It didn’t make me 

      a woman         darkened     school skirt pleats
the pungent smell of loss            this initiation
      a twelve year olds guide to becoming
ashamed         it didn’t make me
weak   they did     at night   on push-bikes   grabbing
      my wrists    threatening to fill me in back alleys

i hide under baseball caps and sweatpants
      stitch  the smile into grimace
on the 468 bus  from school
his hand    wrenched  in   front
polishes   his   manhood              grinning

      i take up taekwondo
it didn’t make me         powerful       only more aware
      of my own weakness    i study       fly kick
my legs over head        a girl with women’s curves
      in dobok    tied     with red belt
every thursday    in the church hall   asks a man
      how to defend herself

don’t piss him off        he will  follow you
      to the road you live on     you will forget
every stance   punch    block       your fight whimpers
          you cannot spar with predators
                        cannot stop
your french teacher    pressing   you     against
      metal     lockers      breathing
heavily        against      your neck




Jemilea Wisdom-Baako is a British-Jamaican poet. A London Writers Award & Poetry London’s mentoring recipient, she was shortlisted for The Bridport Poetry Prize & is currently working on her first pamphlet. Her work appears in Magma, Pittsburgh Poetry Review, Good Journal, and elsewhere.