the ground,
knowing that from the earth
all life is birthed.
My people put in work.

My people are ones who know the struggle,
exist in the struggle,
resist in the struggle,
whether it’s theirs to juggle
or in someone else’s bubble.
My people know that the fight
is never just ours or yours or theirs
to bear alone;
the struggle is our own.
It may look different for me
than it does for you
or those two
it doesn’t really matter who
because we’re all in this together
to weather the storms of this system
that we exist in
fully cognizant that simply having good intent
does not mean the outcome may not get bent
or cause harm,
that’s when we ring the alarm
of accountability and honesty.
And, honestly, it comes from a place of love,
knowing that the work goes above
and beyond what any one person may do.
It’s not just about me
and it’s not just about you.
It’s about coming together to form us.
So when I talk about my people
and all the things we may be capable
of doing and being
I look out among all of you
and it’s my people I’m seeing.

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The featured image for this post is a drawing by a professor of mine of me first performing this poem.

 

More Than Enough

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Taking a break from angry, post-election poems to share a love poem.

* * *

I remember all those years ago
watching you come and go.
My sisters and I would disappear
when we’d hear
the slam of car doors in the driveway,
signaling that you and your friends
were on your way inside.

But you were my brother’s friend,
a dead end, forbidden fruit,
and, besides, you were older,
super cute, Supertones,
and way out of my zone,
too cool to take notice of your friend’s
school-aged sister.

But imagine my surprise,
the summer when you were 29,
I went to my brother’s going away party
partly for the chance to see you,
hoping you’d be there,
and there you were.
And, my gosh, you looked as good as ever,
as clever and witty and unwittingly
charming and disarming me.
What a mystery you were and still are.

I almost blew it so many times
right from the beginning
my spinning mind
and lack of finesse
combined with utter awkwardness.
I thought I didn’t stand a chance
but you gave me that second glance
and there’s been no looking back.

And it turned out
you were just as awkward–
now, before you say another word,
remember that first kiss
when I could smell the Listerine
on your breath
and all those books fell on our heads
the second my lips touched yours?

That’s what made me sure
you were just my type of crazy
and maybe we could be something.
Between you breaking coat racks,
and getting attacked by unsuspecting
furniture that obscures your walk,
and all that talk about smoothness
when you can’t take Communion
without making a mess
like the one you made that time
when you spilled the frozen fries
on the grocery store floor?

But I’m the one who slams her phone
in car doors
and moves through life like a boar
in a china cabinet,
and you never let me forget it.
I’m the one who can’t use a kitchen knife
without slicing her fingers,
the one who lingers
too long in the passing lane,
and complains way more
than she should.

But, my love,
we make one heck of a team,
don’t we?
And, baby, I still think
you’re way too cool for me
but now I see you’re just as clumsy
and way more nerdy
and I love that about you.

I love your deep belly laugh,
the way it catches you by surprise
and the way your eyes
can never stay open in pictures.
I love your steady presence,
the scent of your skin,
and I hate how you always win
when we play games but,
at the same time,
I know I wouldn’t want to lose
to anyone else.

You got me to read Harry Potter
and listen to podcasts
and acted like you liked the books
I suggested even though
you never finished them.
And when I’m depressed
or upset, way too out of control
or barely holding it together,
you help me weather it all.

You, with your feet on the ground
and mine in the clouds,
we’ll meet in the middle
and that’s how we’ll walk this path,
giving a little
and laughing a lot,
and even if we’re all each other’s got
that will always be more than enough.

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The Master Puppeteer

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The puppeteer and his puppet
up late drafting executive orders
to close up the borders
deport “foreigners,” build fortresses
to insulate the nation-state,
to silence the scientists
and anyone who insists and claims
that climate change exists,
to reverse the stoppage of pipelines
and cut funding for maternal lifelines
across the globe and here at home.
Forget the system of checks and balances,
the balance of the scale tilts in our favor
as long as our erratic behavior
distracts from our grab of power.
Quick, sign these at the 11th hour
then slip behind the closed doors
to carry out even more
dangerous and secretive orders.

