You are eleven. You are at a wedding
and you want to dance, to move your body
the way the Turkish women showed you,
feel the power in your waist, be the water
in the music, paint the shapes of the night
in the bloom of your flowering hips.
You want to take your turn beside the bride
in the middle of the circle, letting people clap
for you, relishing the freedom of your body
gone liquid, forgetting for an hour
how mirrors have started to make you feel
strange, think twice about all your clothes.
But that would be inappropriate, unladylike –
your mother would be so embarrassed,
would send you inside with angry hints half
understood about modesty and men until
you realize that dancing in three dimensions
is a liability, not for nice girls. So you reel
in the rhythm, flatten your body to a single
plane in space, step stiffly side to side instead,
pretending not to have curves, pretending
not to understand when the women try to
get you to swing your hips, and remembering
how only last week a girl was raped in broad
daylight just a few blocks away by a stranger
she’d passed on the street and your mother told
you she must have looked at him the wrong way.
By Shannon Lise
Originally from Texas, Shannon Lise spent twelve years in the Middle East and currently lives in Québec. Her first poetry collection is underway and recent work has appeared in The Sunlight Press, Scarlet Leaf Review, The Ekphrastic Review, Ink in Thirds, Eunoia Review and Red Eft Review. She also writes high fantasy (Keeper of Nimrah, 2014).