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Whose girlhood? — a poem after Kissing Like Babies Oct 14, 2017

by Imana Gunawan

When you think of girlhood you may think of rosy faces with a golden shine on the cheekbones.
Pyramids of giggling girls often sauntering like kissing babies and screaming and squealing when delighted. Or maybe the failed attempts at dyeing our hair pink and bloodstains on the sheets when we wake up in the morning.

When you think of girlhood do you think of butterflies, the way nipples harden under touch. Or toddlers with bangs and a bowl cut (or maybe a bouncy ponytail) playing double dutch and skipping through flowers in a peach jumpsuit. The wind breezing through their hair as they run away from home — abandoning dollhouses embellished with royal blue tulle. Never forgetting the way their mothers carry them on one hand and pink grapefruit or milk on the other.

When you think of girlhood do you ever think of those who flip through her copy of magazines. Getting giddy at the sight of bras and midriffs and imagining what it feels like to put on that clasp for the first time. And still yet always wishing to see herself in the glossy images.

When you think of girlhood do you ever think of the clash of cymbals, like those who were made a “woman” before she ever even asked for it. When you think of girlhood do you think of black and brown girls wishing they were lighter or brighter, because you said so, even though you were ready to devour her either way.

When you think of girlhood do you only think of those with vaginas.
When you think of girlhood do you think about their vaginas.
When you think of girlhood do you think about the times they should’ve kept their legs shut.

When you think of girlhood do you think of black and brown girls.

When you think of girlhood do you think of the color pink enveloping a satin glove enveloping an iron fist
Skimming through bare skin like air brushing against the inner walls of a singing flute.

When you think of girlhood do you think of complicity in erasure of
All the girls that were never seen
In the kickline
Never heard in the pop song

When you think of girlhood do you think of the husk of a beetle, or a snake in winter shedding skin that clutters the ground like shards of glass, ready to scratch the surface of a honeycomb
So it can melt
And let the
flowers bloom
So the rabbits can hop once more.
 

 

Imana Gunawan is a Texas-born Indonesian multimedia journalist, dance artist, writer, audio producer, and member of Au Collective. 

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The Ambassador Writers Corps is a team of experienced writers and artists who develop responsive and critical content around On the Boards performances or write about specific issues in our creative and civic community.

 

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