Identity and Poetry as a Sober Girl

Disclaimer: this post strays from the regular sober theme, but is very much in line with my sober goals of being a more genuine, soulful, intentional being.

This weekend I went to a two-night event at a small independent theater and listened to eight queer black authors share their words on stage in front of a captivated audience. I am neither queer nor black, but their words and emotions and passion really moved me, and they got me thinking about my own self-identity and how I view myself in the world.

Once upon a time, I used to consider myself a passionate, compulsory poet. From the ages of 15 – 20, I wrote prose and poetry feverishly in notebooks, my words developing from flowery and romantic to more sober, realistic observations on life. It was just a thing I did. It was so ingrained as part of who I was, that I got the word “poet” tattooed on the nape of my neck. Writing was my second nature.

But then, suddenly, I just… stopped.

I stopped for a lot of reasons: an abusive boyfriend, the stress of being in college, losing my supportive community of writers that I had built up during my junior and senior years of high school, working long hours in food service. Where once I couldn’t go a day without writing, suddenly, I went weeks and months and then, sadly, years without ever really putting pen to paper – at least, not in earnest.

This continued through college, into my first few years as a working professional. I felt no creative urge. I was so wrapped up in the idea of climbing corporate ladders and making money and having the next best idea that I failed to re-ignite much of a spark within myself to keep writing. I wanted to prove myself as a young, female professional, and not soon after, I wanted to prove myself as a good wife.

Then, things fell apart. My husband left. I lost my job. My world was rocked, unstable. I felt like my heart was going to jump out of my chest on a daily basis.

After my short-lived marriage unraveled and I moved back into my father’s home, single and terrified of the future, I found myself taking solace once again in writing. Most of it was directionless, heavy-handed drivel – but I felt my desire to create picking up again. I wanted to write. And I really, really tried.

It’s still a struggle. Much of what I write is closer to personal essay, such as what I write in this blog, with a few moments of poetic inspiration here and there.

Going to this queer black poetry reading event two nights in a row hit deep at my creative bones, and inspiration hit me on my drive home.

And so, after getting home and snuggling in with a sparkling water and my warm wool socks, I wrote. I wrote about something that has been on my mind a lot: my identity.

Through my schooling this semester, there has been a lot of focus on identity-building and counselor self-awareness as a tenet of being effective helpers. Truly, we cannot know others until we know ourselves, and we cannot help others until we’ve helped ourselves. Listening to the poets’ writing about their own identities – as queer, black, trans, masculine, feminine, immigrant, American-born, creative, soulful people – I began reflecting on my own identity: as a white, single, sober, creative female.

What came out of my fingertips genuinely surprised me. I read it back to myself and felt… proud. Which I haven’t felt about my poetry in a long time.

So, I figured I would share it here, as an open point of vulnerability and intentionality.

Note: there is some adult language in this one.


I am female and
somehow, I seem to have forgotten that –
or maybe, I try to keep from remembering it
when it hurts too much to look at my fat thighs and smaller-than-average breasts
when I grab at my pasty white stomach, or hide the cellulite on my ass

I stand on my little balcony overlooking Franklin avenue and
as I watch the cars drive by, with coffee warming my hands, I start thinking of
all the ways I’d love to have my uterus
taken away
so that I no longer have to worry about playing host
to a cave that holds the world’s dark secrets
no more fear of some ghost taking over
my female body
distorting me from the inside out
while men watch and breathe humid breaths down my back –
I never want that.

I am female and somehow I seem to have forgotten how to be just that
I have forgotten how to feel sexy, feminine, powerful
I look at other women and ask them silently,
how? how do you do that?
because when I look at my round moon face all I see are
the dark circles under my eyes
that have been there since I was 17
that appeared once I started making myself throw up in the quiet bathroom stalls
far away from the closest classroom

I am female and that means I’ve been trained to recognize my self-worth through
the appraising eyes of whichever man is currently fucking me;
and this man I’m with right now, he is not the type for compliments, sweet words or pillow talk
he kisses me under the covers only after we’ve turned the lights off
it’s been a year, and I am still too shy to bare my breasts in front of him
in natural daylight, where he can see my belly and scars, where he can detect
my imperfections and I cannot protect myself from his eyes;
I am his first but he is not my last
and my female thighs are hardened each night I have to bounce
to make him feel good
in the dark

I am female and that means it’s my duty to keep pace with the boys
who drink pitchers of beer in dark bars every friday, saturday, sunday, monday, tuesday, wednesday, thursday night
I did, for a while; I kept in-step with their pace and somehow that made me a better catch
until it made me crumple into heaps on the floor, but we don’t speak of that
not when we’re out with men, not when we’re keeping pace to show our worth –
“Yeah, I’m a girl who likes a good IPA. What of it?”
but now, I sip lemon water slowly, savoring, as the boys keep pounding the glass to their chattering teeth
I don’t want to keep pace with them anymore
I don’t want to keep pace with anyone, ever
And I see out of the corner of my eye one mouthing the words to another man,
“she’s dry,” and then the following, “ohhh…”
Oh, oh, okay – she’s one of those

I am female and this means I am statistically more likely to have a vocation as a helper
when I help, I want to collect the stories of others and hold them in my heart because
sometimes I’m afraid I don’t have any stories of my own
what am I: just some white girl who got married too young, who shot her dreams in the alley behind
a house that kept safe a flat, starched future full of cover letters, emails, meetings and drunken nights
a girl whose ex-husband had eyes that were known to wander and want
a girl who keeps wanting to give herself to others even after they’ve taken everything she has to offer
time and time again.


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