Immersing myself in the black night ocean, my skin startles at the touch of what is outside knowing. It presses itself against me with the fullness of its body and strange breath. When I wash up on shore again, a changed woman, I’ll carry home infinity as salt in my hair.Sticky Note, 02/25/2020
This poem is about taking all those scary things that women deal with and turning them into a badge of honor rather than one of victimhood. One of the most traumatic things about growing up as a girl in the U.S. is that we are pretty much threatened with sexual violence at every turn. From an extremely young age, we are accustomed to seeing statistics about the likelihood that we will be or have already been raped or otherwise sexually abused, harassed and victimized. At the same time, we are internalizing a rotten fruit salad of ideas about who we are supposed to be sexually — pretty but humble, sexy but virginal, all that bullshit. Children internalize that stuff like mother’s milk. We are so vulnerable when we’re small, and we don’t understand how toxic the messages are at first because we’re just struggling to get by and feel ok about ourselves. It is extraordinarily challenging to grow up into a functional human adult under the weight of these absurd contradictions, and yet, we do. Every woman in the world who is out there achieving things, having opinions, raising children, earning a damn living, building an empire or tearing down the fucking walls — every last one of us has been through some hard stuff, has survived something we thought un-survivable, and has grown from tragedies we thought would destroy us. That is the infinity we carry with us. When we brush up against that scary thing in the ocean but still come back ashore, we know our strength a little more. We were not born to be just victims and survivors. At times we have been those things, but the force within us that spurs us forward is more. It is heroic and unstoppable. It doesn’t give up, and it cannot be killed.
If right now you are lost in the ocean, take a deep breath and try to float. I believe in you, and we’ll be waiting for you on shore.
For anyone interested in editorial practices, this is the 4th iteration of this poem. It has been written on a post-it note every time. The changes have all been relatively minor. I’m really attached to the sticky note as a “form” because it’s challenging to make it look nice on the page with good line breaks and strong phrasing. I like a nice dense line. I want to put as much meaning as possible into a short space. I can be long-winded when given the room, but we have a pretty short attention span these days. For example, only true word nerds like myself will be reading this far into this post, so hey: Shoutout to everyone who has actually stuck around till the end of this paragraph!