For Elisabeth, the Girl Who’s to Become a Woman

by Erika Gallion.

In Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria, I met a girl named Elisabeth:
she was coloring on an easel when I joined her,
one of us drawing a creature, one of us making the corresponding noise it made.
It was a game of our own making,
a game for people who cannot speak the same language but who can laugh together despite.

But there were things I couldn’t draw,
warnings for the girl who’d inevitably become a woman.

Elisabeth, these are the things I wanted to tell you:
Nothing seems as innocent anymore after your own body sheds itself,
pooling into a darkness more powerful than red in your underwear.
There are days you won’t feel at home in your rounding stomach,
in your protruding hipbones, in the mirror’s reflection.
Eventually you’ll be swept under the hypnotism of a man’s lust,
and eventually you’ll be disappointed at the sleepless night you will have.
Know that disappointment doesn’t go away,
that one day you’ll be 23 in a bar in a foreign country
and your stomach will still sink when he whispers ‘let’s go back to my place.’

Womanhood has chased me through a maze-
It began that day in seventh grade, a bathroom stall, ruined L.E.I. underwear.
And it has backed me into walls:
not eating, mistaking lust for love, self-doubt.
But there is something beautiful in the bleeding of a woman,
in the way it hurts to remind you of the power you hold.

You are a tigress, Elisabeth,
and I hope you remember that when you begin to pull at your stomach,
wishing for it to shrink, when you first walk back home from a man’s apartment.
You are a tigress and you are powerful in your pain, in your body, in your love.

Remember the low growl you made when I drew that cat with the stripes,
for I was drawing you. I was drawing the black stripes of womanhood.valiko tarnovo

Erika Gallion is a Kent State University Graduate Student in Higher Education Administration; Graduate Assistant in the Performing Arts Center and a Graduate Intern at the Women’s Center.