bright pink lipstick
Petaling Jaya, Malaysia
2020, Middle School, Poetry
at a bar with friends from work.
they say wife like pushing poison through yellowed teeth
like when they’re asked to sweep the floors like impossible.
laugh: slam down the glass till cracks bloom from each edge, holler for another pint
like they forget they live in this house, too, that every inch of dirt came from their hands:
when they dragged muddy shoes through the living room carpet; stained the marble countertops.
they mock our braids. our cheekbones, like that’s the only thing they see
liken our voices to broken cassette tapes
you remind me of my wife, they sneer,
say it like it’s a bad thing
how dare you. how dare you. how dare you.
our future on your hands, blood in your ledger; you dare drill further into the sea. you dare?
they forget that they live under these clouds, too. that their oil rigs flooded our seas.
and they mock our speech, every emoji; every omigod; every like;
like we don’t know what we mean, like we’re only doing it for the gram.
what do you know? we haven’t been to college. like at this rate we’ll be dead before we can.
you bright pink lipstick on a podium, all alone.
flower crown and feisty eyes, you, i’m looking at you.
and the way you turn hashtags into humanitarian help, spark harbingers of hope;
poems into people on the streets. let the pillars fall. they can never do that
a hundred rounds later; all they are is drunk
and you? you’re sculpting the world between your fingers,
roll back extinctions and overflowing sea levels with grace.
we do all we can. and when the sun rises, as they finally stumble home,
brandish the broomstick like a weapon, your hashtags a power they’ll never wield
grab them by their collars
make them listen. make them stay. make them pay.
i believe in you, and in your winged eyeliner; and in you.
The burden when it comes to things like homemaking or raising children is unevenly distributed between men and women. Especially if you consider the fact that they often live under the same roof. I remember the first time I heard men liken female activists’ and politicians’ call to actions like their wives making them help out around the house. The eerie parallel between the two made me wonder how far that mindset extended to. Young girls, like Greta Thunberg, are criticized for being bothersome by the same people who refuse to lift a finger to preserve our planet. When politically active youths come under fire for being "all talk and no action," I think that’s just false. The truth is, our online presence, if weaponized correctly, can act as catalysts for global change. Even when they don’t think we’re qualified enough to speak on these issues, we still do, and despite not having completed our formal education, we do have a voice, and we are qualified to use it as much as anyone else. Throughout the poem, I used things commonly associated with femininity,(e.g., makeup, flowers) as a way of reclaiming the objects often used to demean us. Discovering the stories of multiple young girls making changes in their community gives me hope for the future. Perhaps we can change the world after all.