A love letter to women

Photo by Rose Renolla

I’m sorry they made you believe 

you didn’t deserve that little, black dress

because of the shape of your body.

I’m sorry they made you cover up

to protect their delicate sensibilities.

I’m sorry because you had to stiffle your spirit,

you couldn’t shout,

you couldn’t curse,

you couldn’t get mad

without being accused that your guts are spilling

from your mouth.

I’m sorry you were silenced.

I’m sorry your body is like a caged bird – 

however hard you try to spread your wings,

the bars keep holding you in.

And I’m sorry they always confuse you –

I’m sorry they tell you you don’t need the accents on your lids

but they don’t care enough to tell you

that you are beautiful

without your war paint on – 

and so you keep skipping back and forth

the line between 

basking in your natural glow

and needing your layered masks and bloodied lips.

I’m sorry they insist on measuring your worth

by your plumage,

or the weight of your body,

or thickness of your legs,

or the pitch of your voice.

I’m sorry you were made to feel like your worth had to be measured,

when in fact you are weightless and capable of defying gravity

when you fly.

I’m sorry they said your wings aren’t strong enough

to endure the flight towards the sky,

that you were robbed the freedom

to feel the wind beneath your wings.

And I’m sorry there aren’t enough people speaking for you

when you find your voice trapped by your gilded cage.

I’m sorry there aren’t enough people 

fighting for you to be free.

I’m sorry you’ve been designated as prey

or pet,

or decoration,

or property.

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry.

And it’s probably hard for you to believe

that you are free,

when you’ve been living with all the restrictions

that’s been weighing down your wings.

And I’m sorry for that too.

But you should know,

that once a bird, always a bird.

They can put you in a cage

but that won’t mean 

you’ll forget how to use your wings.

Gather your strength

and bid your time.

And when it arrives,

fly.

Fly and never look back.

Go back to the wild

where you can screech and claw and hunt

spread your wings

go wherever you want to go.

No one owns you.

You were never meant to be caged.

Political Correctness

 

My mother taught me that if I have nothing nice to say, I should just keep my thoughts to myself. The lesson never stuck.

I went through life with my foot permanently shoved down my throat – always grabbing the least perfect moments to say the wrong things. It got me into all sorts of trouble, which I didn’t mind, for it’s something you get used to when you can’t hold your tongue.

I couldn’t be politically correct even if I tried my hardest. Which is why it doesn’t come as a surprise that when I fell in love with you, all the things that made my brain buzz with excitement added to the mounting pressure I could feel pushing against the walls, the ridges, the fissures inside my mouth.

And I tried. I tried to hold it all in, like a dam preventing the water from flooding and drowning an open field.

But you know what they say about habit – you can only fight against it for as long as it takes for it to kick in, take you by surprise.

I said I love you – putting everything I am at stake in just three words. You looked at me like it was an assault, like you’ve been victimized, brutalized, like I grabbed my pen but instead of writing on paper, I stabbed you with my words. No one saw it coming even if it was in plain sight – not you… certainly not me.

I always thought it would take a storm to make a ship capsize, I’ve seen all the movies. I didn’t know three words were enough to make every crew jump ship, leave the wheel unattended until the ship sinks or crashes into sea boulders. But what the hell was I thinking trusting all those pirate movies when I knew that just like fairy tales they’re just products from someone’s imagination, they’re fiction. Just like this thing we have, it’s all in my head and apparently it’s a sin.

Well, I refuse to apologize. What I feel isn’t a bloody curse word I swallow inside the church and sing as a fucking hymn of praise. I refuse to be politically correct about my feelings. I refuse to treat my emotions as if they’re so disgusting and offensive. My love cannot be a crime – not when it finally feels like I’m starting to do everything right. Not when loving you feels so good.

When I was young, my mother always threatened to wash my mouth with soap if she ever heard me utter a curse word. The insides of my mouth have never felt so clean but the soap couldn’t wash away the stain the bad words left behind, I can still taste them sometimes. The memory of every bad word that passed through my lips left a tinge of unpleasantness I couldn’t wash away, even with wine.

I love you – I thought the words would taste sweet even if they were wrong.

I love you – it tastes like vomit.

I love you – it makes me want to wash you away from my insides violently with soap.

I love you – I wonder why the kiss of death had to be served in mouthfuls.

I love you. Let me savor it one last time – that fraction of a second where the words are almost sweet, that moment before the bitter takes over.

I love you.

You think I should learn to be just a tiny bit politically correct. But I will expire by spontaneous combustion if I don’t let my guts spill. My love isn’t a sin. It’s not a filthy profanity. I refuse to let you make me feel guilty.

The temple for which you should offer your prayers:

Love, you’ve been worrying again.
I see from the look in your eyes
you’re about to wage war on yourself again.

But why
do you have to be
your own
enemy?

You let the men tell you
you should be soft.
You let them mold your curves
so you can finally define yourself
a woman.

