being a woman is not
a consensual act

by anaïs peterson

she sits on the tip of her tongue and sometimes it falls. i do not flinch when it hits my skin,
landing heavy displacing a gentle cloud of dust. i am not the she in question. i wait for
the pause, the blushing, the uncomfortable correction, the apology, the space where i feel compelled to provide comfort once again at my own expense, the gracious smile i feel i must conjure and plaster on my lips, the overemphasis, the she to line up on the tongue ready to fall
again, the pause, the blushing, the conversation to continue, the smile —
i keep it tucked behind my teeth. not waiting for the apology, not expecting for it to come.

if i didn’t smile if i didn’t hold space for your discomfort if i knew how to say it i would tell
you it does not matter how many times you call me anything but she because there will be that slight pause, long enough to break up your sentence the small stutter as your lips start to form around the s but you force them instead to say they there will always be a look of relief that washes over your face when you get it “right.”

you will say they or sometimes them and you will not have to be corrected but i am still hearing your whispered airy s it is crawling in my long hair, putting a bony finger under my chin
tilting my head up till i am forced to meet its eyes, poking at my hips tracing a path that curves
in ever so slightly from my ribs – i know to you, i am a woman.

                    and this has never been an invitation to speculate never been a declaration of what i know never been a confirmation of what i am not but

you do this to humor me, i know, because to you my body is a
girl in this body i am a woman and you will never look at me
without she rising to your lips, threatening to fall from your
tongue.

anaïs peterson (name//they) is an organizer, mixed blessing, and lover of the sky. anaïs’ work is a mix of lyric essays and prose poems written around the topic of freedom in its many forms and often returning to dwell on sunflowers. anaïs is the digital content coordinator for Off Menu Press and poetry reader for Non.plus Lit. anaïs writes in black pen and Garamond size 11.