You are not a girl anymore

Girl you are not a girl anymore

you are a woman

woman you are reviled and judged

for being a woman

when you were a girl it was suffice to

have a nice pair of legs and a pretty mouth

do you recall how often you were asked to ‘cheer up and smile love’

when all you were doing was trying to grow-up and be serious?

how men would do your bidding because of your WonderBra and not the sense of your words

now you are a woman

you will inherit

inequality

double-standards

and not be able to find clothes that feel right in stores not meant for your body

because nothing is going to come easy anymore and still

as you sit there in your curves and your burgeoning skin

feeling the surround of yourself lapping at the corners

you will inherit also

the voice of your round bellied ancestors

who have come ringing through time and again

been judged, poked, prodded or worse, flat out ignored

seen how silver haired men get all the fuss like carefully licked jewels

whilst a woman of substance is

lost lost lost

behind the mad din and snuff of youth

for youth it seems needs a distinguished father of any age

but does not require

a mother

a grandmother

a female sage

for women are judged upon their reproductive abilities and

the years they have lived beneath the moon listening to the shore

if too few, they are deemed unintelligent

too many and nobody wants to hear

for women are judged upon

scales created long before

an even playing field was won

if it has, if it has yet

for women it is easier to become lost after the lights have grown less hot

held to a higher standard than the eternal covet of men

who are picked up and dusted off by many worshipful female hands

too eager to say ‘there, there, I will help you, poor thing’

who shall help then, the woman?

Not her own kind, surely, nor men who adore only youngest vintage

Who shall see her? When she is grown and perhaps does not accept her allotted place

or wish to remain invisible or grow old with pressurized grace

who shall listen when she wants to be heard at any age?

or the desires of her are beyond the sanctioned pail

or her damp passion which does not flip and flop and require Viagra

a woman if she is loved

is ten-fold her maiden self

for the wefts and the welts are earned and learned and now they represent

a splendid coat of multicolor

she wears with pride and sometimes regret

but more often silver wisdom and the softening yet

of her edges into rounded corners and eventually

a supple circle come full

the world may dominate her discourse

the youth may clamor for their right to change the channel

she may slip quietly through the bridled noise

with strong thick womanly thighs

and as men chase their tail and young women cast a gaze that seems to say

who the HELL do you think you are, old lady?

woman, you do not bat your eyes or rise to those absurdities left behind

for she is the wake of day and dusted sleep of night

cradling the future in her all-mighty grip

she learns from being kicked

to stand she must let go of the girl within and be

a woman of our time

casting her pearly net wide as she

swallows the sea and sighs

letting the tide tumble out with her exhaled breath

aaahhh yes

aaahhh yes

Too many

What do father’s say

To their knock-knee daughters

Not able to sit on their lap and learn to shave

Their distant allegory

A return of themselves in female form

What would they?

A daughter born

Looks up at he who holds the world

Why do men let me drown Daddy?

Her eyes speak of hurt and scorn

Her belly wasted and torn

Why do they tell me I am no good for?

