For the wise girls
I am working with a group of young ladies, age eleven. I teach them what they already know. This poem came from our work together.
Remember, when you are older, the wisdom you hold today.
See again this room and this moment,
Your own voice speaking
The lesson of the orange:
That we are as we are
On the outside
Skin bumpy or smooth
Blemished or whole
Bruised or burnished or
The orange as it truly wa/is:
Radiant circle of sun
Holding and giving light/fe
Dripping its deep beauty across our finger tips
With irresistible orange-ness.
At age eleven you know
That oranges do not improve
With tucks or tweaks or dressing up.
(I wrote on the orange to make my point and later
I could not wash the eyes and lips and hairdo off.)
We talked about toddlers and tiaras and all the things
That girls and women do
In the name of beautiful.
“That’s fake!” you told me with scorn
In your voice,
Your hair tied back
Above your strong square face.
“That’s fake. Beauty is what you are on the inside.”
And I almost cried
For the beauty of you, and for
The child I was who didn’t know
That simple wisdom