When the World offers to paint you naked

Poetry by | November 21, 2022

Open your body. Do not fold anything.
Maybe your legs—just a little bit—
you still deserve to keep secrets
even if you felt like your skin
was never private. Make your legs longer
in an attempt to jump.
The world says they’ll paint you
but you know no man has ever stared at you
without wanting a pursed smile or stiff nod in return.
Bend your knee—you’ll jump farther, walk faster
From them who would say hey, you should learn
how to take a compliment—but never bend
it to anyone. Stretch your torso, show how a stomach
does not have to be flat for somebody to rest
their head on it. Arch your back,
draw your shoulders behind as if they were wings.
You are a pigeon awaiting flight. Puff your chest out.
Let the mounds of your breasts absorb light
from the sky until it shines enough
for stares to bounce off it. Elongate your neck,
make your neck muscles bulge—
your neck is not a cage, free your voice.
And as the world paints you, curve your lips into a smile
that pierces through the canvas.
Make them wonder what your smile means
and what your mouth says. Let it haunt them
until they sleep, until the last drop
of paint dries from their bristles.
They have painted you bare, yet
you are not naked. You cannot be contained
in someone else’s piece.

This poem is originally published under the collection “Sum of Her Parts” published by the Road map Series.

Ria Valdez teaches in the Department of Humanities in UP Mindanao.

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