Leila

Blog 12 Leila
Image: Leila (photo courtesy of Sam Lim Studio, 2010)

Today, the House just passed an abortion ban. You’d think I’d write about how infuriating that is, but instead, my plan was to post a poem discussing the very nature of how young girls are trained since an early age to doubt their own power, where slut-shaming and this obsession with women behaving properly have become divisive tools among women themselves who should be supporting each other through the difficult decisions we do make in life, one of those deeply personal decisions being abortion. The current trend seems to be a constant game of pitting women against each other, with men at the center of the conversation who seek to govern our lives, our bodies, and how we see each other.

Instead of talking about the current assault on women’s rights that is happening right now, I offer this poem that speaks to the reclamation of the female self, i.e. the experiences we go through not only leading to the discovery of our self-worth but also the reclamation of lost sisterhoods that have suffered in the process under a society that seeks to keep us divided between being women of propriety versus women of resistance.

We need women of resistance more than ever right now.

18 to 21 – the ages we stripped off
the last layers of our adolescent skins
raw to the core and spared
our little sisters from repeating. 

A space in my throat still holds those
particular years through your eyes.
I can still see our innocence and the
lessons that spread us apart for years 
like Iberis seeds sown into rock
only blooming when judgment
wouldn’t matter anymore.

For years, neither of us could reach
for the other as each girl
struggled to climb out of
her own separate inferno.

Our sisterhood then was so fragile where
the term slut was a rampant knife
slashing at the seams of our
frail identities by self-righteous college girls
who scoffed at any freeing behavior and
preferred to place golden crowns
on their own lady-like heads only keeping themselves
from fully becoming women, the kind of
women we were who questioned, toppled walls, and
fed our inexorable appetites
where no book or dude or song
could ever satisfy.

That was us 

even then. 

It was stupid, and it wasn’t stupid.
We really had no idea then though
we really did want to know. 

We germinated for nearly twelve years apart,
slowly finding our way back out of the chasm,
when so much growth and light and bloom
had our tendrils eventually reaching out
across internet walls until we’d coincidentally
find each other part of the same wall
no longer dividing us but connecting us
like vines and veins. It is hard to say
I miss you as we relay hilarious tales about
theatrical baptisms and the
Herculean strength
of our beloved grandmothers,
laughing as if we were seldom ever divided,
though in your familiar lilt, I see 18 to 21.
They weren’t necessarily years
we made terrible mistakes. We just
wildly defied limitations and it took
nearly twelve years to clear the spaces
we had so tiredly outgrown, the pernicious spaces
of those who only tried to quell and
confine women like us, when we still didn’t know
just how deep we could dig ourselves up
into the women we eventually became.

And we most certainly became.

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