Written by Tallulah Gray
The Poetess Heart is a series of articles dedicated to women writers of poetry and their poetic explorations into girlhood, womanhood, and femininity.
Now that we have begun the process of tearing down our own marble statues, let’s recognize and celebrate the women around us for who they are and they build us up.
As I scoured the internet for our next empowering poetess, Rupi Kaur appeared at the top of nearly every list. Kaur is well-known for her feminist poetry, inspiring women to self-awareness, and casting a spotlight on these ancient, shadowed marble heads. She picks up her pen with fervor and aims at critical angles to fracture the negative ideals with which we have been conditioned. This poem, however, from her book Milk and Honey, first destructs the impossible standards of our marble sculptures and then recontructs them as a more solid foundation of the unity we should embrace.
Written by Rupi Kaur
you tell me
i am not like most girls
and learn to kiss me with your eyes closed
something about the phrase—something about
how i have to be unlike the women
i call sisters in order to be wanted
makes me want to spit your tongue out
like i am supposed to be proud you picked me
as if i should be relieved you think
i’m better than them
Rupi begins this poem at the surface, with what appears to be romance, but her wording clues the reader into something deeper. Kissing with closed eyes is common practice, after all, and I think whether man or woman, we all try to search for that someone who is somehow unique, but Kaur is asking us to question this type of conditioning.
Are we truly loving the person for everything they are, or are we just loving the idea of them being special, choosing to accept only the parts we deem worthy of love?
I remember going to dinner one day with the ladies from work. Somehow we got onto the topic of beauty, and one said, “Lindsay is so beautiful. I don’t ever want to sit next to her at a party!” We all laughed at the joke while she blushed, but the truth of the situation was much more dire: Lindsay is just like all of us and has feelings, too, so I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t want to be the girl who no one wants to sit by simply because she makes them feel self-conscious.
Lindsay is sweet, funny, a hard worker, and she loves her job as a cosmetologist, because she can help others see their own beauty and feel comfortable in their skin. I’m blessed to say, that I can sit next to Lindsay any day of the week, but I would love to be surrounded by more women like her.
My mother (who radiates compassion and generosity) taught me to care for others; my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Rabin, who encouraged my writing and inspired in me a love for teaching; my aunts who remind me to be gracious, to stop and enjoy the little things in life, and offer praise every time our paths cross for the strong woman I have become; my friends who are all beautiful in their own ways and, together, create a tapestry of varied ages, races, weights, heights, jobs, and personalities; but each is a lovely woman to whom I turn, just as they turn to me, in times of need.
Sisters, we should not compete for the affection of any individual who has not yet learned to kiss with their eyes open.
Take some time to reflect on the women who have played a part in helping you come home to your womanhood.
we all move forward when
we recognize how resilient
and striking the women
around us are
Milk and Honey
We are not in competition; together we are more.
Join me in acknowledging the women we sit beside, and celebrate them by writing a poem which both honors those wonderful ladies and reminds others, that we can always make room for one more.
If you’re willing, please share your poem on Instagram with the tags #thepoetessheart and #proudtobelikeothergirls. You can also message the poem directly to me @tallulahgray. I’ll be reading!