Daddy always said, don’t start fights.
He said, if I hear you’ve been starting fights at school
you’re going to be in big trouble, little miss.
Daddy always said, don’t start fights,
but if someone starts with you;
he said, if someone lays hands on you –
Daddy always said, don’t start fights
but if someone takes a swing at you
baby girl, you better goddamn win.
He said, the world is going knock you into the mulch;
and there will be people who start with you.
I didn’t raise a girl who can’t stand for herself.
You better goddamn win.
Daddy, you saw in me a warrior:
teeth like a band saw and skin like hot asphalt.
you saw in me a swiss army knife
and taught me how to raise the blade.
You told me the fight would come in cuss words
and knuckles and boiling tempers and black eyes.
You said I would know the fight when it smacked me
across the face, when it called me a whore,
when it left cigarette burns in my bedsheets –
I would know.
But the names and the knuckles never broke down
my door the way you said they would. I thought
maybe the fight wasn’t coming; thought I had made myself
more trouble than it was worth, and
the boys knew not to start with me.
So when the unwanted fingers first slipped down my jeans
slowly, softly, whispering to the slick fist in the pit of my
stomach: it’s okay, you’re going to like this – I said nothing.
I bore no blade; I drew no blood.
This was not what the enemy looked like;
did not fit the sneer in the wanted posters.
Daddy, you didn’t tell me there is more
than one kind of criminal. Maybe you didn’t know.
Daddy, we live in a greedy world with people who
feel entitled to things that don’t belong to them.
They’ve tried to take more than my blade. Daddy,
the fight is not only
in bruises and bloody knuckles;
it’s in dark allies and lingering stares and
jungle juice and empty stairwells; it’s
in our schools and our courtrooms and
boys like Brock Turner.
The fight has always been here.
Daddy, the world is going to tell you I started this;
It’s my fault; I brought it on myself.
The price I pay for being hacksaw
being swiss army knife; being woman.
You said I would know the fight by its
Daddy, the world is taking swings at us.
The boys are laying hands on us.
The fight is here
and it’s calling my name
while the recess bell rings.
I know what I have to do.
But not everyone had you for a dad.
Not everyone learned that your mouth
is also your fist; that to be woman is
to be warrior; to be hacksaw; to be blood.
I am still swiss army knife, but these days
I can use more than just my blade. I am
Knuckle duster of a no. I am voice.
I am woman.
So I have put myself on the frontline.
Whether or not you understand, remember
you told me that when someone starts with me
I don’t run. I don’t stay silent.
I kick hard and leave scars.
This fight is bigger than me, throws a heavier punch,
and has been in the game longer than I have,
daddy didn’t raise a girl who can’t
Stand for herself.