This poem was performed at Deeply Rooted: A Gathering in May 2016.
I was made with more than flesh in mind;
A mind! Imagine that.
A mind that reasons & wonders why
All you see are body parts;
Mountains & valleys that you can walk over & conquer.
Not afraid of rough terrain or how it will fight back,
Just looking for a place to stick your flag.
A claim for all to see that you saw, you came & you conquered.
I was made with more than flesh in mind.
Given the gift of womanhood,
Of soft curves, short stature & the hope that one day
I will meet her.
The woman I’m supposed to become –
The woman everyone seems so excited to meet.
I was given the gift of womanhood.
A package filled with more than
Sugar in the raw &
Spices to fill the rack.
My womanhood lay underneath
Tissue paper and ribbon.
Gently laid and ready to be assembled.
My limbs were put together by women;
Women older & wiser than me who
Fastened me, piece by piece.
Putting my arm in a socket,
Showing me how to embrace
A mother &
Telling me one day I won’t need any instruction
To embrace a lover,
I’ll get enough practice when I find him.
Placing my hips low to the ground,
With a laying on of hands
Showing me how to sway when a beat calls to me.
They place my feet firmly on the ground & tell me
Each step I take will lead me
Through pain unbearable &
Toward pleasure unimaginable.
I was given this gift of womanhood,
As much as you might think my hips sway only in your direction,
My body submits simply to your touch,
& my lips never speak anything but your name.
You are mistaken.
My body is not a present for you to unwrap &
Discard when you’re done playing.
My body is a gift from God with
My name on the tag.
A God that gave me the ability to create or wait,
Or just to say no if I choose.
My hips are not just childbearing –
They are weight-bearing, rhythm making, melody moving &
Cocked from side to side, depending on my mood.
These breasts are not meant for you to unclasp & set free,
To fondle as you dream.
They were meant for me
To push down, push up, fill out my dress if I see fit
& if I want you step
From that plate to touch a new base
I will tell you.
And what I hold between my legs
Was never meant to be called
Chastity, virginity, purity or honor.
It was never meant to be
Property, a bicycle, or a revolving door.
What I hold between my legs is not called
It has a name
all its own,
but one I choose
& do not have to share with you.
What I hold between my legs is
Beauty beyond measure
Ecstasy without ceasing
A point of pleasure & pain
Of life & death
& it is by invitation only that you get to come.
I have the God-given gift of being a woman &
What rests between my legs is divine pleasure,
What resides between my thighs
Is something more than a switch
Madonna & Whore
Virgin & Slut
Prude & Pleasing
What I hold between my legs is more
Than a fleshy existence
More than a quick night or fleeting fancy.
It is a place where life begins
Where existence is known
And where more women have been hurt
Then you can imagine.
I never thought I would have to explain
That my body belongs to me.
That it is my own,
That it does not belong to you.
I never thought that my decisions would give you ownership
Of a body that you do not take care of.
A nice dinner might fill my belly,
But do not think of it as admission
To play games and ride around as you please.
Take a whirl all the way to the top &
If you like it,
Make it spin again.
Pay a little extra and maybe it will go backwards?
I was made with more than flesh in mind.
I have the God-given gift that you try to turn
Into something I should hide
Or something I should give away.
But I have decided to keep this present,
This ever present gift that is God given,
The gift of being a woman.
Of soft curves, short stature &
That ever present hope that one day
I will be her,
The woman that everyone seems so excited to meet.
Poetry has been a vehicle to explore her own challenges with body image and her identity as a Latina. She has been performing poetry for the past few years at various open mic performances in Philadelphia and Chicago along with using poetry as part of her academic career. Elyssa is working on a book of poetry from the point of view of biblical women, especially Old Testament women such as Hagar, Dinah and Jael.