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

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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

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

Calm


i forget how far away I am

i have always been … too far


she says; Goodbye darling

in a voice I know better than my own 

a voice playing in my inner ear 

avoir d’autres chats à fouetter

distracted after my first mistake 
pencil in mouth, sucking on lead
never good enough or precise in my knit

i don't know if

it's the last time I'll hear those words

what I do know

is I'm trying to stop myself

crawling out of my skin

and I can't say why this has happened
this creature who seeks succor 
at the end of the day 
to hear your voice
letting her know you're okay 

but they'll never know
my child's wrapped need 

i can set a tone
as ships collide and planes come down
when literally the sea is on fire and
she's no longer coming home 
These thirty years 
cyclones making cream of wheat in fields

and when I'm at my worst

i sound

so damn calm

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