This work was featured in Issue 17:4, Fall 2016 — Slam Issue

Nesha Ruther

Prom

Volume 17:4, Fall 2016 
Slam Issue
It is prom night and I am one of a million glowing things
A unanimous brilliance of sparkling and laughing
Fulfilling a birthright of beauty
I’m wearing a gift from every woman in my family tonight
They hand me survival skills in encoded strands of DNA and my mother’s teardrop
earrings
I wonder if they know how heavy your skin becomes in a beautiful dress
How your body molds itself to armor like it knows what the world has in store for it
Like it knows pretty girls like us don’t get to go home so easily
Not on nights like tonight, full of expectation and innuendo
I’m so sorry i want to sleep in my own bed tonight
It’s just exhausting having to carry this armor around all the time
Having to cut and carve it into something appealing
This skin is only as safe as it is lovely
Only as safe as the boy who sees it as pretty enough to protect
I’m so sorry for the moment where my teeth clenched and my eyes narrowed and I stopped being beautiful
Where all the delicate layers fell away and my body became a dagger
This is what happens when you are the product of paranoia and
I don’t know if it is worse being sexualized or weaponized
Just that I’m only allowed to occupy this space if i look good doing it
If I’m someone’s fetish by doing it
That at the end of the day this meat I live in is nothing more than currency
My hair and skin and eyes all loose change I can’t afford to spend in one place
That this night is a reward for my beauty
This life is a reward for my beauty
Something I trade for existing
It is prom night and I don’t want to be pretty anymore
I don’t want to be dangerous anymore
Neither were my idea in the first place
Just ancient survival tactics passed down like jewelry and dresses

But I am wearing a gift from every women in my family tonight
They are singing beneath the baseline
Women turned optical allusion
Women turned lipstick and wine and loose change passed among the palms of faceless men
Women turned Mona Lisa with a grenade between her teeth
Genesis like perfume on every corsage wrist
I could burn down this entire building
Sell my skin to the highest bidder
But it is prom night
I forget what I look like beneath the flashing lights
Forget my body can do anything but dance
Forget it may ever need to

 

Nesha Ruther was a member of the 2015 DC Youth Slam Team that competed at the Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam Festival. She also competed in the 2015 and 2016 Hyperbole competitions and was part of the Montgomery Blair High School Slam Team when it placed third and second in the 2015 and 2016 Louder Than a Bomb-DMV competition. She is a YoungArts finalist in spoken word and a member of the 10th First Wave cohort at the University of Wisconsin Madison.