For Little Girls With Big Questions and other poems

For Little Girls With Big Questions and other poems

For Little Girls With Big Questions 

When you start feeling your
hips spread and chest bloom
and feel the expanse of your
geography unfold like brand
new parchment, 
                               learn the new
peaks and curves and shallow
basins your new land is made
    spend time tracing out the
maps yet unwritten, mark your
favourite spots with your fingers
splattered with paint 
                                      explore how                                       
each touch feels by practising over
and over again, till the mysteries of
your skin are written in short, sharp
snippets of Braille,
                                   take a deep breath
and measure how long you can hold
it in, teach yourself the number of
seconds it takes for your body to ask
for help, always offer it before your
counting ends,
                            taste yourself: the
yeast of your skin, the salt of your 
sweat, the ocean of bitter-salty-tart
that will never taste anything but
human, animal, wild- 
yourself you will never think of
your body as a temple — it cannot
be torn down, it is not someone
else’s to desecrate — 
                                   find on your-
self soft soil, and tend to it, you
will learn how to collect seeds
from the fruits that spill open
in your heart
                        you will have a 
garden to plant, some day: allow
yourself the water and shine
you will be expected to deny.

Quarter Woman

Quarter woman

Learned how to shrink since day one
from full to half to what she is now,
each half of her ribs halved, paper
doll stuck together with expectations

origami miracle, accordion folds
each lung wrapped around itself,
each breath echoed till it whirls in-
side, memory of each scream etched 

on skin bound so tight the bones
under it warped and twisted into  
punctuation marks she never had
enough breath with which to add to

sentences that flatline, her mouth a
too sharp line stretched into a too
wide curve (baby, why don't you smile
no more?) against which she skids,

hands trembling against the too
warm steering wheel, face smashed
against a too brittle windshield, glass
ceiling shimmering in her hair like

stars finally in her reach, blood
blooming, expanding, reaching out,
staining loudly enough to be seen,
and smelled, and tasted, and heard

taking space, taking hurt, taking  
fear, wreathing them into angry
demands declared in louder roars-
quarter woman no more, no more

no more.


Some day, when
you can —

meet me where the tip
of my tongue


                                   the corner

of my mouth, where my lips part


                                       reconcile like

lovers still discovering the creases
of each other, still finding footing in
the sheer, unedged rock of new starts —

meet me there, where intention is  
still fluid, still soft, wet from where
I tried to nibble it into shape;

meet me just before I bite down
too hard,

edge into the corners of my jaw —
settle in, sticky sweet slowing
till it melts into my skin 



                   just like you.


when you have forgotten what
          it is like to be a girl, but have not
yet slipped on the skin of a wo-
          man because it itches, ill-fitting,
untailored for your too-short legs
           and too-long arms, look at a girl,


a girl still a girl with fingers and
            toes that feel like her own, and
watch carefully how her eyes are
            a little removed from her tube-
like body, still soft and straight,
            saltwater taffy yet unpulled into


grotesque shapes she will spend
           her life untangling herself from,
unwilling sailor forced to learn
           of knots she never wanted to tie —
watch carefully how she stares
            back, waiting for you to demand 

of her the cost of being, a debt she
             carries in her still-filling bones,
a debt you still pay, and hold her  
             gaze; offer her a moment without
usury, without extortion, and let
             her save it up, gathering interest.

How To Crack A Rape Joke

This is how a rape joke is built

first, you pile up the clothes you
were wearing that evening, red
shirt, high collars, ratty jeans you
meant to throw away, yellow bra
with a fraying left strap and your
panties with almost stretched
out elastic and straying threads:
light them up with alcohol and
the lighter your mother always
frowned upon, the one that rattled
in your bag when your shoulder
hit the wall and you couldn’t open
your mouth to scream (you tried)

This is how a rape joke sounds

take all the times you heard your
sister cry when she thought sleep
had taken you, add the sounds of
every ‘but what were you wearing
that day’ and ‘but are you sure it
was rape’ that you store your teeth
till they burrow into your gums and
bite the softest parts of you when
you try to speak and untangle the
the lilt of each word till it stands
sharp — weave it through the centre  
of every punchline that leaves you  
gasping — a punch to your gut.

This is how a rape joke is told

wait till the smoke from your pile
of clothes is thick enough to choke
you and dense enough to cover all
of your face, lest someone recognise 
you as the ‘girl who was raped’; you
are now the perfect victim, just loud
enough to exist but soft enough to
be a story wrapped around everyone’s
tongues from where you can be  
conveniently spit out — you are now
the perfect sound byte, a catchy
slogan for the crowds, you are the
star of a narrative you never allowed.

This is how a rape joke feels.

This is how a rape joke feels.

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