I am a woman
Standing

A barkless tree
An orange heart

A woman standing
My mouth in my hands
And words
Rising and falling
From my chest

I am a woman
With my shoulders
Thrown back
Like a laugh
Standing
On the legs of
History and place

Against forgetting and disappearance
the petty thefts of the everyday
Against the soft danger
of ignorance and complacency
Against the slender carvings
of economic torture
Against the blackened sky
of silence before the bomb

In Libya and in the Congo
In Ciudad Juarez and Damascus
In Porto and in Paarl

I am
A woman
Standing

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I wrote this poem some years ago, in celebration of Women's Day in South Africa, a day on which we commemorate the women who stood strong as rocks to march against Apartheid legislation. I wrote it for the women who came before me, and those who stood around me. I wrote it for my sisters and our mother.

I am writing it again (though I've changed the place names), this time because I stand to face a challenge which had been the theme of a recurring nightmare for the past six years. And I am struggling to stand.

I am writing it for the women who stand before me, and for those who stay standing around me. My little niece and her two young brothers lost their father a month ago - my sister has to stand as a parent alone. My mother stands, rising like a loaf of bread, to be there for her grandchildren. Tomorrow my youngest sister's baby boy has to go for surgery - I wish I could be standing next to her. A friend of mine lost her mom to cancer recently; another friend found out that her mom was diagnosed with cancer yesterday - they are still standing. Women I know who are also migrants, like me, right now, stand against the inflexibility of unfair borders. And here, I've been reading the stories of women who continue to stand up, when even getting up under the circumstances must be hard. If they can stand, so will I. And I can put this in writing, because of the women standing behind me. I write this for us. I write this for standing.

Take action! This post was submitted in response to My Story: Standing Up .

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I loved your poem! And your story so much! Thank you so much for sharing! You are telling us your story in such a beautiful way, honoring women who have to stand on their own, including yourself. Very inspiring!

"I embrace emerging experience. I am a butterfly. Not a butterfly collector." - Stafford