The process we went through with Miriam and the writing of this poem seems to us a significant and important one in the process of focusing on prevention, on empowering ourselves.


looking clear to the other side of things
the sheltered bone resistant
becomes a capable fist
swinging arm from abdomen
with the gut call HUT!
like a heave
it screams through wood
crack snaps the board in two

the instructor prides her signature across
splintered halves
Miranda broke this board with her Wen-Do fist
and passes the diploma to go up on her
bedroom wall
already hanging on Miranda's self-amazement
a straightened spine in the parking lot

Michael hinges the doorframe with his shoulder
sways dismissing you broke it along the grain
and it's not like it's plywood or anything
he laughs off closes in
on how tiny her hands her wrists are
grips them for a second
just to show her
you're kidding yourself
and it's his brand of cruelty she hates
trying to humor the fierceness
out of her mouth
to replace the palsy easy as moss
forcing her suspicion
the twist that wrenches her defensive
into positioned offense
weighing violence into her hand

Dear Miriam:
We are writing to ask if you would consider revising your poem, so that the reader is left feeling stronger, having a vision of women's power in responding to male violence. We believe there is great value in showing the times when women do fight back, when we do successfully prevent the violence so often visited against us.

Nadya Burton & Leona Heillig

Dear Nadya & Leona:
In the draft of "self-defensive" I wanted to get across that Miranda (and women generally) can gain the power to avoid, fight off and survive violence. With Miranda's new physical strength comes self-esteem. When she comes into contact with Michael, the joking misogynist asshole, her new physical and psychological strength are challenged. I intended the poem to end unresolved, with the idea that she now has the tool of the oppressor violence. I did not want to gloss over the fact that violence against women will not dissipate simply because we are learning to defend ourselves. Neither did I want to present a powerful, victorious ending, ignoring the fact that with training in self-defense, we, too, have the power to hurt, maim, or kill another human being.

Miriam Margles
Miriam Margles

However, I have decided to alter the text slightly to clarify the fact that Miranda does have strength and control [replacing the last line with the following stanza]. I hope you find the adjusted poem to be an improvement.

the sheltered bone articulates
defiance in a clench
Miranda cauterizes against his biting subtlety
weighing violence into her hand
tension into his hold

Miriam Margles

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