What Women Teach
By Amodhya Samarakoon
Man never taught me how to be the kind of woman he wants.
No, that knowledge came from mama,
miss and missis, auntie, grandmama...
Eons ago when man saw woman,
saw that the light within her was so bright and terrifying
and chained her to the foot of his bed,
she began to find ways to draw that power inside her
in shapes and silhouettes and smiles
to lengthen the chain until it hung loosely around her neck.
She learned through him
and now she shows her daughters and sisters
how to make man break just enough;
too little and the chain holds tight to the bed frame
too much and she becomes undesirable.
She taught them and now they teach us.
How much of our oppression is derived from each other?
It emerged from love and a desire to protect
because we all know the roughness of that collar,
how it scrapes angry hickeys into the skin under our chins.
But I want to know what it feels like,
to embrace that innate power
grown even brighter and more terrifying
as it was calloused by man’s abuses.
Are we afraid of our own abilities?
Can we aim not to lengthen the metal noose but to destroy it altogether?
I begin relearning, reteaching
myself of womanhood...
See, I was taught to taste like honey
but truly I taste like gold
dripping silver dandelion
metallic like bullets and coins
like blood dripping between legs
the iron taste of that rusted collar
that I sent crashing into the floor
burning in the roaring sunrise
nestled in hills of flesh and blood;
for there is much untapped power between my lips.
Can you imagine the things we can do?
The female mind is stronger than you know;
it’s woven from those yellow petals of fire
interlocking with the sheets of man’s grey metal.
We cannot run from our own curvatures
the ridges in our brains, the sloping thighs,
the ringlets in our fingertips, the arching backs.
We cannot run from the light we see in our youngest,
too little to fear man so they speak like queens.
We can no longer show our daughters
how to be the kind of woman that man wants,
how to accept the chains simply to survive.
They deserve a much greater inheritance.
*Inspired by Jamaica Kincaid’s piece “Girl” (The New Yorker, 1978).
Amodhya Samarakoon / @yodalicious13 (honorable mention): Amodhya Samarakoon is from Sri Lanka but grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota. She has loved to write since middle school, doing journalism and writing poetry for all of high school. Now, she is a sophomore studying Biology and Latin American and Caribbean Studies on the Pre-Health track in CAS, but still writes as much as she can on the side. She's always been passionate about gender quality and women's health, and she hopes to become an OB/GYN in the future.