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“You Strike A Woman, You Strike A Rock”

          a Klepto-Collaborative Poem from TEDxWomen, December 1st, 2011



Our collective history of

Not wanting to take up too much space

The pressure to be conventionally feminine

Accepting the presumptions of our fathers

Being popular         Starving to fit in

Tweezing      Bleaching     Botox

Painful waxing

The new social norm        Of plastic surgery



Across the globe     Of our bodies

In search of

A cure


Measuring up to     Magazine covers

Myths                        Perpetrated by

Hollywood                “Real Housewives”

The industry of pornography


The media    Consuming bad behavior


A sense of entitlement

Handicapped with the notion that value lies in beauty


That lense                The lessons

Alarming loss

The sport      Of comparing          Devaluing

Hyper-sexualizing             Stealing innocence

Yes      The world does fall apart

Yes      History tried to crush

She caused a sensation     Sold violence and sex

What I’m here to say is

Pirates           Soldiers         History

You’re done

You are not the boss of me


Regardless of age or gender

Culture of conformity

We’ve had enough

My sisters and I

Will bypass you      Move on

Pursue other friend opportunities

Invest in our own unique identity

The good girl

The odd girl out

Shy, sensitive and sweet creatures

Brave                        Hope

Wings folded                        Or stretched to the limits

A strange mixture of humility and daring


They are all us

An all-female bomb squad

A new legacy

Thinking differently

Driven by a cause, a purpose, a belief

Each woman                       Beautifully designed

From the inside out


Mothers and daughters and sisters

Walked into the room

Of not-good-enough

Like the sun

Broke through the glass ceiling

With their high-heels

With blood, sweat and tears

With voices raised

With an instinct to save

Crossing the chasm

Of what came before

With the radical idea

Of equality


None of what I’m telling you is my opinion

After decades of

Swallowing              Abuse

You go home with something broken

Retreat into silence

Coiled ropes at the edges of nothing

A vast horizon

Of isolation

Subliminal              Epidemic

Hungry        Haiku

Of invisible question marks


You wake up


Pregnant with        Dark matter

Folding on itself

Giving birth to

Dark energy

Nightmares             And self doubt

A kind of kryptonite

How many Generations of girls are

Tragically scarred                        Misdiagnosed

Suffering consequences of resistance

A sense of invisibility Like an oil spill

Voices constantly saying

Be nice          Be pretty

Be seen but not heard

Be sexy and skinny

But not too smart

Not too fast

Which transitions into

Unexploded ordinance

We all carry with us

Pass on to our daughters and granddaughters

Party favors

Parting gifts


As a fishing vessel

A bottle of poison

A refugee camp

A couple of little spikes

An assembly line

The first apple I ever tasted


Women of hope       Begin to rule

Imminently qualified

Burning up with a fever

Awaken        Chosen

Wings extended

Women of change

It’s time to    Pilot the plane

Write your own stories

Believe in our glorious     Female pattern

A rich iron mine

Gravitational attracting            Bending the curve

Achieve this tipping point

Personal relationship with the heart

A huge pot of soup which we all share

Nourished    With belief

You’re not helpless

You’re someone

You’re just fine

Darling          Free yourself

March with generations of women

On the mall in Washington

Become advocates of

The magic of existence that is us

Showing up united

Our militia   Of change

Dance with joy, dance with love

On the frontiers of possibility

With occasional graffiti

That gift from the boat

A dream speech

A higher authority

Of compassion

Of community

Girls and women

Great oracle Golden circle

The scale of the night sky

Bow dipping into each wave      Of speaking out

Defying fiction

Telling one another the story

Mother of invention

Never let me forget

Plant me       Marvel

I’m here to stay

Here’s a human heart

Powerful       Origami

Beyond comprehension

Connecting all of us

Take ahold of that small hand

Never let go

Believe, believe, believe


Lo and behold, look what’s happening

With girls all over the world

Lo and behold

All over the world



Behold,          Girls

The world


Come, say goodbye              To our shared history

Of soldiers at the break of dawn

Pirates at midnight                      And mockingbirds

Shed the voices       Of the past

Of patriarchy                     Misogyny

The roles       Of restriction


We can fix our own

Broken          Wings

Don’t leave me up here all by myself

Make that journey                        Walk the line

We can’t afford to wait

I welcome you         To the rebirth

Look to the woman on your left

Look to the woman on your right

Take her hand

Side by side

We can          Wish

Leap forward                       Take flight

Create a brand new story

Talking about a child

A little girl climbing a tree

A poet, a playwright, a teacher, a politician, a neurobiologist

Capacity to imagine                     Freedom

Interwoven              In the bloodstream

Listen                        This will protect the heart

We are not hopeless

This    Is the revolution

We are pioneering our     Evolution

Exploring     The fertile void

Nurturing   The upward ascension of the human spirit

Girls are the solution

Cure for        The old paradigm

Their authenticity                        Their passion

Is the beginning of the beginning

The reverse of         The so-called          Golden rule

Let’s see them safely through

Build an alliance   With the young leaders of today

Spread the word     We are one village

One tribe      One blood

Remember   The 17 year-old activist in South Africa

Fighting for equality


Not for a life of ease                       Or for technology

But for the privilege of education

Her name is Busisiwe

Which, translated, means Bliss

To hear more about the TEDxWomen conference & find out exactly what the heck a “klepto-collaborative” poem is, sidle over to my other blog WordPlay.

I’ll be doing another live-action klepto-collaborative poetry creation & performance (like  I did for TEDxTheWoodlands) at TEDxYouth@TheWoodlands on January 7th. The event is all sold out but you can place your name on the waiting list; I hope to see you there!

I know, I know, this post doesn’t contain anything about recumbent trikes or MS or even service dogs, specifically – and yet, everything is connected. I am a writer, a poet, who happens to have MS. The thing I learned from Michael J. Fox is how to see things differently, to re-frame them, as opportunity rather than tragedy. So when I was diagnosed with MS and it became clear that my life would no longer revolve around acting and the theatre, I had to find another way to tell stories. A way that didn’t involve me performing on stages. Which is when I reclaimed my first love, creative writing.

Or, I guess to be more accurate, my first love – as is the way with all writers – was reading. Every teller of tales started out as the listener, the consumer. More than anything else in life I am a lover of story; it’s who I am. I love reading stories and watching stories through film and hearing other people’s stories any way they’re told, through every medium a story can be communicated.

I am a storyteller. Being a storyteller is one of the main ways I cope with a life intersected by MS. As much as having a devoted service dog and riding a recumbent trike transform my day-in & day-out with this illness for the better & brighter, so does my love of story. In fact, if worse came to worse and I had no trike or service dog, I know that storytelling is what would save me. Stories have always saved me.

Which is why I blog, and why I volunteer my time tutoring and sharing my love of poetry, storytelling and the imaginative/creative process with kids. It’s why I endeavor to grow something in the Greater Houston community like 826Valencia. And it’s why I’m always searching for new ways to play with the way I tell stories. Case in point, this new thing I’ve invented (or at least I’m pretty sure that I did!), called a klepto-collaborative poem.

I hope you enjoy this poem I created from TEDxWomen; please feel free to pass it on.