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 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
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
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
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.