Recorded for Poem-a-Day, February 13, 2019.
About this Poem 

“This poem is a section from a much longer poem I’m working on exploring girlhood and shame. For this particular section, I was thinking about youth and how it’s sexualized, how my own girlhood was often so devoid of youth because of the ways I was made to feel aware of my body through a predatory gaze. I imagine my speaker here to be a little younger than I am now, a young girl whose youth is fetishized by others while being made impossible for her to experience.”
—Safia Elhillo

1000

my roommate one year in college
would say of my smallness 
that any man who found me attractive
had a trace of the pedophilic  


& i would shrink                    newly girled
twenty-one with my eyebrows
plucked to grownup arches             sprouting
back every three weeks  
in sharp little shoots             already men         
have tried to steal me


in their taxis   corral me into alleyways
of the new city            already
the demand  for my name              though
no one ever asks how old i am


though no one ever did      i feel creaking
& ancient in the repetition
of it all   i feel my girlhood gone for
generations    my entire
line of blood crowded with exhausted
women            their unlined faces 


frozen in time            with only a thickness
about the waist          a small shoot
of gray to belie the years


i make up names to hand
to strangers at parties  
i trim years from my age & share without
being asked    that i am
fifteen              seventeen      & no one blinks  
no one             stops wanting       


i am disappeared      like all the girls
before me    around me 
all the girls to come             


everyone thinks
i am a little girl & still
they hunt me               still they show their teeth        
i am so tired i am
one thousand  years old          one thousand
years older when touched

Copyright © 2019 by Safia Elhillo. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 13, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2019 by Safia Elhillo. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 13, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

Safia Elhillo

Safia Elhillo

Safia Elhillo is the author of The January Children (University of Nebraska Press, 2017). 

by this poet

poem

in the divorce i separate to two piles                 books: english      love songs: arabic
my angers   my schooling    my long repeating name       english    english     arabic

i am someone’s daughter but i am

2
poem
sour heat of the taxicab                   my thighs stuck by sweat to the leather
in the aperture of the sunless hours                         i sit scarved in the quiet
that i think will protect me                    i’ve