by Arleen Paré
ask yourself how you bear this state everyday this chromosomal state of x and x like the day you step from the number 17 cross the street up the concrete steps faster along the everyday academic corridor into the university classroom late and a boy with a semi-automatic rushes in and starts shooting starts shouting a December everyday the sixth says he hates women or says he hates feminists he tells the men in the classroom to leave and they do and then he shoots round after round you are all shot the x on your sweater fronts marks you you bear this state of target and in the news your mothers cry for you and your sisters cry and your aunts and girlfriends cry you are every woman in the city this December everyday the hard-packed snow still moans beneath your everywoman boots as you hunch home from your job as a nanny or your job in a greasy spoon dishing poutine and gravy you ask yourself how you bear it
you are every woman you understand warnings by your parents don’t take candy don’t expect too much by your husband in the kitchen when you arrive late with the kids from daycare and the groceries and set the bags on your counter and he says see what happens what did they expect
how you bear it ask yourself why you are in all the cities you are up and down fence-bound laced-up country lanes you are on wailing beaten coastlines on islands in shiploads of refugees in prisons in bedrooms on streets pacing for the next trick you bear it the state of want the state of use the state of disrespect of ridicule of wishing you were dead ask yourself why and if no good answer comes
tear down every poster every newsstand every high-tension wire every bill board every high-rise every highway sign leading out of town every aeroplane in the sky every high and mighty penthouse hotel every bar and grill tear up every alley where you were hurt every research paper that described you and got it wrong every house that trapped you every letter every spite every thought that thought you less every x and y with too much breath in your face or too much blade at your throat every shout every temper every gust of grit around your feet every car parked outside your door every doorway every bank every bonnet every promise every classroom every boy with a semi-automatic under his right arm rushing in yelling freeze just before you do
This poem first appeared in Walk Myself Home: An Anthology to End Violence Against Women (Caitlin Press, 2010), and is posted here with permission from the author and publisher.