Amanda Gorman is the Inaugural Youth Poet Laureate of the United States and Founder of Onepenonepage.org. Her first collection of poetry, entitled “The One for Whom Food Is Not Enough”, was published by Penmanship Books in 2015, and her work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The Huffington Post, and award-winning anthologies.
To the Girl Inside Me
Balancing on one foot on a blue stepping stool
I fished the Morton salt from the cupboard
and sprinkled it in my shorts at the apex of my thighs,
to preserve any semblance of purity within me.
I am not girl.
I am olive oil.
Bottle clinging to shelf.
The utmost organic virgin,
although touched by so many hands
that always want more
than my insides can give.
Have you ever kissed anyone? my friend asks.
I’m glad I’m black so my face can’t heat in testimony.
My lips hug each other like a white girl’s,
pinched into a hairpin.
No. I say.
And it is the most honest lie I can tell.
That was not a kiss,
if the kiss is more of a blanket
so mom doesn’t hear.
Is a breeze still a breeze if it rapes
the land in its path leaving behind a trail
of jagged white houses, a city’s broken spine?
Is a page still a page
if it cuts open your hand?
That kiss was a martyrdom.
I show all my metal-braced teeth at my friend,
cementing my face into the imposture of a smile.
I turn away, and my lips are cold,
sapped from the heat
his tongue snatched away,
when I was five and all leg and wore green rubber boots
and still believed in little things:
the dark exhilaration of being sucked
down a purple slide at a McDonald’s Play Place;
watching a pale hermit crab make
a place of worship out of a third grade classroom;
the thought that house could mean home
and home could mean safety.
Now I know my father’s house is just a place of fences
more concerned with keeping demons in than locking the world out.
I’m in here. The girl in me pipes up. What does that make me?
I’ve always been bred in captivity.
I’ve learned that you’re virgin
As long as it wasn’t your choice.
The girl inside my throat, yes, her,
the one who swallowed salt,
who swallowed his salty tongue,
who swallowed an oily silence,
whispers to me, quiet so the others won’t notice:
Have we ever known love?
I pause. I want to make her whole again.
Yes, I tell both of us.
And it is the most deceptive truth I can believe.