For girls who didn't grow up seeing themselves as the main characters of books, award-winning poet Elizabeth Acevedo wants them to know that their stories are just as important as any other. Acevedo shares her Brief but Spectacular take on seeing you.
This is for us
by ELIZABETH ACEVEDO
This is for us writers, us readers, us girls
who never saw ourselves on bookshelves,
but still wrote poems when we talked.
& we been called teeth-sucking of snapping eyes
born bitter brittle of tangled tongues
sandpaper that's been origamied into girls.
Not worthy of being the hero nor the author.
But we were always Medusa's favorite daughters.
Of serpent curls, of hard-eye looks.
Dreaming in the foreshadows: we composed ourselves.
Since childhood, taking pens to palms
as if we could rewrite the stanzas of lifelines
that tried to tell us we would never amount to much.
And when we were relegated to the margins:
We still danced bachata in the footnotes,
we still strong armed the gate-keepers,
we still clawed our way onto the covers.
Brought our full selves to the page: our every color palate
and bouquet of pansies, of gold hoops, of these here hips
& smart-ass quips & popping bubblegum kisses.
Us girls, who never saw ourselves on bookshelves,
but were still writing tales in the dark.
Us brown girls: Brick-built:
Masters of every metaphor and every metamorphosis:
catch us with fresh manicures
nail-filing down obsidian stones and painstakingly polishing our own
mirrors & stories into existence.
ELIABETH ACEVEDO: This poem that I read for you all was my thinking through, what does it mean to be someone who maybe didn't grow up with a mirror and wanting to create that now, to see your reflection and also show kids who might look like you, like, hey, we're here.
It's very much thinking about those of us who wrote even when we didn't see ourselves as main characters and for those of us who are writing now, who hopefully will come forward with more examples, but who are also going to carry the torch of saying, our stories are just as important as any other stories.
I think a lot about the movements that are happening right now in terms of MeToo and TimesUp. We are going to shift the status quo, shift the way that women have been treated for so long.
And I just hope that the shift always remembers women of color and poor women and disenfranchised women who maybe may not have the loudest microphone in front of them. And I hope that those of us who may not be that loud are still, like, thought of and remembered and passed the mic.
My name is Elizabeth Acevedo, and this is my Brief But Spectacular take on seeing you.