He who reaches

Into ether

Does not know the words for his daughter’s heart

He wants to break the necks of any who hurt her

But there are just

Too many

Rune

They ran through markets

elms strung with sari’s

bedecked with jewels and

girls kenning their heads

babes at their breast

growing crowns of red and indigo

she pressed into my palm

the spell of her rune

smelling of Finnish water stone

rubbed over and over beneath time

leaves still containing their flung pigment

where slippered feet ran and picked them

casting their glass throng to glory

she has the shiny hair of a child and

cheeks full for her pressed size

she who is gone and now returned

talking in other languages with Irish accent

she who manifests and disappears and is reborn

doesn’t look large enough to give birth

or sing at the top of a road the song of her

we were

separated by water and fear and longing

broken in sea, put back together by current

I was always swimming in her direction and the

light tread of her spring

she is a carnival of paper-cut outs

wearing scarlet hose and rings on her toes

yet upward / yet down in earth where

roots inform her choices as well as ancestor

she is of me and I

am stranger and intimate

familiarity is a rubbed sleeve on silver

her thin knees beneath duvet

twitching dreams caught in muslin

tents in high wind holding their claim

sheared gravity, she is lifted from her sail

and through the tarot of her eyes

I see each snapshot and Rorschach blot

when they told us friendship will expire

they did not know

the language of ink and how

it leaves itself

swirling for paper

on which to draw

us

The song of rape

It took one finger to break into her

one finger to make her feel violated and dirty

two to make her scream

the boys laughed afterward mockingly

why you so upset girl? we didn’t deflower you

you should thank us bitch

or maybe we should just do what we came here to do

they pinned her down, her tights stretched between her legs

like her fractured hymen

she saw the beginning of tears and inside felt

the raw and hurt center cry out

don’t come back don’t ever come back

they were only eleven years old

lying on the floor in the outside toilets

staring at the stars hardly there because of all the smog

her lungs filled with hurt

they were her friends

until they became rabid dogs

she didn’t know what switched the switch or why

they felt she was there to poke and prod

they were too small and she was too small and everything about it

was premature

which meant

waiting until it happened again

she wasn’t a victim but some things reoccur

as if on some awful cycle

sometimes she’d shudder thinking about

their little hard cocks

trying to pry their way in

the way it felt to be hurt like that

with unwashed fingers scrabbling and opening

the parts of her nobody should

she could visualize the cement beneath her

the smell of urinals and their unwashed genitals

if they had known enough to put them in her mouth

they would have

thankful for small mercies she knew

kids these days wouldn’t be so innocent

they see porn before they know how to spell

pornography

what ideas they must get and how

many bad things go on behind closed doors

or even ones held shut by little boys

seeking to immitate older brothers

she would have impaled them with

her rage if she wasn’t so ashamed

so she said absolutely nothing to anyone

least of all the teachers who would have

called her a slut who asked for it

even at eleven years old.

***

When she reached fourteen

the Golem returned

held her down, muffled her mouth

stuck it in like a needle threading through skin

her scream pierced every limb

and nobody heard

nobody wondered why

she wasn’t home for dinner

her plate was left in the fridge

she was emptied of the last piece

of her soul

left gasping where her privacy had been

legs spread and men hustling in

one after the other took their turn

after all wasn’t it a party? Make it count!

her face closed off and remote like she was dead

some of them were small and bony

their penises hardly large enough to feel

between the soreness and the swelling

others bore into her like a metalic truck

thrusting her back onto her thin tail bone

hands around her neck

fingers pinching her nipples and breasts

they filled her with a disgusting smell

she was never going to be whole again

or clean

and when it was over, it had just begun

face after face, cock after cock

a tape on repeat of her worst nightmare

they came, they came and they went

the only evidence there staining the bed

and her rubbery legs unable to flee

tied and sodomized like a string of beads

she flew out of her crumpled body

a bird of wing and feather only

she saw someone she almost recognized

torn and ribboned and splayed

a garish doll, a parody, a destroyed shape

someone she was no longer

as she lifted, higher and higher, beyond that point

no pain anymore just the thick blush of shame

hidden in plumage

she felt nothing but

a choking word on her tongue

WRONG

WRONG

WRONG

her child’s form

her hardly grown self

the silence of nothing

then it did not matter

what time she wasn’t coming home

all the world was quiet now

movement had stilled

the door was shut

nobody knocked

nobody unbuttoned their pants

and sank to their knees

lifting her up for one more final

free fuck

as if she were no more than a hole

not a human

not a worthy soul

immitation the greatest form of flattery

is not

she was cold now to the touch

her spirit somewhere in the stars

it took one finger to break into her

and a record set on repeat playing

over and over until it scratched

and could not play

anymore

the song of rape.

For all the survivors whose voices are quashed.

