I feel like I should say something about the poem below. I’ve been getting very worried messages from people since I posted it online, so I feel like it needed a bit more background information.
I wrote this poem after I had been reading an edition of National Graphic about gender. The magazine not only focused on the plethora of possibilities of gender (and how the biological physical differences don’t say it all), but also on the difficulties that both sexes face in different places all over the world. There was a written piece about boys going through initiation rites in Kenya in which they have to proof their manliness for example, and a different article on the horrors many girls in Sierra Leone go through because of their sex. The pages about genital mutilation, rape, exclusion of education, violence and abuse filled me with rage while I was flipping through the magazine.
I happened to read this in a pretty isolated place in the middle of a canyon in Peru, where I had felt slightly unsafe and vulnerable being amidst only male hosts and far from the world. During dinner, the vibe had gotten even more diffuse, which made me decide that to prevent was better than to cure, and so to lock the door of my room even though it seemed to have some trouble opening and closing. When, in the middle of the night I woke up and wanted to go to the bathroom, I just wouldn’t get the damn door to open anymore. After having given it a solid try, I gave up and as I sat on my bed, these words came to me.
Eventually I got out of the room and everything turned out to be fine, so I don’t look back at it at being a traumatic experience nor exceptionally unsettling episode during my trip. The poem is more a translation of the series of events together – the unjust situation of many girls and women around the world and my own feeling that eversince I left home three months ago, many a guy I meet has been making unwanted advances which have led me to be on my guard fulltime in order not to get involved in unsafe situations. What I’m trying to say is this – I am fine, the words below are about things a lot bigger than me.
notes to self (she)
Be careful who you talk to
(Don’t trust anybody)
How you’re standing
(Keep your distance)
What you’re saying
(Don’t be inviting)
And if your eyes don’t shimmer too much
(But don’t be a victim)
Be careful where you are, in which moment and with whom
(Keep away from drunks)
Pay extra attention when it’s dark
(Note the sounds)
At all times: bring your knife
(And always be ready)