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These tears

As a woman, I’ve experienced the internalizing of outside opinions. I’m especially sensitive to them and accept them without conscious thought. I have been and still am unknowingly obedient and accommodating. When we seek our own dignity, we do so for those around us; over issues of race, gender, intelligence, homelessness, wealth, or anything other distinguishing mark. When we find our own dignity, we learn how to find the dignity in others. As a woman, my experience of emotion has been complex. I’m ashamed to shed tears in public but will inevitably cry in times of stress, anger, and, even joy. I’ve been told that this shows weakness and that it confirms that women are weak. I’ve reframed this for myself. Tears are not weak but are true. They show a courage of expression and they describe a complex array of emotions. They certainly reveal something about me, but I wouldn’t call it weakness.

These Tears

If you look at my tears
and think, “How weak,”
you’d be wrong.
These tears
are angry.
These tears
are frustrated.
These tears are saying,
“This is not right!”
I have cried the tears
of the powerless.
The ones that fell
when I have been told
to stand
in this place.
Stand here;
learn this place
because it is yours.
Now, stand still.
These sharp sticks
won’t hurt a bit.
I have cried the tears
of the helpless.
When I agreed with you.
When I knew my place was here.
When I knew how to stand still.
When the sharp sticks
were just part of life.
But the untamed knew better.
The wild bit and clawed;
exploding anger and havoc.
Till I grew tired
of being attacked both inside and out.
Till I stepped out of my place
and let the wild out.
How foolish of you
To think my tears are weak.
will tell
what they are.
they are sorrow
for what has been.
They are rage
for what has been.
They are action
for what will be.
I won’t begrudge my pain
it’s expression
because you are weak.

To read an excerpt of Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye”, click here.


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