To the little boys who dance in their mothers’ high heels,
to the ball-bouncing tomboys,
to the old couples sitting on lawn chairs in garages watching squirrels
& to anyone who’s been left behind, pushed ahead, or dragged along:
I owe you a song.
To the men who count the hours in beer cans,
to the women whose fathers count the hours in beer cans,
to the boys & girls who always have to share:
I’m singing for you.
I’m singing because I can’t hold
on to everything, but you can touch these words
& spread them on your bread of a life. You can let the words
wrap around you, be a pig in their blanket:
it’s all for you.
To the man for whom I wrote 5,432 love poems: I’m sorry
I never gave them to you when I had you.
To the men I may meet in the future: I want you
to know that I’m still learning how to hold
& be held without judgment. But every day I’m learning & growing &
learning to grow,
& isn’t that all we can do?
To the kid who gets kicked out of four square games,
to those who are too tired or too busy to dream:
To anyone who’s feeling fat:
stop & take a look at your elbows.
To the teenagers popping pimples in their half-bath purgatories,
to the ones who hate their noses with the front porch blues,
to the girls wearing thongs for the first time & dying:
ask yourself if the invisible panty-lines of this world are worth it,
don’t do it if it’s not.
To the grandmother who traces her granddaughter’s picture on the night
stand each morning
always wondering when she’ll come home:
I’m working on the chorus.
I’m working on the rhythm, too.
To the too thins or too wide at the hips, the too talls, or the too too toos:
this is small & not enough & never knowing—
still, we must keep sewing new stitches while pulling others out.
To the stitches.
To the pull.
To the bird who tries to eat these crumpled papers on the street:
please, remember what I told you:
it is not how pretty your wing—it is only how we sing.
Rachel Gellman is a Bay Area-native poet and teacher. The poem in this journal arose after her dear professor, the late Steve Kowit, gave her class a delightful “homework” assignment: he asked those in the class to consciously be more kind.