763: Erasure of Girlhood

763: Erasure of Girlhood

763: Erasure of Girlhood


I’m Ada Limón and this is The Slowdown.

There are times when we define ourselves by what is missing. Or at least I know I can. Sometimes it’s something I need, sometimes it’s something I wish for. I wish for so much. I miss the people who are no longer living, I want them back. I miss items I’ve lost, or letters I once burned and I wish I hadn’t. I wish certain trees would grow back. And there are parts of me that I wish would return, too.

I miss my certainty, sometimes my flirtatiousness, sometimes my kindness even, my belief in the silver lining. It’s not that I am not hopeful, it’s just that there are times when I miss that smiling girl who’d put on her jeans and walk down the street and not expect danger or not presume the man hiking in the woods where I am hiking might bring harm. I miss feeling safe, even if I wasn’t safe.

Just the other day, I was walking in a little 26-acre pocket park near my house. I walked toward the little spring that’s called the Blue Hole for its blue hue and its depth. As I was watching the dragonflies along the surface and the toads along the edge, I noticed movement on one of the other trails. I stopped still. I found myself completely hiding until the person passed me. I don’t like fear, I wish I didn’t have it. I wish I was braver than all get out. But, like many women hiking alone, I’ve been bothered by men on trails before and I didn’t have the energy for it. And so I hid.

Here is where I admit to you that I wish that “having common sense” didn’t translate into “being scared.” I think about safety a great deal, my own, my beloved’s, and I’m the first to tell a child not to walk alone, not to hike by yourself, not to go anywhere where someone might find you, harm you. I wish we could do away with all the fear, but at some point in my life, I was taught to fear because not having fear got me into trouble.

Today’s poem is an exploration of the end of girlhood. This poem uses the erasure style to elucidate not just the event itself, but what is missing. It’s on our website if you want to see it in its unique written form. And a note, that this poem does reference sexual assault. Please skip today’s poem if that is right for you.

Erasure of Girlhood
by Sarah María Medina

I walk behind my           & he tells me it’s like our first        &        fear swell

in my       chest like a wet storm that        forecaster would ever wish       predict

tracks left oil       after       he put the fire out & now       in search

                        & he asks me          down & I whine          far from the river

               into January       cold & coyotes out here &       down & 

down & my         numbs from the cold &        my face &          bury my teeth

                       without fleeing &          the        seared my       rose in my

           & the sap from the tree            into the air & the stink of it smeared my

& the river came back          I could always hold the longest underwater

I lie                  my pants                    pulled                     tongue

                pain                    hips                       bile                             throat

cut down bled into                     a flood of salt                       my breath whine

                       now lovers always stare into              kiss my breath, I

never                         to the mattress

"Erasure of Girlhood" by Sarah María Medina. Previously published in Poetry Northwest and Nepantla: An Anthology Dedicated to Queer Poets of Color. Used by permission of the poet.