Our Girls

can i still believe in magic—
    that sparkling, beautiful 
    world of possibility, 
    of translucent innocence—
when i know, 
i absolutely know that
        our girls are not okay?

is there sunlight after rain,
do midnight skies turn to dawn,
can i enjoy the pleasures of
exquisite cuisine or a simple burrito
or laugh at a frolicking puppy
all the while knowing 
absolutely knowing that
        our girls are not okay?

it seems like betrayal,
disingenuous self-satisfaction,
privileged callousness
when my joy
    my opportunity
        my open doors
distract me from my deep conviction
my undeniable certainty that
        our girls are not okay.

you doubt my certainty?
come with me.

girls are reduced to rules and roles,
    judged by clothing,
        choice of words
    told “you can’t do that” and
    “you can do better than that”
        in the same breath.

girls live in fear inside their primary spaces
    whose very purpose is to nurture and protect:
        home, school, church, in peer groups,
            online, in local neighborhoods and communities.

every space becomes threatening—
    open spaces, closed spaces, spaces with friends,
        spaces surrounded by strangers,
    inside and outside
        spaces with holy words,
           spaces with crude words.

they are all the same!

our girls are not okay.

darkness spells danger: learn self-defense,
    keep your wits about you,
        never go anywhere alone,
    watch what you wear, how you speak,
        beware of your demeanor, your eyes, your actions,
    check in when you get to your destination,
master self-defense for times those with you refuse to accept your “no.”

our girls are not okay as
    systems and institutions unite
    to protect the perpetrator and
        prosecute the prey.

i know our girls are not okay.

freedoms are stripped from mothers, aunts, grandmothers,
    daughters and friends—
        just as an onion becomes smaller
            as its layers are peeled
                down to the center,
                finally dismantling
                        its very

our girls are being gutted and they are not okay.
our girls see the wringing of hands
        the shaking of heads
            they hear the clucking of tongues
as religious and political juggernauts
fuse to wield power
intentionally silencing
vibrant young lives hopelessly imprisoned.
our girls know when we have more urgent matters to attend to
    and they are not okay.

why do we gasp at rising suicide rates,
    depression, anxiety,
        listless hopelessness?
how can we lay blame at the doorstep of
    those preyed upon rather than
those preying and praying?

how does their struggle give anyone the right
    to tighten the vice
    to close more doors
    to smother curiosity, labeling it

we can no longer hear our girls as
    brutal hands of authority,
        which we have helped to proliferate,
    violently stifle their cries.

we no longer see our girls as
    we regard these self-declared rulers as irrefutable,
    too powerful to oppose;
our vision has become distorted.

we can no longer feel our girls’ pain—
    we, too, have lost our sense of
    compassion in our desperate
scramble for standing within our family structures,
    our group, our tribe, our community.

if magic is to rise once more,
    if laughter and carefree
    joy is to blossom,
our lament must turn into a fight for liberation,
    our wistful hope into passionate movement,
our dread into a driving storm.

our girls must thrive
    dance and sing,
    run and play,
    create and imagine,
    learn and achieve
    glow with magical pride

and those who care about them must become
a mighty,
roar—a tireless army of those
            unafraid and unashamed
those who focus on the long game
    not the scrimmage
        who choose the wide angle
            not the micro lens

for not one person is okay
    if our girls are not okay.

--Julia P., Adult