You were — made from the sweat of good girls.
Your mama was a good girl and her mama was, too.
They smiled pretty pretty.
Took photos flash flash.
Most days, they stayed indoors to welcome sunlight through windows,
stirred their tea, and
felt a slight choke from dresses buttoned up to their necks,
palms wrinkled from years of washing other people’s dishes,
with their warm sweat a rivulet into suds.
These good girls — they knew how to sharpen knives but not to fight.
When they left homes they kept eyes down, studied drab sidewalk,
because they knew that seduction was as easy as a gaze for the men who wanted to
separate good from girl.
But that didn’t step the touches, the noise,
the comments: “Hey baby, whose girl are you?”
They learned to smile at threats.
They knew you couldn’t separate the good from girl,
or else you stood to be treated like an animal.
You were bathed in the sweat of good girls.
They spun golden daughters from the place where they bled, out of
the hate their husbands showed them through the pounding of bodies.
They dreamed up freedom bright — not for them, but for you, and
they gave you a name as a shield, an identity from which you’d fight.
As they folded inward, looking to all the world like they had broken their wings,
they summoned strength.
Without even a gesture, they made you,
The child of a journalist, Jenna Spagnolo knew they would be a writer at a young age. Jenna regularly reads their poetry in the San Francisco Bay Area and is one-half of the brains behind Poets Reading the News. Jenna is skilled at connecting people, activating collaboration and strength in others, and is a professional communicator, journalist, and digital marketer for nonprofits. Reach them through email@example.com.
Video and sound by Michele Seippel, a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University with dual degrees in Kinetic Imaging and Painting and New Genres. She co-runs an promotional label, Seippelabel, that shares sound and visual art, and she regularly performs in galleries and theaters domestically and abroad.
This video received second place at the Eureka Springs Human Rights Film Festival and was exhibited at six other film festivals across the nation.