You see, behind the smoke screen
of the angry, knee-jerk tweeting,
the master puppeteer
jeers and smirks as this president,
his new apprentice and student,
implements his sinister policies.
Distract the masses in the cities
with all these atrocities
and, as they take to the streets,
gut State Department offices
and force officers to resign.
Assign me to the National Security Council
not an ounce of lead in your pencil
will touch the page
without my sage advice and wisdom.

Congress is like putty in our hands.
See how they stand with us now
when they vowed during the election
to go in another direction?
They have no will or backbone
and will condone any Republican
simply so they can keep their positions.
And Democrats too,
they know they have no power to stop you
so instead of casting a symbolic vote
against your nominees
they’ll do as we please for the ease of it.
Continue to instill fear of defiance,
either their silence will equal compliance
or they’ll soon change their tune
and start singing your praises.

Keep attacking the media and the press.
It’s best to misuse fiction and fact,
this tactic will keep the masses confused.
Keep using conservative and far right outlets
to spout alternative facts
so our base remains on our side,
pacified and fired up at the same time.
Continue that tried and true strategy
of turning the masses, angrily
against each other.
Smother dissent and disagreement
and cement our grand achievement
of reviving white power,
gazing out from our ivory tower,
on these great divided states
we have successfully created.

These first weeks will be the test
to see if people continue to protest
and object our policies
or if maybe they will ease off
and stop calling their representatives
and senators,
get discouraged, feel unheard,
stop spreading dissenting words,
stop urging their fellow citizens
to stand in every way they can
and get with our nationalist program.
Once they stop their futile demands
we will maintain a strong command,
as long as the master puppeteer
can continue to commandeer
the puppet in his hand.

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Lady Liberty/Here You Are Free

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I can’t stop writing; I cried writing this.

. . .

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

Or, on second thought, maybe not.
Take these tired and poor
and shut the door in their faces,
put them in their place,
it’s certainly not here.
Those refugees you speak of,
what regions do they come from?
Are they brown-skinned and Muslim?
Were they born into war-torn countries?
If they are these types of refugees
we have no use for them here.

You see,
our fear drives us these days
makes us behave in ways
our white ancestors did
when they tried to rid this land
of its rightful inhabitants
the indigenous people
who we still treat as less than equal
whose very existence makes us recoil,
“Let them drink oil!”
we cry, because the genocide
of old never really ended,
it’s simply extended in more covert
and sinister methods.

And the institution of slavery
we embraced for hundreds of years?
That’s still here too,
it too morphed and changed
the chains now more sophisticated,
the method now metal cages
and we still blame the rage
of black and brown faces
on their race and biology,
never acknowledging the racism
wrought within our economy,
psychology, institutions, foundations,
the very soul of this nation.

And let’s not forget the internment camps
that held thousands of Japanese Americans
for no other reason
than the “treason” of looking like the enemy.
So we took children and families,
and herded these like cattle
waging a battle against our own,
against the flesh, blood, and bone
of our fellow Americans
who emigrated, like us, to this land.

And now we look at the Mexicans,
which is what we call all Latino men,
women and children
because we do not actually care
where they came from
or what their nationality is
only that they exist in our midst
and we don’t think they should.
And if we could,
we’d deport them all
“Let’s build a damn wall!”
Make it as tall as the sky,
as wide as the southern border,
restore this nation to its proper order.
What’s more American than that?

And all the while lady liberty
screams in pain,
turns her face away from these shores
and implores us to reconsider.
We are better than this,
though past and present say otherwise.
But the tides are changing,
can you not feel them?
The cries of hate and lies
are at this moment being defied,
can you not feel them?
The people are marching,
can you not feel them? !

Throughout the tides of history
there has always been
and must always be
a strong undercurrent
of resistance.
For instance, the abolitionists
fighting for the end of slavery,
the Freedom Riders and their bravery,
the war resisters, pipeline protesters,
civil and gay rights leaders,
bleeders and sweaters and criers
who laid their lives on the line.
And the current time
beckons us to be on the right side,
the side of justice and mercy,
of love and acceptance and liberty,
of righteous anger and humility.

Pick up your torches,
you statues of liberty,
flood the shores of your city
open her doors wide
so all may come inside.
And together we will cry,
“Give us your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.
Welcome refugees, here you are free.
Here, you are free.”

