Emilyn Kowaleski

Writer & Director

A Letter to My Future Daughter

When my daughter is born,

I will tell her not to be consumed by fear,

though I fear that fear will consume me.

A tidal wave--

I imagine it engulfing her

as she stands at the door of her dreams

unable to maintain her print in the sand,

distracted by the trivial preoccupation

with her stomach in a bikini.

Not trivial.

Not born by an idle mind,

but by observation of the world around her.

Born by listening to voices that I will not be able to shield her from.

I will even wonder if they have discharged from my own tongue,

after having been so long absorbed into my own skin.

She’ll quiver at the wave mounting before her

plucking at the flesh that clothes her limbs

limbs for which she cannot agree on a suitable adjective.

Because every adjective feels like a euphemism

That was bellowed to belittle her own breath

gusts of wind that shake her off balance

as she cringes with the sensation

of a thousand eyes like blistering beams

burning holes into her back

still trembling below the wave’s looming shadow.

It comes crashing

swallowing her into the sand.

And she grips her bones as if they are the only thing that will save her.

Her fingernails pressing into her skin

carving moonbeams

To summon the only light where in

she has learned to find beauty in her own form

She digs them deeper

as they transform into searing sticks

steeped in the flame.

engraving callous caverns

in the flesh she despises.

Finally she’ll release them

to watch the charcoaled ash fall off her skin.

Burned by the pupils

She may have only imagined upon it

She’ll be 9

11,

13,

17,

25,

and look at me and ask what it is like to grow up

and feel comfortable in one’s own skin.

And I’ll hope that by the time she is grown

we might both be able to answer that question.

But I will look her in the eye and I will say,

as my mother said to me

“Be the next generation.

Be the next generation of women

who do not batter their own brains

with the back of their own hand.

Who do not construct whips

from the shame of their own imperfections

And strip themselves

Of their own dignity

Digging the ditch of their own demoralization

Be the next generation

Of women to show themselves

Kindness

Respect

Generosity

Even when they believe that they have made a mistake

Even when they believe that they have failed

How can we ever expect men (and others)

to stop putting women down if we can’t do it ourselves?”

I will ask her, simply.

As my mother asked me

when she’d try to call me out from

my trench within the sand

She’d climb down to meet my gaze

lifting its apologetic slope, and say

 “I know you are afraid.

I’m afraid too.

of the sharks in the water and the swords on the sand,

But why lay your Achilles heel before them and ask them to slay it?

Why encourage a shark to sniff the sorry drops of red apologies from your ankles?

They will eat your own two feet

and accuse you of not being able to stand on them.

So stand on them.

And sink your feet into the sand

imagining that they are tethered

to the smoldering core of the universe.

Summon the lava into your own blood

and let it spray from your lips as you

hold yourself upright when the wave comes crashing.

So that you extinguish it with your own dragons breath

So that it becomes a puddle which you walk through

on your way to work

Where your voice will still be hot,

and your mind will still be sharp,

and you will walk through the door

you didn’t close upon yourself.