I didn't know it at the time, but one year short of graduating college, something I read aloud in my poetry class would go on to spark an idea for this here place/plan/project we call S&TF.
We were all asked to bring in a poem to read aloud on the first day of class. I brought in this poem, "Daughter" by Nicole Blackman. My copy of her book Blood Sugar had been highlighted, ripped, and torn since my discovery of it three years prior. I loved her poetry, but no one poem spoke to me more so than others. I picked "Daughter" at random. It wasn't until I was forced to read the poem aloud that I realized how much the words meant to me.
The poem goes like this:
Daughter - Nicole Blackman
One day I'll give birth to a tiny baby girl
and when she's born she'll scream
and I'll tell her never to stop.
I will kiss her before I lay her down at night
and will tell her a story so she knows
how it is and how it must be for her to survive.
I'll tell her to set things on fire
and keep them burning.
I'll teach her that fire will not consume her,
that she must use it.
I'll tell her that people must earn the right
to use her nickname,
that forced intimacy is an ugly thing.
I'll help her to see that she will not find God
or salvation in a dark brick building
built by dead men.
I'll make sure she always carries a pen
so she can take down the evidence.
If she has no paper, I'll teach her to
write everything down with her tongue,
write it on her thighs.
I'll make her keep reinventing herself and run fast.
I'll teach her to write her manifestos
on cocktail napkins.
I'll say she should make men lick her ambition.
I'll make her understand that she is worth more
with her clothes on.
I'll teach her to talk hard.
I'll tell her that when the words come too fast
and she has no use for a pen
that she must quit her job
run out of the house in her bathrobe,
leave the door open.
I'll teach her to follow the words.
I'll say that everything she has done seen spoken
has brought her to the here this now.
This is no time for tenderness,
no time to stand, waiting for them to find her.
There are nations within her skin.
Queendoms come without keys you can carry.
I'll tell her to never forget what they did to you
and never let them know you remember.
The second I was done reading, a tiny spark lit within me. I had heard my own voice declare these promises, and I wanted to make good on them, to whoever I could.
There are so many things I have no fucking clue about. But when you do know certain things--and you've learned them the hard way--you don't wish them on anyone else. I imagine this is what it's like to have a daughter. To have so many hopes for their strength and their spirit, for their ability to not make the same mistakes as you have. I may never have a daughter, but this poem's message is what I want women to hear when they come to Scotch & The Fox. Queendoms come without keys you can carry. No matter what you've been through, what you're dealing with, or the lessons you will have to learn the hard way, keep reinventing yourself and run fast. Write your manifestos on cocktail napkins. You have a story to tell. There are nations within your skin.