When I was just a girl, my eyes became open.
My mother sat with me and explained a story,
A story about how the world was a bad place,
A story about how people weren’t actually good,
And at first I thought her a liar.
How could one come to grips with their life being a lie?
But I’ve come to find that that nightmare she described,
That was no narrative.
I no longer saw the world as honest and pure.
In my eyes the world was beautiful before,
But the moment those glasses shed my face,
And the moment the lenses hit the floor,
That tint that made everything so good was shattered before me.
And when I took a step,
When I moved a muscle, the glass would impale my feet,
And the sting I felt crept up into my body,
And right when I thought the pain was unbearable,
That I could not move another step,
The pain settled.
It didn’t go away,
But the damage done could not be healed.
As women we take in this trauma.
Desensitize our bodies to get ready,
Get ready for the hardships,
Get ready for the mistreatment,
That way we can take the pain without flinching.
Men say we are weak.
It’s assumed that we will shed a tear at the slightest touch,
Tremble with weight on our shoulders.
But they can’t see the glass under our feet,
The emotional trauma they inflict.
Maybe we aren’t as physical,
But our bodies don’t dictate the strength within.
No man I know could hold the pain we do with ease,
The pain society expects us to hold.
And sometimes that baggage becomes a burden.
My arms shake as I try to put it down,
But I find that the shame is glued to my skin,
And no matter how hard I try,
The weight cannot be absolved.
So I hold it as well as I can,
And take the slander for my weak frame.
The first time that shame clung to me I was only 13,
Barely accustomed to the reality I was living in.
I walked down the hall of my high school darted by stares.
Standing in the same uniform as everyone else,
But yet made to feel naked.
As if my clothes were paper thin,
As if they were suddenly transparent,
As if my body was on display.
The moment their eyes met my chest I was filled with embarrassment.
I became an orchestrated show for my peers,
One they all viewed for free,
But it wasn’t really without a cost.
The debt got added to the weight I carry with me.
As it accumulates I feel myself lose balance again,
The emotions rush through me and all I want to do is hide,
But just as I go to take a step,
And just as I try to run from this burden,
I feel the glass begin to pierce my feet once again.
And that shame settles,
And I slowly move forward,
Because that’s the only thing I know how to do.
The glass beneath my feet is not singular.
I see girls every day tip-toeing around it,
Trying to escape its sting.
And I know nothing is certain,
There could be girls spared from the shame.
But there is certainty in the story my mother told me,
And there is certainty in my sister’s,
And the abundance of these stories is enough for me to be frightened.
Stories can be carefully constructed.
Whether you believe them or not, every detail can’t be fictitious.
The difference between these stories and fairy tales, is that these really happen.
Is that despite the shocking brutality they still occur,
Is that there is no knight and no savior.
The details are brutal and impossible to overlook,
Yet no one has done anything about the glass,
No one is sweeping it off the path.
So the glass sits and accumulates,
Just as the burden of shame adds up,
So just as your arms get weak, the glass becomes more abundant.
And the steps you take hurt more and more,
And the cuts you face become scars,
And still that strength stays invisible,
Despite the glass.
About this Work
Growing up as little girls, we hold a naivety that is, in my mind, similar to the fragility of glass. In this poem the girl is born with rose-colored glasses that represent her beautiful interpretation of the world, a world that’s so positive that only through the innocence of youth can it ever be perceived in this light. Through the glasses falling to the ground, that youthful perception she had is not simply lost, but rather shattered so that what was once shielding her eyes from the harm now became what hurt her the most. This isn’t just the story of some girl or even myself, this story is about her. Her meaning that woman you know, that mother in your life, or the woman you may be, because this constant impaling of her feet is a reflection of us all.
About the Author
Isabella Katis is a rising sophomore at Fordham University at Lincoln Center majoring in both political science and psychology on a pre-law track. Although poetry has seemingly no relation to her career path, women’s empowerment and fair treatment is one of her most prominent stances that she will carry with her into future political platforms. Some of her other interests include 3-D arts, music theory, voice training, and special effects makeup.