the women that we are

 The following poem was my response to the Nazi Germany Seminar that Ziyana and I did. It was an emulation of sorts to the poem ‘The Jews That We Are” by Richard Michelson.


this is where

we all start.


i am three

and i am

twirling in the

living room

in my ’belle’ costume

from beauty and the beast.

my mother tells me

i look beautiful

and i feel it.



i am nine

and i overhear

my mother

talking with

her friends.

i am supposed

to be in bed

but the sound

of their laughter

invites me

to get up

and listen

from the top

of the stairs.

i peer

down through

the railing

at them

just so

i can see

the tips

of their feet.

one of the women

says something

about her weight

and another—

my mother i think—

uses a word

that i’m not sure

i have ever heard



i looked it up

in the dictionary

i was given for christmas

but didn’t fully

understand until

three years


when at only

the age of thirteen

one of

my friends

went on one

because she wanted

to look like

the women

in the movies.

i think that’s

when i started

trying to abstain

from mirrors

cause whenever

i look in them

all i can see

is my stomach

and how

it is not flat

the way

it is supposed

to be.



i am eleven

and my grandmother

has died.

the only thing

that brings me


is the thick smell

of the

november night

the damp earth

the heaving


and trembling stars.

all of it smells

cold and impossibly


my mother can’t stop

crying so i ask her

to come sit outside

with me

cause it might help.

she looks at me

with stained eyes

and says

that she has just lost

the most important

woman in her life

the woman from whom

she was carved

and ‘fresh air’

will not fix that.

i mumble an apology

and sit

on the front steps

in the snow.

it never occurred

to me before

that one day

i too will lose

the most important

woman in mine.



i am thirteen

and i don’t


the difference

between being

called beautiful

and being whistled

at as i walk past

strange men

twice my age

who line

the wide

city streets

like the soul

lines the body.

i am wearing

hello kitty


under my clothes

and my hips

haven’t even

cracked yet.

i pretend

to enjoy it

cause all

my friends

seem to—

they have

taught me

to place value

in the men

who look at me

like an object.



i am fifteen

and i still

don’t know

how to wear

this skin

that i have been


i crawl around

inside of it

at night

praying to grow

into it

while still


that i won’t—

i learn

to like the taste

of empty

cause maybe

if i starve away

the curves

the wolves

won’t look




i am sixteen

and a boy tells me

he loves me.

i say it back

cause that is

what i am supposed

to do.



i am sixteen

and watching

the election

with my family.

i go to bed

that night


that i would

wake up

to celebrate

the victory

of the first

female president

of the united

states of america. 

i do not believe

that a man

who has been accused

of sexually assaulting

multiple women

will win.

i woke up the next day

and was reminded

that this

is a man’s world

and we are only

living in it.



i am seventeen

and the hashtag

‘me too’

keeps surfacing

on my social media.

it makes me think

of being

aggressively catcalled

in a grocery store

and then feeling so sick


that i leave

without buying

the eggs

my mother

asked me to get.

i don’t know why

but i do not partake.



i am seventeen

and i have never

truly been kissed

by a boy.

i think

i learned

to fear them

before i learned

to want them

i learned

to tell them no

before i learned

that some things

are okay

if you want them to be

i learned to shrink

to make myself


cause i don’t like

being looked at

i don’t like

being made aware

of my body

only after it is being


by another’s eyes

i don’t like

the pawing

and the fingerprints

and the way i feel

after being touched

cause i’m too scared

to move or cause i don’t

want to be rude—

cause it always

feels a little

like dying.

and this i regret deeply.



i am seventeen

and i have been told

more times

than i can count

to be quiet

and obey

like the woman

that i am.

what a shame

it is that

i never listen.



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