Being a woman is like being underwater:
it’s a very loud silence, it’s a live thing that beats.
Always looked at, looked on, looked in;
always studied, always grabbed at and howled at and whispered to.
One million eyes, the warm breath of a predator, the touch of hands filled with too much,
requirements, dreams, years of cultivated expectations of beauty and sex and only the ideas of things.
You’re only safe, you’re only comfortable if we’re smiling,
if our voices stay smooth; the idea of a woman.
I think somehow, girls inherit the fears of their mothers.
As if they whisper them into our soft new skin as infants.
We carry them around until they are ready for us. And then? I don’t know. What now?
How do we unlearn?
All of those histories, all of the years, the fear and disgust and sadness,
so carefully drilled into us, rehearsed, instructed, broken in,
in ways so subtle and sharp, too subtle to recall or recognize anymore.
Like a faint smell inside a room that makes you dizzy and sad, makes you need to lie down.
These fears are pillars, things showed to us by gods,
things played over and over for us to watch until they made our hearts their home.
“Don’t touch me,” this heart says, “if you’re not nothing.”
I am tired of the fulfillments.
I need nothing and air.
Air and nothing.
I need to braid my hair.
Being a woman is like living with wolves.
We grow tired of hands that think they know, hands looking for objects;
being eaten alive and those fast, empty hands and
a greedy desire for the knowledge of what woman means, to find us, finally:
for you, open and empty.
I think probably the world was meant only for us.
Probably the world has it all wrong.
In our wildest dreams, we are all barefoot.
In our most favorite dreams we are out in the woods. All of us.
Every time I wash my hands I run them across the porcelain of the sink
to wipe away any debris that might be there I think always of my grandmother.
I was told she did this too, a movement I hold inside me,
an instinct to cleanse with my own hands.
Her own hands,
all our hands passed down and down forever,
running across the porcelain sinks until the end of time.
Kerry Giangrande writes poetry and short fiction from the Catskill Mountains in N.Y. Her work has previously been published in Chronogram Magazine, Connotation Press, Galavant magazine, Illuminati Girl Gang and other literary blogs and websites. She is working on a collection of her work & sighs often. Find her online @kerrylillies.