After Yasmin Belkhyr
Poem for girl with tart tongue. Poem for girl with tightrope lips. Poem for girl with head of hair made of zebra stripes. Poem for girl with carousel teeth. Poem for girl that never lets on that she knows all the sideshow speak. Poem for girl cartwheeling her way into your big top chest. Poem for girl that swings from the trapeze between your ribs. Poem for girl with hourglasses taped to her thighs. Poem for girl with secret dagger strapped to her ankle and she’s not afraid to use it. Poem for girl with ferris wheel knees. Poem for girl with a bust your mouth on the pavement walk. Poem for girl that can juggle all the motherfuckin’ elephants in the room. Poem for girl with a walk on stilts sense of trust. Poem for girl that knows the light at the end of the tunnel through her cannonball wrists. Poem for girl that can tame the lions in her chest because she always was one.
How To Teach Our Sons To Respect Our Daughters
Be intentional. Sound out the word reverence. Define it.
Teach him to stand in the middle of the word
while sustaining a vibration of love.
Hand over questions, even if your hands are shaking—
especially if your hands are shaking.
Even if the words tumbling oﬀ your tongue
break open on your lips, teach him
how to stitch them back together.
This will be an uphill battle.
Strengthen your legs.
Be prepared for the day
when you have to walk back down the mountain
for the umpteenth time to take him by the hand,
even when you had thought
he was just playing hide & seek with you
at the top, especially then.
Don’t lose hope. Don’t drag him back up
kicking & screaming. Take him by the hand
& draw him map of your steps. A map that he can hold
when your hand can’t be there.
Teach him that the word Yes doesn’t always mean Yes.
Sometimes it means—I don’t want to be a cock tease.
Sometimes it means—We fucked before so I guess this is just what you do, right?
Sometimes it means—My father ignores me.
Sometimes it means—I’ve had way too much to drink.
Sometimes it means—I was drugged.
Don’t hide in a corner just because your cheeks
will turn pink elephant & stomp around the room.
Do it for the 11-year-old girl that was gang raped
in Cleveland, Texas. Do it for the girl in Steubenville,
do it for Sarah Butters. Do it for Jada, the 16-year old girl
that stood up in front of an entire nation & said,
Everybody has already seen my face & my body,
but that’s not what I am & who I am.
Teach him that she is the perfect illustration of why
there are laws in place to protect her canvas of a body.
Teach him to pick up the brush & honor her.
Teach him to paint over the splatters of red.
Teach him to calligraph the word Integrity
on the inside of her thighs. Teach him
phrases like, Your body is a sacred outfit.
You don’t have to carry around all that shame.
Teach him with love. Teach him with tears.
I don’t fuckin’ care how you do it but please,
teach him. He’s waiting for your instructions.
That’s the Way Love Goes
Ask me why I stayed. Ask me why I stayed
& I might say because he said he was sorry.
I might say that after every bruise he swore
that he would change. Ask me about the time
he put his father’s shotgun in his mouth.
Ask me why he did that & I might say
that he was afraid. Ask me about the time
my face met a locker in crowded hallway.
Ask me if anyone oﬀered to help. Ask me
how many times they asked themselves
why I stayed. Ask me if they thought
I was stupid. Ask me about the brigade
of black-and-blue fingerprints that
marched up & down my thighs, how
they were drilled in secret under lunch tables
because sometimes jealousy makes you rage.
Ask me again why I stayed & I might say
because he said he loved me. Ask me why
I stayed & I might say because I loved him too.
Ask me if it was more complicated than that.
Ask me about his tears. Ask me about how they
flooded the banks of my teenage heart into the city
of his entitlement. Ask me about his father.
Ask me why his mother moved out.
Ask me if I truly thought
that he would ever change.
Now ask me
why I left.
Amanda Oaks is the founding editor of Words Dance Publishing. Her works have appeared or are forthcoming in numerous online & print publications, including decomP, Stirring, Dressing Room Poetry Journal, Glamour, Elle, Parenting & Artful Blogging. She is the author of two poetry collections, Hurricane Mouth (NightBallet Press 2014) & her co-authored split book, I Eat Crow (Words Dance 2014). She likes poems that bloody her mouth just to kiss it clean. Connect with her @ http://amanda-oaks.tumblr.com