She Times Three

Rajasthani Women by art-zuza


Wore a dress of ash, light as smoke,
Tattered from the rubble of decay.
Had sooty hands, black nails framing white deficiencies,
Eyes holding on to a gravestone gray.

Wasn’t a son,
Born with birthright or promise,
No shoulders to carry the guns of man or the fears of her mother,
But a burden to be fed
In a house with no food,
Closets with no shoes,
Rooms void of beds.

Just a girl
Teaching others
The art of invisibility.
To shroud themselves in the jigsaw alleys
Strewn with mortar and men, disease and resentment.
To forage for food, dissect faces, count stones, carry secrets
And battle in whispers of the faceless.


Wore a dress of cerulean,
Woven threads of ocean blue,
Knowing the deception of placid seas.
Words came to her in the abstract — watercolor phrases,
Asymmetrical faces, rubbed out landscapes.
Made music out of sewn arguments
Rising from the windows of her crooked home,
Leaning with burden, doorframes sighing to one side –
Father at midnight, ghosts at sunrise.

Wasn’t a son,
But a reader of the fallen sycamore leaves,
Illustrations carved in its body,
Sap wooden creatures with hard faces and lingering eyes.
Swung her scrawny legs in the high branches, out of reach.
Palmed the rough bark to callus her skin,
To become treelike.

Just a girl
With imaginary friends.
Left with her mama when she was ten.
New school, new rules, new trees with different leaves,
Only to pack up, outrun, outsmart the foxes.
Rooting her toes in the soil of books,
Learned the art of storytelling, to shape her past into beasts
Slay them one by one, to sleep soundly and quiet the fears
Of footsteps and sirens at night.


Wore a dress of marigold,
Laced in sunlit fields, spilling in the dips of valleys.
Spoke the language of flowers, a student of spring.
A child bathed in beauty, spiral curls,
Lips the color of crushed berries smeared along the garden trails.
Living in a glass castle with empty halls and hollowed hearts.

Wasn’t a son.
With each female who followed,
She rose, gathered girls like daisies,
Taught them to straighten their spines,
Know when to get out of line, to interrupt time,
And bury pockets of sun
And shine.

Just a girl,
With quick wit and a sharp mind.
Chopped off her spiral curls,
Dulled her cherry lips, tore her dress,
Learned the art of growing in the dark,
To bury self-doubt, trample the well-worn paths.

Wasn’t a son,
Just a girl
Who grew into a woman.
A survivor, a storyteller, a teacher
Who never again
Apologized for being

-S. S. Hicks


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