You let other women show you
that you should be hard,
choose to be predator not the prey,
lest your heart
be unguarded.

You let other people
talk you into fighting their causes
while you remain deaf to your own.

Can’t you tell
your soul is asking
to be excused
to not be accused
to be given more breathing room
to touch base with itself?

Why must you set your real self aside
for the woman they tell you
you should be?

You are soft
as you are hard,
you are gentle
as you are strong,
you can be as much rough
as you can choose to be silky smooth.

Don’t be the temple
listening to prayers
that aren’t yours to hear.
You are as much
of a woman
as you hold yourself to be.

You matter.
You matter as much
as everybody else,
never too much,
never less,
always just enough.
All you have to do
is spread your arms
and hug your real self.

You exist.

In case you ever doubt
who you are,
look at yourself
in front of the mirror
and see:
you exist.
Skin and bones,
subdued and powerful –
just how a woman should be.

The Modern Fairy Tale

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“Mirror, mirror on the wall,
who is the fairest of them all?”

Like the evil, stepmother queen,
voices teach us
we don’t need to look within.

Now Snow White, with her doe-eyes,
grace the magazines,
eyes reflecting only bright lights.

Cinderella wears only
beaded gowns
she’s always pretty
walking around town.

Ariel loves her legs
and hates her tail –
she forgot she was birthed
by the sea.
She thinks not being herself
is what will set her free.

Rapunzel still lives in the tower,
waiting for the man
who has the power.

Mulan commands an army
but to do so
she must always prove she’s hardy.

No, the fairy tales
aren’t to blame –
we fell deep into society’s game.

We tell girls
they are just little princesses
to be more would be an excess.

But princesses
can wield swords too
while wearing high-heeled shoes.

If we teach our daughters
to look within
they will value more than the color of their skin.

This is the modern fairy tale
we teach them to ride the tide
we don’t tuck them in
with drawing pins.

“Mirror, mirror on the wall,
little princess, don’t settle for fair –
when you can have it all.”

The wrought way to do things.

 

This is where it went wrong:
you thought you saw through me.
You could have known me
but you decided
that I’m simply like everyone else
so you pinned a price tag on my shins
hoping you can stick it in
and pay the minimum price.
But I’m no commodity;
my affection can’t be bought
by anything you can touch.

This is where it went wrong:
you chose the easy way.
I do not fancy myself a goddess
but I am still a woman.
I want to see sweat and blood,
skin and bones,
your secret desire offered
in exchange for my benevolence.
You flatter and you scheme
and you play a tired game.
You think you could pull a wool
over my head
like I haven’t seen that
from someone else.

This is where it went wrong:
you thought I was a princess –
that I would marry myself
to the biggest dowry,
like I’m too weak to conquer and
seize my own kingdom.
But thrones have fallen before me,
kings have knelt and offered gold,
jesters have bent over themselves
trying to make me laugh;
I remain free as a bird
evading cheap tricks that ensnare.

Let me tell you, darling,
if all I wanted was a damn castle
I simply would have asked for it.
You’d know that
if you had the courage
to put in time,
to recognize the plumage
I wear on my soul.
I may look like every other bird,
like every other princess,
like every other girl,
like every other bloody object worth a few pennies.

But I am a rebel
of my own worthy cause.
Don’t give me what I stand
against for.

Sometimes a poet must know she is also poetry.

image
Photo by Rose Renolla

If you want to help a poet
break her heart mercilessly
like you are crushing ants.
Chase her until you drive her
towards the dark caverns
that scare her.
She will come back
with a darker shadow
and the paper will cringe
and the pen will shake
afraid of all the demons
she will let lose.
If you want to nurture a poet
open her eyes. Throw away
the beautiful things.
Show her things that are ugly
and teach her how to find
beauty in them.
Show her your soul.
Be her puzzle or better yet
ask her a question she can’t answer.
Let her stay up night after night
racking her brain until she understands
the value of not having closure.
But if you want to love a poet,
dismiss the poet and talk
to one who’s left. Stare her in the eye
and tell her that even without her pen,
she exists and that she is someone
a poet would love to write about.

Your heart is a home.

 

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Photo by Rose Renolla

Close your door
so he can knock.
The path towards you
could be long and winded
but be patient.
Maybe your love is a traveler
wearing worn out shoes.
He will knock on someone’s door
and ask for a new pair.
Be patient,
the love that’s meant for you
will arrive.
Nomads will come and go,
they will stay the night
feeding on the bread you offer,
sleeping on your bed,
but be patient.
Don’t make a settler out of them.
They are company that’s yours
to take pleasure in
but they will go when it’s time for them to go –
when they hear someone’s heart
call them home.
Be patient.
Don’t make them stay.
Thank them for the company,
send them forth with a hug.
Close your door.
Don’t leave it open
for those who have gone.
Be patient.
You are someone’s destination.
So close your door.
He will knock.