I’m proud to announce that three of my poems, “Spotted”, “WWBD (What Would Beyonce Do)”, and “Whispers the Palm” are now live at Watershed Review!
I am so thankful to have them up on Watershed. To see one’s own work melding with the others within an issue is intensely satisfying, nearly prophetic. I feel incredibly honored.
My first poem, “Spotted”, was inspired by Mina Loy’s “Virgins Plus Curtains Minus Dots”. I was struck by Loy’s biting depiction of gender roles, a criticism that is still relevant today. Hordes of perfect, wife-ready females who’s whole existence is centered on living a chaste life, marrying, and bearing children. It was dark and twisted. It was bleak. And I loved it.
Although our times are blessedly seeing a shift away from these sexist ideals, the shift is not complete. Sexism, misogyny, and male entitlement continue to be a massive problem. Just consider the #MeToo movement, then the wage gap, then the fact that this year the current administration met with a Members of the House Freedom Caucus – a group of male legislators – to make it unnecessary for insurance companies to provide maternity coverage in all health care plans.
And not a single woman was present at the meeting. Sorry, but I don’t want a collection of dusty testicles making decisions about my uterus. (read more)
What’s more, although there are 162 million women and 157 million men in the U.S., only 19.6% of Congress is female. So to keep track, women get less pay, less health coverage, and less representation. But at least we get more unwanted groping.
Men took charge of decisions in my religious community as well, and gender roles had a huge impact on my life. There’s a particular memory that stands out in my head. I don’t remember what age I was but my guess is eleven. It was summer and I was helping my mom pack for a camping trip, our annual tradition to Shaver Lake.
I had a fear, a sick thought brewing in my heart. After several quiet moments of cleaning and packing, I told her that I was sure I’d be the only one out of my friends to be left single and unmarried, the last one to be picked, like some nasty kickball game. I said I was worried that come the ripe age of twenty1, I would still be on a different wavelength. I would be a glitch. I’d lack the right software. I knew it would be harder for me to find a husband.
With an empathetic smile, my mother told me to not worry. She reminded me that I was beautiful2, and would therefore have no problem finding someone who’d want to marry me.
Even at my too-young-to-remember-my-age age, it was a hurtful consolation. I imagine my vagina shrunk in on itself. Here words fell on me like a blanket of ice, and my gut was certain I was a badly-made painting no one would want to buy. I would fail at being a woman3.
I still smiled and thanked her.
Countless nightmares of marrying faceless men plagued my teenage years. During this time I did what any other mainstream Christian-Molokan teen did. I giggled about boys with my friends, went to church, tried to learn about maturity, and drunk a profusion of alcohol at underaged parties4.
Then second root of my work: at fourteen, I was subjected to sexual assault for the first time. He was older, and he continued to abuse me for an entire year after.
The time that followed was distinctly void-like and speckled with several more assaults, as well as reenactments of my own trauma. These memories are stark-white in my mind. Terrible moments of frozen horror, and numb acceptance. They greatly influenced my second accepted poem, “WWBD (what would Beyonce do)”. Because years later, I realized wanted to do something about the issues plaguing my religious community and our culture as a whole.
After listening to Beyonce’s groundbreaking album “Lemonade” last year, I was inspired by the artist’s strength, raw honesty, and truth-telling. I wept several times. Then, like any good American, I considered what Beyonce would do in my shoes. I saw her in a gold getup and feather boa scolding the elders in my church, a badass woman smashing false perceptions and constructs until they all bowed to her truth (the religious inferences are not lost on me).
This was amusing5. So I wrote a poem. What resulted was the most cathartic piece I’ve produced so far. Because who doesn’t feel stronger having the Queen on their side?
Finally, “Whispers the Palm” is a surrealist representation of struggling morality and goodness. In a time where my family hissed accusations and mistrust into my ears, very reflective of the shame directed at me following my trauma, this poem is a paint splash of earthy sex, the rawness of desire, and of relinquishing control in the face of judgement. I only needed my gut to write it. I was writhing with the need for completeness, and to bleed out the years of suppression.
This is all I am able to tell for now. Thank you for being here with me. If you or anyone that you know is/has been subjected to sexual abuse of any kind, please contact the police or refer them to https://www.rainn.org/ where they can have access to an emergency help hotline, professional/emotional support and legal services.
- It’s common for Molokan women to marry at a young age, or at least be in long-standing serious relationships ripe for engagement. 20 was apparently a milestone for my developing brain.
- Do not reduce a person’s life potential to the sum of their beauty. This is harmful. Thanks for trying, mom. I think.
- I am for the record, a kick-ass woman. No one needs a ring for that.
- Don’t be too concerned- there were sometimes 21+ attendees to supervise and supply alcohol. Or little boys with fake ID’s. Same thing.
- The poem is not very amusing.