The Day Hate Won

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I wrote this poem the day after the November 8, 2016 election. I had so much emotion surging through me and needed to release it on the page. Certainly there is much more nuance to why people voted the way they did and it is a bit simplistic to only name two categories, hate and love, and that is not recognized in full in this poem; however, the words I wrote still strike a chord within my heart and I still believe in their truth, even if they are only a piece of the truth. And these words are proven truer every day.

“The Day Hate Won”

On the day hate won
racists and white supremacists
xenophobes and homophobes
anti-immigrants and anti-Islamists
proudly walked the streets,
free to harass and scream as they pleased,
feeling they were backed
by one who also attacked
Blacks and Muslims,
Mexicans and women,
folks with disabilities
and different gender identities,
veterans and refugees,
treating all of these
and many other Americans
as if this was not their land.
And those who voted for hate
took their leader’s cue
and lashed out at these folks too.

The day hate won
people applauded and cheered,
mocking the despair and fear
reverberating through many.
Telling any who would listen
That those in fear were learning their “lesson.”
People praised and raised hate high,
denying and rejecting it as hate
but as justice that came late
but at just the right time.

The day hate won
children everywhere asked their parents
if they were safe
it they would be ok.
And parents asked each other the same
and this refrain
rippled throughout the terrain
of this broken land,
people desperate to understand
because no one knew
if what the tyrant said would come true
even though deep down
they had heard hate’s battle cry sound.

The day hate won
people hid behind religion
as their excuse for their decision.
Putting all the weight
on a single issue or stance,
saying now the unborn have a chance
to be safe.
But the trade they made
was for the lives and wellbeing
of many now living
outside the womb
who wonder if there ever was any room
for them in this society.

The day hate won
working folk who felt ostracized
and demonized
who’d been looking in from the outside
for years
felt they finally found one whose ears
heard their desperate pleas
but hate did not care about any of these
they were all part of hate’s strategy.

The day hate won
people said it was an election
like any other
With a winner and a loser.
But this was unprecedented,
in direct dissent
to the first Black President,
a call to white folks across the nation
to reclaim their “rightful station.”
And the winner that day was hate
and the loser was the entire nation-state.

The day hate won
the earth shook and cried
she knew that her fragile life
and the fragile lives
of all creatures in her care,
already damaged beyond repair,
were now at even greater risk
because hate denied her suffering,
denied that people were the cause of it.

The day hate won
love was shaken to its core.
In some places love was shocked,
in others, love was mocked.
In some, love was not surprised
but tears still fell from love’s eyes.
Love raged, love took to the streets.
Love disengaged, love hid under the sheets.

But love was not extinguished.
Deluded, yes.
Disoriented, a little.
Dismayed, a lot.
But love reached out to love
and love found itself in others,
in quite whispers,
and tender hugs,
in shared rage at the present danger,
in shared tears on the subway with strangers,
on social media posts and posters in the street.
Love was broken and bruised,
angry and hurt and sad and confused.
But love did not die.
Love organized.
Because love knew that hate may
have won the day.
But in the end
love
will have love’s way.

Privilege/Where You Began

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Blog posts two days in a row! I’ve had a lot on my mind since Saturday’s march. I’m sure some of you have seen a viral Facebook post by a woman who outlines why she didn’t march or support those who did. This is my response to her.

She said
I don’t need to march
or take to the streets
to meet my needs.
I can do it all on my own
with my own two hands
standing on my own two feet.
Look at these women,
they know nothing of poverty,
have they even heard of the Middle East?
Or Africa? (She probably thinks it’s a country)
They have food to eat,
shoes on their feet,
who are they to take to the street?

She said,
this woman isn’t buying it,
trying it, or supplying it.
I’m not a second-class citizen,
I’ve risen above all that nonsense
and noise.
I can make my own choice,
I can work, vote, defend my family
and myself.
And I don’t blame anyone else
for my problems,
I choose to solve them.
These American women
have no idea what they’ve been given.

