we can only respect our cultures
when they respect our women.
the rugged path they paved with womens’ bones
is lit by orbs that hold dreams they forced us to forget–
dreams in which limits only came from our fears
and not systemic cages and structural, inevitable dead ends
where men stand in the dark like vampires who use glamour
to feign trust and to illustrate humanity’s tenderness.
forced to walk barefoot on this path, the stones sting
like cigarette burns and pierce like
coerced body art at a tattoo parlor; right before
her tattoo session she screams that
she refuses to go down this aisle with that pale man
she’s run away from in her dreams
because in her dreams she awoke to a man’s
fate tattooed on her collarbone. she chants that
she is no one’s keeper, she is no one’s anything
but her own.

radical beauty

her lips dry like peach slices
as sunlight deepens the complexity
of her skin. she strides in
crowded meat markets and in between
street vendors while laughing with
a belly as sound as the atlantic and
the earth awakens from its
media-drugged slumber because
its gravity can’t hold her down.
she caresses the imprints of
change on her body that no one knew
how to love, and her calloused hands
devoted themselves to loving her;
after fucking popular beauty
she was still happy not being one.

the warrior

looking behind a stained glass window
i sigh. the multitude of realities image
a woman with a spine as strong as tree trunks
and with arms that could embrace the world. i
remember when she squeezed the world too hard
and the oceans poured from her hands and
unprecedented lands cracked between her
fingers. she never touched the world again.
instead she built her shoulders like mountains and
drew illogical symbols of time with fingertips
stained red from the decline of the world
she once held. she looks at her feet and notices that
they’ve become as defying as jellyfish–
i watch as she spins and spins and spins and
screams with a release, a smile, on her face.
we claim the world.

lost in menstruation

i have a small white scar on my left arm, near the crease of my elbow. i got it a few years ago during my period.

i remember i didn’t go to school that day. i mostly stayed in bed and drank hot broths and chamomile teas. during this time, i hadn’t discovered ibuprofen—my doctor never mentioned it to me. she told my mother and i that the only way to get rid of my cramps were by taking birth control pills. my mother, who had heard about the possible significant change in hormone levels, acne, weight gain, and potential blood clots through her favorite radio nutritionist, told the doctor that we would find another way, a more natural way. since then, during my period cycle, my mother would warm up tortillas and place them on my lower abdomen to ease the pain, give me warm liquids, and administer calcium and msm vitamins. she also did this for me on the day i got the scar.

it was late afternoon, and i was covered in a thick blanket, the breeze of a mini fan caressing my face. my body temperature felt both hot and cold, but more cold than hot; i figured that if i kept the fan on, it would cool my body down and i can just warm myself up. although my plan was successful, my lower abdominal area still ached terribly. i rose my knees to my chest, laying on my right side and then on my left, my body unable to determine which side felt better. “I Love Lucy” reruns murmured in the background, and as much as i tried to laugh with Lucy and Ricky, the pain was too distracting. i whimpered to myself. the cramps were too sharp and lasting too long, like the months before. i prayed, begging the virgin mary to let me fall asleep so that the pain would be gone for just a little while.

i finally fell asleep. i felt much better when i woke up, and by this time it was late evening. i needed to use the restroom, so i headed there confidently, pleased with my body, thanking it and the virgin mary for stopping the pain. as i shut the door to the restroom, i collapsed on the full length mirror that was propped up against the wall.

i don’t know how long i was laying there before i regained consciousness, but i wasn’t there for too long because i was still bleeding. pieces of the mirror were scattered across the restroom linoleum floor, my legs and thighs poked with shards of varying sizes. strangely, it didn’t hurt.

i got up, swept the floor with a broom, and questioning what had just happened. i had never fainted before. as i was putting the broom away, i noticed a piece of the mirror stuck near the crease of my elbow.

note: i tell this story because i’ve encountered girls and women who feel that their menstrual pain is only unique to them. i felt this way at one point in my life because at the time, i didn’t know anyone close to me who suffered from severe menstrual cramps. once i met others who also experienced awful cramps—some worse than mine—i realized that i wasn’t alone and that they weren’t alone. women and young girls who experience severe menstrual cramps and those who don’t experience cramps at all, you aren’t alone. none of us are.