What I learned from my father’s girlfriends #2 Leslie

Canadian Leslie

sensible tweed and corduroy

dressed like 50 at 25

white turtleneck and tanned legs in Winter

a talented skier who told me; don’t slouch kid, you will stunt your growth

she disapproved of children who stayed up later than 6pm

from next door I could hear her twangy voice

then the creek of stairs as they climbed to my father’s room

women from any part of the world make the same sounds

hmm / yes / hmm

Canada, I thought when very young

must be a strange land if it’s covered in snow

and still the girls can be tan and have golden streaks in their hair

she didn’t like European humor or sleeping in on weekends

it makes you fat to be idle, she scolded and ate her sugarless oatmeal

after a while she didn’t like public transport or pub culture

so Leslie applied for a PhD program in animal husbandry and moved to Alberta

where I hear she raised eyes

adopting Vietnamese pigs and falling in love with a man from Beirut

her WASP parents wished she’d stuck with my dad

they weren’t ever going to work

she hadn’t liked my baby photos and wouldn’t watch

film noir detective shows on Friday nights with Indian take-out

she left behind some maple syrup and we poured it

on white toast

because after all, this was before we’d learned

how to make Canadian pancakes and Canadian waffles

from French cooking shows

What I learned from my father’s girlfriends #1 Mariana

s60_66

Mariana was nineteen and built like

a short Bogotá cigar

her skin was buttery and she

used a lot of lip gloss

in those days every woman worth their salt

had a Princess Di cut

Mariana, 5’ft nothing, full of contradiction

Columbian girl with English Princess bangs

she spoke using long consonants

her teeth were crooked but very white

her breath smelt of chocolate and hairspray

she said; sé una buena niña y te daré un dulce

so nicely I couldn’t be naughty and disobey

we read books together, learning the same words

when my father got home she delighted him

with a South American sauce

I wanted her to be mine

to keep her with my marzipan frog

on my mantle

where she’d fit right in and squat

watching over me when the night grew dark

I didn’t want her to leave

the day it rained and she boarded Air Iberia

in a yellow slicker and tight Gloria Vanderbilt jeans

I’ll write you mi Amor she called

a yellow handkerchief tied around her neck

reminding me of 1970’s air-stewardesses

crying more for the loss of me than

my father, already checking out arrivals lounge

for a time I received

Little Twin Stars and Hello Kitty

perfumed notes with bubble handwriting

until I forgot too, her words of endearment

she was like my marzipan frog

who disappeared one day

years later I found out

he’d rotten being kept too long and been thrown out

just like children cannot understand

the whims and fickleness of

adult love

What they have to learn

The teacher hadn’t enjoyed teaching in a long while

ever since her notions and reality rubbed against one another

exploding the myth she held in teaching college, of making a difference

her students

whom the administrators asked her to refer to as clients

wanted to pay for a degree, not to learn

we don’t have time to study they lamented

we are too busy with everything else which is, so much more important

the students

did not respect her because she earned less than

they believed they would earn in a few years time

she wanted to say DREAM ON but it was no longer acceptable

to tell the truth

especially with college administrators

(who were paid well, to shuffle papers from desk to desk)

watching in the wings

she recalled why

she had wanted to be a teacher

at eight she’d been sent to a foster home

where the ‘father’ decided to show and tell

using his fingers in wrong positions

she ran away and lived

underneath a bridge for the night

listening to the stars wink on and off

and the weave and fall of the world

the next day they found her, dirty and lost

spanked her for making up lies about being abused

and sent her to another foster home

this time the mother

starved her lean

told her she was fat and ugly

when she hardly weighed in

got her to clean and cook and scrub

she preferred that kind of reality

it didn’t involve lies it was honest in its

taste of cruel

when summer was over and she returned to school

a new teacher had begun work

she had the faraway eyes of a dreamer

and her voice was soft like bird song

without saying a word she knew the children who

had been neglected and abused

she’d encourage them often and whisper in their ears

this may seem like this is all there is

but there’s so much more!

one day you will be free to escape your confines

you can shrug off your sadness and become

anything you want

so when the time came for her to age out of the system

she didn’t bring flowers and a card for her foster-mother

instead she packed her single bag and left before

morning showed in the sky

the room was bare and emptied but somehow

it didn’t look so different to when she’d lain there

trying to take up the smallest space

funny that we can inhabit a place for so many years and

when we leave it’s like we were never there

a wraith who didn’t get heard or couldn’t

break out of her little mincing trap of potted meat

she hated the flabby jowls and empty eyes

of those who pretended to keep

her safe

being old enough now to look after herself she

enrolled in teaching college hoping one day

she could reach a child who sat at the back of class

with dirty socks and a mouth full of regret

but time moves on and things change even as they stay the same

kids become hardened, demanding, insolent

hurry up, please it’s time!

parents throw expectations like rocks and call educators

pathetic losers who can’t do, so they teach

she wondered

is cruelty a vein, like in a rock

inherited over time to savage and destabilize

our yearning for safety?

standing there, in her cheap hose and one good pair of shoes

the scuff blacked out by polishing

she saw in the sassing faces of her classroom

a loss of care for changing the world

her own longing to reach through time and alter

one person’s trajectory lost

in the hustle bustle of uncaring formula

spitting out diplomas and marching forward

not thinking at all

about what they have to learn

Written for World Teacher Day. In appreciation of teachers.

Family photo

Draw a line in sand

She’s the border of one side and the other

At times unteathered

Without prediction

There’s a mystique to change if it’s bidden

And if not …

Galloping down flights of stairs in Wellington boots

Doors unlatched, bodies surge toward the wild

Leaving behind tables of cups and saucers

A black current stain on her dress, she didn’t

Care what others thought

Letting little boys see her private parts, beneath the weeping willow

Hers was the reaction

A swinging, uncovered, naked lightbulb

Denied its right to be switched off, to sleep without searching hand

She learned, the way of obedience, had a sharp taste in her throat

Better climb out, scale the walls, tear your hands than

Be mounted with his collection on a pinkering wall

To dessicate and lose color, for each pulse of his filthy yen

A gamble necessary to quit and never look back

Running on bare feet with feathers in her mouth

If she left the earth would she sink or float?

Going over the edge, empty-handed and savage

Yet .. children survive

Incomplete and clean of doubt

Their enemy known, in the family photo

Imperfect paradise

Today baby, everyone is pert and beautiful

Photoshopped at perfect angle

Swollen lips, weak jaw, 2000 friends with guitars

Can’t keep up, even if I were two and twenty

Better my generation-X lost our film

Before developing

Didn’t keep a record, of that mistake, or this bad day

We pretend and forget, imprecision a comfort blanket

Not wanting to keep in touch, why force natural closure with technology?

