‘I used to be a girl’ & other poems by Rosel Jackson Stern

Gentlemen I see you

Gentlemen I see you and at times it’s hard to love you.

Like when you stood next to me in the checkout counter and promptly proclaimed: “She’s my new wife”. You were probably twice my age.

Or that time when you reiterated something wonderfully intelligent a woman

said moments before and claimed the idea as you own

Or when you stalk me home at night, your predatory gaze licking at my heels

You see me too and therein lies the problem; you love only what you see

To you I am sculpted into what fits

A hip, an ass, a pair of tits

Gentlemen I see you and at times it’s hard to love you.

Like when I hold my best friends heart in my hands

because it’s been promptly shattered by the father who called her a whore,

wishes her dead because then she can’t hurt his pride

Or when you shun the crops that are my love, but harvest them all the same because you need to grow into a big strong man – that’s what daddy told you right?

And it’s with glassy eyes I stare, into the assault present in women everywhere

– The result of that all so necessary strength you bare

So forgive me if I proceed to tear out my hair in frustration, for I do want to love you dear gentlemen – it just seems like a fruitless task

Maybe it’s not possible, maybe it’s just too much to ask?

How do I combat years of socialization to which I am the punch line, punch bag and life line And how to I come to grips with a problem that’s not mine?

How do I look my future daughter in the eye and explain to her “baby, this is the situation we’re in”

Gentlemen I see you and at times it’s hard to love you

Like when your treatment of me and my sex means I cannot love fully Always casting an eye over my shoulder,

Should I die, breathe or concede?


Flight Attendant Poem

Passengers of life, attention please!

The seatbelt sign has been switched on – some turbulence is expected

A stubbed toe, stampeding crowds and wounds all infected

But please be appeased ladies and gentlemen for anxiety is here and so is fear – that mechanism of survival

Those oh so, familiar friends who insist upon fastening their fingers across your chest

Like a too tight seat belt – making you squirm with unrest

The voices in the tannoy echo through our minds keeping us blind

For what a danger it would be if we actually moved outside existing boundaries

“Houston, we have a problem” — our passengers can see

But it’s all to keep me safe right?

That caralarm heart is for the best, make me up for the test,

Fit for fight the flight attendant says

There’s a life jacket of insecurities in the seat in front of you,

An oxygenmask in the glass ceiling, no panel, above your head

Be a good girl now, the attendant whispers, breathe into those crushing expectations

– you’ll need them when we land and try something new

Never mind the shredding of your insides for the fruit it bears is indeed so rare, Too valuable not to give away

Make sure you take care of others first before you attend to yourself

By all means unbuckle your seatbelt when the pilot has switched on the seat belt sign But don’t blame the airline, when you don’t like the taste of freedom

When earth shatters and world war three commences

I am here for your safety she said, trust me, ignore your other senses

There is supposed to be objection here, a little voice telling us that we mustn’t preserve the status quo, carpe diem and the sky’s the limit.

If I could, I would place a parachute in your overhead compartment so that when the time came you could strap it to your back,

run to the emergency exit and jump, dear passenger of life

But I don’t have one.

What I do have is a tissue to lend and a helping hand to extend

when the air starts to thin and your lungs starts to wheeze – breathe dear passenger for you have the way out – I know I have because guess what:

I fired the flight attendant.


I Used to be a Girl

I used to be girl.

I used to be the best at monkeybars

I used to be faster, stronger, braver and smarter than all the other boys “It’s wingardium levIOsa – not wingardium levioSA”

I used to not care what others thought of me,

and run faster than all the other boys

I used to climb trees and fall from their branches only to pick myself up again

I used to run in circles of sunlight

hair clinging to my brow and dirt to my knees

I was free because my body didn’t matter

Today I am on the brink of becoming a woman

I can feel my insides convulsing as I age into a dress that’s far too tight constricting my lungs, unable to breathe

My gateway to pleasure now comes with strings;

use a condom or you might get pregnant,

take the pill so your boyfriend doesn’t have to lift a finger,

take the shame when the pharmacist asks you what happened here watch out for bacteria in the wrong places,

don’t wear that on a night out or you’ll be asking for it

but count your calories in case you do

My body is no longer my own, it belongs to other people and I am tired.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. All you have to do is dedicate hours and hours to mentally affirming your worth in world because it’s all in your head.

To get through the day, must shizzle and carve your way into

a space that was not made for you.

And I will not sit here and listen to men while they talk and talk and talk about marginalised groups: Who are you?

How can you ask me no questions about what it’s like to be me, but speak of my experience –

love the sound of your own voice,

then proclaim that I must have good politics for listening

You know nothing of woman.

I do not want to talk to you.

I do not want to explain a pain you cannot understand.

I used to be girl.

I used to be the best at monkeybars

I used to not care what others thought of me, and run faster than all the other boys

Illustration by Anna Campbell

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s