Literary Orphans

I Know What The Caged Bird Feels by Abby Pearson

I was taught

about the perfect waist-to-hip ratio by the internet.

I gathered how women are a

ballet construction site. Crafted in pretty

colors, molded by rough, unkempt hands,

We are buildings in which the only rulers

are measuring tapes, and I

knew this.

I knew this because in 4th grade I

was taught that I was pulled

from Adam’s rib. I was molded

for a purpose but could never be

as outspoken as him, never as boisterous,

knew there were more places for leaves to

hide but never enough to escape blame

for my body, I was wearing bras

when I was 10 and I was made to stand still

as a boy as large as I was

twisted the fabric between his fingers

and snapped it.

I didn’t say a word.

I started chewing my nails that year.

The next, I started chewing my hair,

When I lost the weight it was almost

as if I had always been rejecting

milkshakes. As if I had always been

crossing my legs and watching to see

if they expanded too much,

I fell in love with myself

because now, I was

undeniably woman.

I was allowed to.

And suddenly this beauty I had worked for

became something vicious. No longer did boys

snap at my bra but undress me with their eyes,

I was something to behold, to be held,

I went from a size 16 to a size 6 because I was

told that I was no longer worth

consuming unless I shrunk myself.

I was not given the option of

not being consumed in the first place,

So when the boy tells me he loves me

and asks me to move to the backseat,

I allow it.

Because I have always been taught that I am

meant to be devoured,

or taped up,

or put together by anything other than myself.

So I do not say I do not want it.

I do not say anything,

The truth is,

I am not disposable,

not always hourglass-shaped

twisted into defined stomachs

and calorie calculators

I am not always

going to sit still

and cross my legs for the man

sitting in front of me

while being expected to

open them for another.

There are mornings where

I am told to shut up by the

boy sitting next to me because

my laugh is just too grating

on his ears

and there are evenings where

I can’t walk around my

local mall without

hearing a “smile, sweetheart!”

and a wolf whistle

Why should I quiet

the blemished parts of myself

Just because they are considered

too messy to be seen

As if the cracks in the foundation

are not human too

I was never something to be worked on,

Never a blueprint or a doll or

a construction site

Here I am –



and still

Worthy of love

whether I am considered

an effective woman or not.

And sometimes

I think back to myself.

9 years old, obese.

A boy reaches for my back, and I flinch.

There, I think of the measuring tape in my

bottom drawer.

I think of the sharpness I was never told I had.

And I leave.

O Typekey Divider

Abby Pearson (she/her) is an 18-year-old poet with a passion for the human condition and pretty bumper stickers. She currently resides in Omaha, Nebraska, and looks forward to attending the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in the fall.

O Typekey Divider

–Art by Mick McClelland