By Samia Lagmis

Amidst the roar of men I am told to quiet my laugh

Told to contain the joy straining against the corners of my lips and wracking through my stomach

Told by the men whose bellows strike me from within my very core

Whose raucous roar leaves me quaking in my seat

Tectonic plates shaking and shifting as their sons watch with mouths full of sugar and mischief laced in their teeth

And I do not understand

You tell me “be softer”

But how can I be soft when my knees are gnarled tree knots, rooted in a soil that is not my own, that does not claim me, roots whose water shames me in the frenzied chill of a foreign figure

You tell me “sweeten your voice”

As if its honey is not potent enough for you

As if the sands of my hooked tongue were not already fighting to overcome my white picket fence teeth

The wizened ivory of a language left to be forgotten amongst mannerisms of a mouth stripped of its mother tongue

You tell me “be patient”

When I have been waiting, and my mother has been waiting, and my mother’s mother has been waiting

Generations of waking and dying as time gingerly pinches our cheeks, calls us sweetheart and kicks us in our stomachs with a wink

As we blink away the tears of a sisterhood enshrouded in the fears of our fathers and the recklessness of our brothers

You tell me “find peace in yourself”

When my home has been reduced to pieces,

Ashes of a fire extinguished in the anguish of whole nations left to seep into the bodies of our sisters

Staining their skin shades you can only sneer and spit at as you call us ugly while licking your lips

Reveling at the way my pain clings to your fingertips

Revolutionaries woven into our knuckles and our white flags stained crimson as my fists protest the aching of shackled wrists and a voice that I can no longer recognize as my own

Our mouths ladling the blood screaming from our tongues as you tell me “be silent”

There is no beauty in the hushed tremors of a woman buried alive in the forgotten crevices of a crumbling home and rotted earth

The incense can only do so much for the smell of decaying flesh

There comes a time when bruised knees can no longer bear the weight of broken backs and chipped teeth

When the words you tell me all begin to sound the same

Hollow empty words from the hollow empty men who think they can fill me up

Who try to make me whole

Who once came from women and try to find their way back into her

Skeletal men with sunken eyes and a sadness that clings to me

Sorrow brimming over their crooked teeth as they tell me “be happy. No man wants an angry woman”

Their skin littered with scars

Tigers laden with the stripes of the women who fought before me

Gouged at their skin

Dug their claws into the men who dug their graves

Women who left their marks on the men who told them “be still”

Men whose laughs command my silence

Command my complacency

Men whose laughs drown me in rosewater as they call me pretty

Their fingers rough

Their laughs coarse

And my throat tight

My stomach burning

There are whole oceans in my belly

Oceans these men dare to cross

Their mouths full of laughter

And mine of salt

Men who do not realize the world is shifting beneath my chest

Seismic vibrations of the oppressed

Volumes of women whose voices demand an audience

Women with hands like wood and backs of stone

Women with hearts like mirrors and key shaped fingertips longing for home

Women with lips like roses and teeth like thorns

Sharp and bared

Catching onto the skin of tigers as they say “the men should stay at home”

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