We lost your digits and never knew your surname

A blurry mystery of poor memories

Was it that candlelit poet’s bar now closed?

No proof, no evidence, if a tree falls, does anyone know, if it’s not on Instagram?

I liked your home dyed hair, we shared night under looming sky in damp sleeping bag

You fucked my ideals of love when you slept with her

Sent me on my way with a trash bag of belongings

A dead squirrel slothing skin, lay ackwardly beneath your window

Its stink remaining when I was gone

Rumor had it you used her hose as contraceptive

I never french kissed again, or wore tights

Her name was Bo, there’s only my recollection to endear spite

If I saw her today, she’d be married, still tan and leggy

I’d be tempted to gaze up, crack a joke about what denier she preferred

Glad I don’t have a Facebook post about him

Or the other errors, or the other sins

We ran without skin, coats, phones, without GPS location

A bum camera slung on collarbone, for special occasion

Your grimy hands entwined in mine

We knocked our shins on tree stumps

You don’t need Technicolor to be lovers

You took a photo of me nude against the bed

When we argued I tore it up and now it’s zero

Thankful, as I hadn’t used a razor in too long

Along with you and your cigarette butts making daisy wheels of carpet fiber

We smoked when we knew it would kill us

We didn’t floss

Those were the days of ugliness, sloth and 3am torn condoms

I loved your 90s dirty hair and sunburnt cheeks

Keanu in The Rivers Edge, chasing Dennis Hopper and his blow up doll Mary through pine forest

Lying in dead grass in the park, watching topless girls dance with loops of fire

You pressed into my hips, we made out and I can’t remember much besides, the way your fingers felt inside

Perhaps I left early and rode the bus back through dark city, head leaning against grimy glass

Maybe we slept all night and I gave birth

To the ecclipse of time

Shifting and changing

No evidence of

Similarity to now

An imperfect

Paradise

The next generation

This isn’t a pity poem

who the hell wants to read one of those?

but if I’m honest

which I’m not very often

preferring to put on a mask and sit mutely smiling on the outside

it’s sometimes harder to pretend and say nothing

than let it out

if I did let it out

what would IT look like?

am I really so bad for having an urge to share?

the empty feeling inside

surely that’s how we hope to fill ourselves

with something other than hot air or quiet despair?

one thing worse than peripheral is rejection, so usually

we stay quiet about how we really feel incase it’s true

nobody really gives a damn once you’re grown

how I got to this juncture is the easy part

a girl is born, her gender is already

a strike against her in a world easier on men

we don’t treat girls very well

maybe there should also be a rule against small families having smaller families

call it what you like, I call it diminishment

I was diminishing before I was born

when there’s nowhere to go, you usually strive to go up

but I was bad at direction, turned into a box turtle and hid in my shell

hoping someone would pry me out

that was my second mistake

generally it’s worth noting, people do little for free

if I could tell myself that I’d have said; Don’t rely on anything but you

you end up staying inside too long by yourself

before you know it, even the language you speak

taints your chances to pretend to be normal

I look

at photographs of other people

they are surrounded by people, fitting in like

well crafted pieces of puzzles I do not fit

I was the kid sent off to eat with other families, never my own

it felt like a kick in the shins then, and everytime since

feeling ackward in a crowd

because I didn’t learn how

to belong

so this isn’t a pity poem

i’m not chafing with self imposed isolation

not the girl who smiles when she’s crying, or maybe I am

or the one who feels more alone when amongst a crowd

everything is so quiet when that’s how you’re born

it takes a fortitude I don’t possess to break the cycle

erase the twenty years forming a tongue without social skill

I hear the sounds of a party rising over the walls

a party I could be at though, I know

i’d be pressed against the wall without a way out

though all I’ve ever wanted is to learn a way in

i whisper

i am irrelevant in this scenario

self worth is tied to others even as we know it comes from ourselves

i didn’t generate any faith

so I don’t believe in God or me

but I do believe in you

if this was a pity poem I’d ask

why you didn’t help me learn how to live?

though I know the answer already

you couldn’t do it yourself, what chance for me?

we’re cut from the same cloth, you and I

that’s why we both hide

like the man in the high tower

did he ever feel as lonely as I do?

why didn’t he need

the things I cannot seem to reach

it’s like I am stretching out for them

but the betrayal of beginnings and everything after and before, is too deep

we betray ourselves most of all

in trying to be what we just aren’t able to

a teacher once told me you can be anything at all

that’s a lie I know it

we each have chances and some of us have fewer props

so we stand ackwardly by the side

trying to be someone we’re not

until the inauthenticty feels like a curse

we revert to type even as we dislike who we are

this was set in motion before we knew

we’re just the next generation of lost

not self pity, no, more like a pain

a mere poem cannot do justice