I Grew Up Under the Wings of Matriarchs & Upon My Father’s Knee

I grew up under the wings of matriarchs
and upon my father’s knee.

I learned women’s gossip in the morning
and how to handle a pocket knife at evening.

I came home with scuffed elbows,
had hairy legs until I was fourteen;
I wore cargo pants and boy vests,
got down in the dirt in little ribbon dresses and
learned how to lace a skirt and rock a spleen.
I took punches on the chin with a growl
and then came home to dust the house and
mop the floor and dig in high-heeled boot when I’d had enough.

Sister showed me that calculus was easy-peasy,
and aunts of divinity showed how prophecy was not so hard.
My many mothers taught me how to roll with men,
grip them down; father was nurturing and maladies
were warriors to the crux. Doing what needed be done.
Getting to the bottom of things.
Every being who bore a womb stared down beasts without
a flinch; this I witnessed with mine own eyes and realized
nothing gives contest
to the might of feminine, except perhaps,
the willfulness of men.

I cared not for the mirror. I broke out through windows
and never looked back.
I cried sometimes, but mother would lend sharp eye and say,
When you fall, cry all you like; but know,
tears will not lift you from the ground.

So I learnt to lift myself from the ground.

Mother lessoned me to clove the world in two
should I fall prey to doubting looks, and
father put weapons in my hands, showed me how to
ball a fist, and ride the world out should it march upon me.
To swing a baseball bat, cook a meal,
drag boys down by their ears then turn and jest
wickedly with the likes of them;
these are all the things I went to bed with at night.
I learned how to handle a hammer and a wrench
but mascara and lipstick fell foreign to me.
Where I came from, women were not dolls,
but goddesses that lit the sun at every dawn,
and men decreed Mercy is the way. Pick your battles.
Both male and female beat their chests in song and claimed
The life is ours. The life is ours. None shall take it.
Become only who you choose to be.

Father did dishes and mother slay what needed be slain.
Mother believed in her dreams and father said
Think before you leap. Move mountains with your head.
So I learned to tread as a fox and strike like a scorpion
with wit and sound mind and sharpness to do what was Right.

I was born a girl, raised as a boy,
expected to be an unknown kind of woman in a man’s world.

When I left the home of my upbringing,
and came toe-to-toe with all the rest,
I never knew that my raising had been odd,
unorthodox, or perhaps blasphemous is the word.

But I gallop swift, I have the arm of a bowman,
and I see the future before it comes knocking.
Every hatchet that swipes to slice my legs from me
I catch with grace, then wield with wrath, and split
the swinger in twain to show them the way to the door.

I dance between the two hemispheres and think
little of it. I live off fairy dust and switchblades,
and I care not which things came from where,
nor do I know.

I travel through life on a chariot, drawn by four horses named
Courage, Tongue, Stance, and Bosom.

Daughter or son, it matters not.
I run and run — call it witchcraft or call it questionable,
but wildfire is the life of me.

A fiendish bird.
An unconquerable Soul.
All my teachers and instruction told me one thing:

Burn bright. Bite right. Live free.

So I do as the masters tutored,
and live fearless, boldly, nobly,
and free.

As nothing less than what greatness I allow myself to be, as Me.

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