January 9, 2014

Performance of the Poem: Stares. ~ Morgan McKniff {Adult}

Brave New Voices 2012: Philadelphia Round Two

Kai Davis and Safiya Washington

To the man who looks at my eyes.

To the man who didn’t look at my eyes.

You had to know I was someone’s daughter.

You had to know I had feelings.

Maybe I needed your gaze.

Your leering eyes and checker-board teeth were no compliment to me.

I squirmed, toyed with the hemline on my skirt.

Maybe if I shortened it. Maybe you’d look long enough to see me as anything but a bystander.

A mere imitation of what a woman was meant to be.

I wanted to shed my skin and donate my frame. / I wanted to shed my clothes and donate my frame.

Your leering eyes and checker-board teeth were no compliment to me.

I squirmed, toyed with the hemline on my skirt.

I guess the staleness of your eyes suggests what little wonder a man can find in my skin.

What little glimmer of magic you don’t notice my/you see my/lips, flesh, locks, legs, hips, breast, strut, ass.

This body’s not respected or cherished.

I looked at everything male for the next 10 blocks as if they wanted something from me.

As if they had intentions to use me too.

I wonder if they think rape and sex are synonymous.

I am human and your inability to see me as such hurts.

It’s caused me to see men as nothing more than venomous.

I don’t want to believe they are all like you but every time I walk outside my house, eyes like yours find me as if you were raised to hunt my shadow.

Every unnoticed step that graces the sidewalk is one more lesson learned, evidence that I’m not valuable to men like you.

Men who roam the block like lions, and only pounce on the succulent.

I wish you were different.

I wish you’d take it all back: the looks, the averted eyes, the whispers and ass-grabs, the silent avoidance, the anger spewed when I tell you I’m not interested.

The indifference when I try to catch your attention.

I just want to be left alone.

Have the time to appreciate my dress and chocolate brown legs.

Acknowledge me enough to appreciate the hair follicles I damaged, the pores I clogged, begging for you to validate me.

I’d love to love myself without hearing men’s voices in my ear.

Without wondering if what I wear will get me assaulted today, without praying for a man to sweep me off my feet.

You’ve given me just another reason to hate this body.

I want to feel free in my skin, to glisten and glide down streets with ease, to feel safe, and unbothered.

To feel valuable without an appraisal, the feeling my skin is just as glorious as the sun that shines on it.

I’m worth more than the stares I receive.

The deconstructing any ounce of value I might have had, leaving me to piece myself back together at dusk.

Tomorrow will be another day and I will deteriorate at the sight of a bulge in his pants again.

Crumble every time a cry for attention goes unheard.

Hoping that one day the reconstruction of my self-esteem will be permanent.

For the next man that doesn’t stare at my ass, for the next man that stares at my ass: know that despite the firmness of our lips, flesh, locks, legs, hips, breast, strut, ass…

We still break.


Sexism and racism is more complicated than we think. Sometimes our attempts at bringing everybody together end up being even more divisive, and our society would be better off to be mindful of it.


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Assistant Editor: Dana Gornall / Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo Credit: Youtube

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