How it’s going in law school [Tell Your Story]

4 Mar

Here’s our first Tell Your Story submission, a poem from a law student. Thank you for sharing this.

For now comments will be permitted, but moderated.

– Kris

* * *

How it’s going in law school


Please forgive me for speaking
for talking out of turn.
I’m having some problems at law school
and I have to try to tell you
what they are.

Today in our Con Rights class,
which i am taking with Professor X for good or for ill,
we covered Roe.

I am crying
as I write these words
because it felt like a gut punch.
i don’t know how to describe adequately
all of the ways the class was terrible.
law words are too dry for water
so i have to try to speak my native language
that is full of images and not rational.

i don’t know how to describe adequately
all of the ways the class was terrible.
it pained me.
Old white men
with crisp black and white pages
hovering over my womb.
Discussing whether and when
the State could assert its “legitimate interests” over this object.

Old white men
Deciding when the State’s (male) interests become “compelling.”

Shadowing every twist in their detached deliberation
the spectre of ending it completely,
my sovereignty over my womb.
Always present the underthought of ownership.
Theirs over mine.
Their entitlement to anything that grows or sprouts.
The vessel.
Hollow and faceless.
Dissected like a frog.
Talked about in objective terms,
charts going up on the white board,
a graph.

i don’t know how to describe adequately
all of the ways the class was terrible.

My blood and my bones trembled in the seat.
my hands shaking.
the urge to disrupt,
to scream,
to throw my black and white book across the room,
to inject red.

The color I know.
The color I bled.

Can’t disrupt.
So run?

I caught the smug sidelong glances of others;
the male gaze amused,
I was shaking.

They still hold the keys.
If i have a set that opens the door to my own autonomy,
that is of their doing.
Their grant of power.
The State giveth,
and the (male) State taketh away.

They discussed the ownership of my womb
while i sat silent shaking.

“Unborn children” were the heroes of their story.
To be pitied.
The poor helpless things.

The color I know.
The color I bled.

i bled and bleed.
I shudder to think my sovereignty in my own skin is conditional.
My autonomy not mine,
because educated men discuss the potentials
and problems of reconquering it like any other territory.
I am what they discuss;
talking of me
but not to me,
not with me,
not seeing me,
not asking.
as if my womb were a football to toss around from one team to another.
I shake even as i write this, hours later.
I want to be full human,
as I know myself to be
but they do not.

i feel my powerlessness so awfully, so painfully, all through my being.

the silencing has me pulling at my throat.
stretching it,
longing to speak.
but what would i speak?
i would paint myself blue,
i would toss blood on their pages from the naked back of a horse.
this i cannot do.

so i write you.

I got caught in a riptide.
this year i’d been swimming in shallow warm waters.
accepting, i thought, the law school as it is.
accepting the white male system for what it is,
warts and all, i thought.
if there’s something i lost over the summer
some piece of my soul that fled.

Yet this riptide sucked me out to sea,
where again i was spun under waves of grief and unfamiliarity.
this is not safe.
here i am lost.
here i am foreign,

After class some men made snide remarks
but i went to the women.
Women i know well to be feminist.

One was unspeakably angry,
like me.
Visceral and violent.
(She too had terminated a pregnancy as a teen,
and she knew the life-or-deathness of it.
The real reason we will always fight.)

The other told me.
“it didn’t bother me.
he was just explaining the rationale of the court.
it wasn’t his opinion.”
She, bemused, asked what was the big deal?
as i got madder and madder.

i said “unborn child” is offensive
and laden with meaning as “negro.”

She was annoyed with me for implying as much.
I said it is.
This threatens me;
this directly links to oppression.
I said the issue is not the fetus,
it is compulsory child birth.
it is the idea of forcing someone,
against her will,
to change her hormones,
to change her shape and size,
and expel a large mass from her body,
risking her life in the process.

“that’s not a good argument.”
she smirked.
“the best argument is economic.”

I yelled something at her
because i was angry
but i could not articulate an idea.

Something like:
the best argument for my freedom is not his money.
The best argument for freedom is never his money.
the best argument for freedom is freedom.

And I’m scared because civil rights are not built on freedom, but his money.
Not on the 14th amendment,
but interstate commerce.

(what??)  and women’s rights,

women’s rights, if i’m not mislead,
are built on the emanations and penumbras of other rights;
they are derivative,
rights rooted in no solid soil.

Why all this fabrication?
Why can’t we say white man has real rights,
but people of color and women have
tangential rights?

Why can’t we come out and say
we refuse to protect all equally?

Why can’t we speak directly of the nature of freedom?

I’ll speak directly.

My womb is not their land to map.
the fire of creation that burns in me
is not a gift of men.
It does not belong to them
and cannot be reclaimed.
no one owns this flame but me.
If I must stoop to debate
how much i belong to myself
it can’t be on his terms.
it can’t be about his money,
or his compelling interests.
when he talks about me,
about my womb that I am,
that is me,
it can’t be in his language.

He has to learn my language.
He has to talk in terms of blood and spirit and fear.
He has to come into my house.

But he doesn’t come into my house.
He will not
and I can’t make him.
He doesn’t hear
or speak my language,
and neither, sometimes, does she.

I struggle to swim at sea.

i am human of the earth,
of the soil.
I am physical.

I struggle against this disembodiment,
this divorce from my own self
that the law blindly demands of me daily.

I struggle against the stark white silence.

I am red.
I am red.
I am red.


Do you want to tell your story? You can do so here. You will be kept anonymous (leaving an email address is optional) unless you ask not to be.

One Response to “How it’s going in law school [Tell Your Story]”

  1. Jen March 16, 2013 at 10:58 pm #

    Thank you so much for this. Don’t stop using your language to say what must be said, and what his can’t.

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