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
* 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.My Story: Standing Up