I come from a family that blames girls.
for the glances at the gas station and the way our bodies curved
too close to home, I come from a family that loves girls.
with their hair done
in their best clothes
at the Kingdom Hall on Wednesday and Sunday
I come from a family that shows girls how to perform.
for the eyes whose glances they can’t restrain, I come from a family that teaches girls to behave.
to stand up straight
to not talk back
to act like they know what they’re doing
to act like they know how to act
to act like it never happened
to act like it’ll never happen again, I come from a family that loves girls the only way they know how.
by teaching them how to keep their appearance up
keep their hair done
keep their clothes clean
keep a house
keep a job
keep a man
keep their bodies and family’s secrets hidden
keep them people out our business
I come from women who learned to blame themselves.
because if they didn’t, then he wouldn’t
because “he wouldn’t have”
because “he would never”
but he did anyway, and I come from women who learned it was their fault.
so they taught it to their girls
and teach it to them still
…too close to home, I come from a family that teaches girls to die.
to kill the part of themselves that knows
that talks back
that wears shirts that are too tight
and skirts that are too short
that kisses and touches and questions too soon
and wants to feel a pleasure they have a right to feel, but I come from a mother who taught me differently.
to love myself
to love my body
to use it freely
to live life for me, I come from a mother who taught me to leave.
that the only thing worth keeping is my peace of mind
ourselves together, I come from a home learning to heal.
from the choices we didn’t get to make
and the times our bodies weren’t ours
from everything we were taught we are
and everything she and her mom and her mom’s mom learned to be long ago, I come from a mother who kills curses.
born on a plantation
passed down from previous generations
in the stories she won’t tell
and the times she fought back
bruised and pushed against the fire, I come from a mother who says no.
not her kids
not her home
not your fault, I come from a mother who believed me.
and my sister
and my cousins
and everybody else
and eventually herself
when the life was stripped of parts of ourselves we could never bring back
I may come from a family that blames girls, but I come from a home that doesn’t.
from a mother who won’t
who tries to put back together the pieces of us this world broke away
that we had to kill to survive throughout the days
and since I know healing can be facilitated by place, I come home to my mother.
and try again
and reshaping a lineage
with the woman that taught me that being the first is lonely.
I come from a mother who rebirthed a legacy of girls.
and wanting to be whole again.