We Are the Girls

We Are the Girls May Lafer-Kirtner girlscalltheshots_danielledeculus

What can a teenage girl be passionate about without being called hysterical?
We are all
Dragon fire
Sharp lipstick stains
On the edge of lightning
Girls about to be women
Ready to take on the world but also terrified
To step into it
Are the ones who were born told
That we could do anything
Before we were allowed to think that we couldn’t
Are the ones told that boys
Are beautiful, and women
Are, too
We are the ones who had to discover for ourselves
That some boys are filled with venom
And beauty at the same time
We are the ones who had to make a code to
Figure out which ones were which
Ask a girl the first time she was afraid,
She won’t tell you
About a spider.
We are the girls who want
To be ready with poison on our tongues
But instead come up with a mouth full of butterflies
We are the girls who could
With one glance
And all we can find in ourselves is more love to give
Then we should.
More love for those who have hurt us.
We are the ones who learned
To carry self defense mechanisms
Along with our pepper spray
We learned
The darkness behind words
That we weren’t yet supposed to know.
We are the girls
Who know how to flirt with a boy
While texting a friend
The steps to calm down from an anxiety attack
In the same breath
We are the girls
Who learned languages
On the same phone we used
To try and find how
Our own anatomy worked because,
But my skin isn’t color-coded to be easy to read
We are the girls who were only ever taught
To compare and contrast our trauma,
That it does not matter unless it is worse
We are the ones who had
To teach ourselves
That the girl next to you
Is not your enemy
She is the only one who will be fighting next to you in your battle.
We are the ones who went to protests
When we weren’t old enough to walk
Who grew up on a rhetoric of change,
And then,
Proposed it happened,
And watched everything go down in flames,
We are the girls
Who had to hear a president
Talk about how our bodies were
How our voices did not matter
We are the ones
Who had to hear
One of our own step up to our country
And say that her religion could dictate
Our bodies
We grew up without anger
We grew up knowing that the only people
We were allowed to be angry at
Were ourselves.
You cannot hurt the men,
They are only allowed to hurt you
We grew up knowing
That the only people
You will ever be able to hurt
Are the same ones that you only want to hold up.
We have fire in our lungs
And cold in our bones,
We have love running through our veins,
And stardust dripping from our tongues
With every word we say,
And yet,
We are terrified to speak
What can a teenage girl be passionate about without being called hysterical?

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May Lafer-Kirtner is a member of the class of 2024 at South Eugene High School in Eugene, Oregon. She has been writing all her life, and after graduating, hopes to become a reporter and a novelist. After having a hard time in middle school, she started writing poetry and stories as an outlet for all of her most intense emotions—about friends, death, her chronic illness, and mental health struggles. She started trying to get published after reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower, because she hoped to remind other people they weren’t all alone.
Accompanying photo: “Girls Call the Shots” by Danielle Deculus