if we own our bodies
we must be able to protect them

By Shailja Patel

it wasn't 'til i learned to fight
i felt able to be sexy

the swing of my hip developed
in pace with my elbow strike
i grew out my hair
as my flesh grew harder, less easy to bruise
started to wear makeup
and bare my shoulders
as i learned to judge
how fast to strike
and where -
groin, eyes, jugular?

it wasn't until i could walk down a street
knowing i could turn my rage into action
under attack
that i could strut down the same street
smile back at flirtavious comments
say with my stride and my carriage:

yes, i think i look good too
yes, i revel in my body
yes, i love the sun on my skin

this body is mine
and the better i learn to defend it
the better i flaunt it
from sheer joy