by Morgan Hylton
I had my first political conversation
with my thirteen-year-old sister
at the neighborhood ice cream shop
on Election Day.
Watching her slurp sprinkles
from the side of her cone,
I told her that she was a woman
with fine wine, Susan B. Anthony,
and Hearts running through her veins.
I told her that she was Miss America,
that she sweat gold and cried silver,
that her one curl was worth more
than a whole wig,
don’t let anyone tell her differently.
I told her that the girl at her art table
with the hijab
wouldn’t hurt her, but the white boy who tried to play footsie under the desk
might; and by the way, I told her,
stomp all over his white Vans,
because your feet belong only to you,
as does every other bone
of your body.
I told her that Mexico was real,
from the nights wrapped in blankets
singing husky Spanish hymns,
to the broken beer bottles
in the street. Life’s not a fairytale,
I told her; people aren’t villains
or Prince Charmings,
Most of all, I told her
that although she couldn’t vote,
couldn’t post, couldn’t campaign,
couldn’t even stay awake long enough
to see the California polls close,
win or lose,
she was Athena, Aphrodite and Artemis,
changing history with every breath.
Clinton lost, 232-290. I told her
to wear her black clothes
and drying tear stains proudly;
I told her the Bible was her armor
and she was the warrior, stronger
than any glass mirror; I told her
and I told her, told her until I
believed it too.
I asked Hylton, who is a senior at Towson High School, to share the backstory on the poem, and this is what she said:
“As November 8th drew nearer and nearer, I became increasingly frustrated by not being able to vote. As a soon-to-be college student, as a Christian who spends a week every summer serving a Mexican border town, and as a young woman, so many of the ‘hot topics’ this election season related to me; still, I couldn’t vote simply because of my age (I am only 17). I felt as if poetry was the only way to let my voice be heard. I also didn’t want to add to the negative political noise of my Facebook newsfeed, so I wanted to draw on the feelings of disappointment and frustration, but also the feelings of liberation and empowerment that transcend this specific election. In short, I wanted marginalized groups (especially women) to read my piece and feel encouraged and empowered despite the results.”