By Natalie Henry
This poem explores the interpersonal and intrapersonal dialogue of someone being harassed on the street.
Street harassment is power.
The power to feel entitled to any person you see.
The power to whistle, gesture, and say what you want because it’s cool.
The power to harass young girls and women just for your satisfaction.
The power you took from me.
Now I feel small
I feel weak
I feel afraid
Say something! Do something!
I hear these words from inside my brain but there’s no connection.
No connection to my trembling breath,
or my unstill hands,
or the feet that refuse to stop.
His presence still follows me.
Turn. Cross the street.
His words won’t leave me alone.
“Gimme a smile”
Phone out. Dial.
“Why you gotta do me like that?”
Open the door. Random store.
To you, it may be a compliment, a praise
“I’m just telling you that you’re beautiful”
But somehow ‘beautiful’ doesn’t translate the same in your language.
It’s no longer what I used to know it for.
But rather degrading, mortifying, terrifying, discouraging, restraining
Everything except beautiful.
“Well you should’ve said something”
I’ve said a lot.
I think you’re smart enough to know that words don’t say everything.
“You know what b****, I ain’t even like yo dumb a** in the first place”
I don’t expect you to understand the dimensions of how I’m feeling
You won’t admit it to yourself. So where would I even begin?
In the early months of 2021, I took a writing workshop outside of Girls Write Now that inspired this piece. During that workshop, I was so emotional in writing this piece that I stopped after writing the first stanza. I wasn’t only in distress from reflecting on my experiences of being harassed, but I was also trying to logically understand how the typical ‘script’ goes when being harassed, and the thoughts behind each person involved. Later that year, I participated in GWN’s Write Right Now workshop where I felt grounded enough to revisit the piece. There, people shared their experiences which reassured me that I wasn’t alone in trying to understand why sexual harassment exists. Their stories pushed me to finish the poem to spread the word that street harassment is NOT okay.
Natalie Henry is an African-American poet, writer and author of her award-winning memoir, “It was Me and You." Her sole drive as a writer focuses on unpacking the memories of her life, the standards of society and her imagination of what could there be in this world. From the young age of 7, Henry has been a self writer, loving writing for the true feeling of it. Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Henry unpacks her niche in writing as a high school girl. She continues to explore various styles and genres as her love for writing grows infinitely.