cancelled contract

he is growing inside of me even as you stare and search for new cracks in my surface

even as you watch with a wary eye for the weakening of my worn heart

even as you say your hands are out to catch me when I fall

even when I see your hands are shaking

 

he is growing and I am growing with him and I will not need your hands anymore

 

I know you do not know how to love me without needing a toolbox

burn that manual that was stained with my tears and creased beneath your hands before they began to shake

throw away those nails you used to pound into my skin telling me that the blood was painful but necessary, that the healing would come in time

bury those hammers in the back yard

those hammers you would hand out to the team of healers you recruited in my honor

those hammers that blocked the light enough for me to realize there even was light I had been missing

those hammers I tried to throw right back at you

give that wrench to someone else, to someone who is still in pieces, to someone who has yet to become a home for anything other than pain

break in half that staple gun I would press to my own skin just to show you that I felt no pain, just to show you that I was stronger than anyone else, just to show you that I was so empty, just to show you there would be no blood

squeeze out all that glue you used to bathe me in when I came home at the end of night with my own body scattered between my own arms, the glue you said would keep me together long enough for morning to come

burn those tarps you and the team would wrap my body in as I lay shivering on the floor

 

I am no longer a house for you to reconstruct

I no longer have a demolition wish for myself

I stand on the top of a crane called faith and I have no fear

though the wind blow and tempt me to fall into it’s cradling, lying arms, I stand firmly rooted, a million miles above the collapsed shack I used to be

and I shout “I am no building but the forest they want to chop down for wood!”

and I shout “I am no system of pipes but the rushing river they cannot tame!”

and I shout “I am no mess of wire but the electric shiver the earth feels when the lighting kisses her cheek!”

he is growing and I am growing with him and I have long since surpassed the cage I used to need to stay alive

he is growing and I am growing with him

he is growing and I am growing

he is growing

he is

Modern Women

I am a woman. I grew up knowing that pink was the proper color for me, that I should one day look like a Barbie doll, and that boys were gross. These were all parts of my childhood, though I later grew to realize their inaccuracies. As I grew older I believed that I could be a scientist, author, lawyer, even a corporate executive if I were willing to put in the time and effort to succeed. Now, I know that, although I can be whatever I want, I will have to be willing to work harder than my male peers and make sacrifices that a lot of my female peers will choose not to make. We’re all “equal,” but in a tie between me and an equally qualified male, I lose. All of these are facets of my life as a modern American woman. However, I’m not staying here. I have flying to do. Birds aren’t meant to stay in a single tree their whole lives. So what does it mean to be a modern woman somewhere else?

The other day, I attended a lecture on gender in contemporary China given by Kevin Carrico, who focuses his research on China and the dichotomy between tradition and progress in modern Chinese culture. He was telling us about “Ladies’ Academies,” finishing schools of sorts scattered across China. In these institutions, men graciously transform wild modern women into pure, traditional Chinese women. These young ladies learn important feminine skills like cooking, embroidery, and a deep understanding of the Chinese classics that define a women’s place. Dr. Carrico went to one of these academies to talk to the men who ran it. They explained that these academies were necessary because the balance of yin and yang was off; that women had ceased to be women and thus men were turning to gambling and alcohol and prostitutes to satisfy the emptiness in their homes. Apparently, all problems in modern Chinese culture can be traced to this failure of women to keep to their sphere. Men in all these changes have been the victims. And what of the women who come to these schools? Many are seeking to make themselves more attractive to men in order to find a husband.

I’ve wondered before how my life is going to play out. I don’t want to raise a family or stay at home, yet many of my beliefs and values are very conservative. The balance between liberal goals and conservative values will always be a difficult line for me to walk, and it will only get harder as I one day begin to look for another to share this journey with me, so I understand the motives of these young ladies. However, the idea of preying on fears of solitude in order to promote a worldview that treats women as a scapegoat for all society’s problems is sickening. The world has changed over the past centuries—this is a fact. Not every change has been good, but that doesn’t mean all progress is evil either. Perhaps the changed role of women has been one of the factors in the larger societal changes, but no problem is simple enough to assign all blame to a single player.

The lecture made me stop and reconsider my own place again. My role as a modern woman is infinitely more complex than I had imagined. I will spend my life fighting to be seen as me, Kestrel, not as a faceless woman, modern or otherwise. I believe that my gender is part of who I am, but it doesn’t define me. I can be strong and a leader and successful. I can be ambitious and put aside the idea of raising a family in favor of building a name in the world. Does that make me some sort of societal ill, upsetting the delicate balance of the universe? I’d like to think the universe is much less sensitive than we humans are. If the universe does in fact care about the minutiae of what I do with my life, I think we may have bigger problems than me choosing not to be a housewife.