And I say, that
is the problem.
I don’t think you realize
the prize your white skin supplies you,
the rise your social status provides you,
the sky’s the limit to you
because you were born in the clouds,
never able to see the ground
below and the crowds gathered there
trying to get their share
of this unequal American pie.
You never felt second class
because your opportunity glass
has always been half full
or more
while scores of other Americans
began their journey
having to make cups out of their hands.
Have you ever had to stand
in line for food stamps
or an affordable house?
Live paycheck to paycheck,
raise kids without a spouse?
You tell people like this
to rise up and get with it
but let me be explicit:
your starting block was near the finish,
you couldn’t see behind you
where the lines grew
but you see them now.
And it makes you angry
and indignant, you can’t
believe how ungrateful
and whiny our society is
while you’re the one who lives
off society’s back.
Yet you choose to attack
the marchers who are peaceful
and compare them to people
you’ve never even met
in lands you’ve never even stepped
foot on.

Yes, the world is suffering
and there is so much injustice
but when you can sit
and look at the world out your window
without seeing your neighbors below
then you are part of the problem.
When did we begin
comparing poverty to poverty,
hunger to hunger,
violence to violence?
Suffering is suffering is suffering
whether it brings despair
to the people over there
or right here.
Let me make the picture clear:
you may not feel like you need to march
or protest
but, at best, that is your experience
and yours alone,
yours.
Not hers, or theirs,
yours.

So before you turn your personal experience
into another platform to distance
yourself from other women and Americans,
take a second,
and remember just where you began.

Why I March

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They asked me why I march,
what it meant to me,
to be a protester,
a tester of the waters,
a woman and a daughter.
And the first thing I’ll say
is that my choice to march on Saturday
was so much bigger
than my gender identity or female-ness,
than the fact that I have breasts and a clitoris,
than the heartache
of coming so close to breaking
that last ceiling made of glass
only to have my hopes dashed
and shattered instead.

Yes those identities are important to me,
foundationally and otherwise,
and I realize my womanhood
is sacred, is holy.
It holds me
in connection with the tides and the moon,
the womb of Mother Earth
and all those who give birth to life.
Yes I am a woman, a daughter, a sister, a wife
and damn proud to be all the above and more
but those aren’t the only things I march for.

I march because white women like me
voted this man into the presidency
and I can’t let that be our legacy.
White women like me
have chosen our racial identity
over the sisterhood,
have stood on the necks and backs
of our black and brown sisters
dismissed her and them when
our privilege felt threatened.
When we felt called out or outcast,
we cast the dice in favor of the color of our flesh,
neglecting our common female-ness.
We white women claimed feminism
and took offense when women of color
pointed out another one of our blind spots:
our lack of intersectionality,
the fact that we acted as if our reality
was the same for all women,
that we spoke for all of them.
And when reminded of how skin tone
and economics, sexual identity,
and body politics came into play
we white women got up and walked away.

I march for clarity of vision
because the incision the election left
cut too deep, too close to the bone.
Because the backbone of Congress is weak
and broken and until the people have spoken-
not the electoral college,
not the white men who lack knowledge
and restraint, who paint
this nation as an island, a citadel,
in whose bowels dwell the beast
unleashed to expel all infidels
and come hell or high water,
slaughter the American dreams
of anyone who seems too dangerous,
too threatening,
be it the deafening cries of the refugee fleeing violence,
the undocumented worker forced to feast on silence
the black woman raising her fist in defiance,
the Muslim who prays five times a day that they
won’t be seen as a terrorist,
the trans person who has to continually insist
on their right to piss in their restroom
and the list
goes on.

I march for freedom and unity,
like this brave little state taught me,
because this, all of this,
is so much bigger than me.
It’s about human dignity,
solidarity,
you and me,
intersectionality,
the reality that we all share the same home
and we can’t progress
when we walk alone.

I march because I refuse to believe
that the fight is over and done with,
with all due respect,
that notion is bullshit.
I know who won the presidency
and he does not represent me
or the millions in the human family
around the world
who unfurled banners and sheets
and took to the streets to march too.

We march because we believe
in the ability of one, of two,
of a thousand or just a few
to shake things up and upend the system,
turn walls into bridges and ridges into cisterns,
to reverse the world order,
reach across human-made borders
to shift the axes of power
make the powerful cower
and build the kind of movement
not even the strongest hate can devour.

I march not because it is the best I can do
but because it’s what I can do
right now
and the rest is still coming,
this is just the first test,
just you wait and see what’s next.