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2016-03-21
Kate Weiner/The Shapes We Make

A coming-of-age poem for a girl in a man’s world

Viral sensation Lily Myers shares an exclusive poem with Dazed readers for World Poetry Day about growing up in today’s hyper-sexualised society

23-year-old Lily Myers first achieved global prominence when a video of her reciting self-penned feminist poem The Shrinking Woman went viral, chalking up over five million views. The poem deals with Myers' complicated relationship with her mother, eating disorders, food, and how women in the world tend to 'shrink' while the men around them loom ever-larger. As part of literary collective The Shapes We Make, Myers champions "strong women, art, writing, and badassery" alongside co-collaborator Kate Weiner. To celebrate World Poetry Day 2016, we asked Myers to pen an exclusive poem for Dazed readers on the topic of body image and what it means to grow up as a girl in today's hyper-sexualised world. 

To a Girl Who Doesn’t Yet Know

 

First you are untouched.

I won’t say pure, which brings to mind white dresses

and eyes that linger on the fabric like oil stains.

 

But untouched;

in a world of your own making,

dancing around a rainbow scarf (the inexplicable object of your adoration)

on the carpet of your bedroom,

or sitting, staring at the new world in which you find yourself.

 

Time dances too.

You are allowed a finite number of good winters.

Soon your body expands, roils. Becomes something that isn’t quite yours.

You can be evicted at any time, and you will be.

 

When you are no longer a child, you learn how to put things inside of you.

It’s what they want you to do. It’s what the loud world asks for.

You never learn that no is an option. And anyway, it isn’t.

 

First you are something untouched, something with a rainbow scarf,

not pure because that’s a man’s word,

a word pasted on in retrospect, in longing, in denial.

Then you become a vessel, a roiling collection of flesh.

You are no longer the water; now you are something heavy that must tread its surface.

 

I am sorry for what the world gave you,

stomach and legs and how you learned to cover them,

how you learned to display your flesh,

to avert your eyes, to receive.

I am sorry for the hungry world, for what it demanded of you,

how it puts out its hands and said give,

how it stuck its fingers inside of you,

how you learned to make the faces that mean you like it.

How you don’t know, anymore, whether you’re pretending.

 

I am sorry for the growth and the contamination,

how your body became something for someone else to eat,

how the scarf was given away in a garage sale, years ago,

to a little girl who doesn’t yet know.