by Gabrielle Brant Freeman
Most of the women I know sleep with a weapon.
A crowbar between the headboard and the bed,
a hammer just under the mattress. Truth?
We’ve been women all our lives. Baby,
we know our misogyny.
Our trust has a honed edge, always woke.
Because we’ve lain awake,
insomnia as much a weapon
as a curse, listening in the dark, a mass
of sibilant shadow, lain awake in our beds
listening for the floorboard creak, the debate
raging in our heads. It’s safe now, trust.
But. We know everything’s a weapon. Best learn the truth
early. Sweetheart? Wake up. Your mouth is full of teeth.
You bite. You kick. You scream. This is a truth
we teach our daughters. I feel like I am just now waking
up. This America says girl babies
turn from children to objects in a minute. Weaponized
bodies overnight. As I tuck my pre-teen into bed,
I wonder exactly how much misogyny
it took for me to reach middle age with a mess
of defensive lessons right behind my eyes. Don’t trust
any man. Keys between your fingers to gouge. Best
stay sober. Yell fire, not rape. Our boy babies wake
one sudden morning as licensed weapons.
Each and every one, somebody’s baby.
It’s true. Every morning, mothers wake their babies,
lock and load for the bed that has been made.
Hush little baby,
don’t say a word. Papa’s gonna miss
the point. The mockingbird’s voice is a weapon
for which a diamond ring is no substitute.
I am a grown woman. I am a little girl awake
in the dark tucked in to my bed
and quiet. Something lurks in the dark, and my bed
crouches. My ears are trained to hear my babies’
breathing, to hear each distinct footfall. I am awake
in my own bed in my own house, mistress
to fear. Papa’s gonna teach you a truth:
the weapon that you know is better than the weapon
you miss. Evening is to girl as silence is to truth.
They tell you you better hush? Baby, choose your weapon.