by Mary Saracino
I was bred to appease
close the gaping mouth
a child speaking
in the foreign tongue of docility
relying on conforming consonants
denying voracious vowels their due
jailing truth behind clenched teeth
taunt lips, a shaking, frightened heart.
Even then something inside
refused to cooperate
prowled the dark alleyways of muscles
scrawling thick, bloody letters
on the walls of veins staining the bedrock
of sinew with graffiti
something stood proud like a furious flag
called for revolution
something howled: "I am not for sale."
Even under the sullied breath of childhood
I sometimes whispered whole
sentences of insubordination
befriended the slang of dissension
quietly at first
then more confidently, questioning
each syllable that stuttered across my startled mouth
all that my voice withheld
my relentless heart demanded.
Long miles from youth to now
ripened into insurgence
not anarchy for its own selfish sake
but justice breaking free.
The years ferried me past complacency
away from the shoreline of orthodoxy
beyond the borderlands of muteness
far from the places where a woman’s silence
is her best kept secret
where she must always know her place
abdicate her will
keep her mouth shut.
Now rebel nouns and verbs dance
upon the tender tip
of my tenacious tongue.
A woman must always ignite her voice
speak of her hunger
satisfy the ache
of purpose that gives birth to defiance
suckle it to her breast
tend to it as if it were
the last child on Earth
the only hope for humanity’s survival
because it is.