A friend of mine shared a poem earlier today, and it shook me to my core.
The words pierced through my exhausted body like they knew where I was, who I was, and why I’ve been so damn tired for so long.
Do you ever feel like words just find you? As though a person on the other end has found a way to reach you against all odds. Like a tin can telephone—two cans and one string. Two people and one poem. Direct transmission of a message that every part of you anticipates hearing.
I felt that way when I read “The Bridge Poem.” This poem is written by Kate Rushin, a Black Lesbian poet.
In 1981, “This Bridge Called My Back” was published, which is an iconic feminist anthology that has collections of essays, poetry, interviews, and visual art by Women of Colour.
As I read the words, it felt like the author, Kate Rushin, was living inside my head, inside my experiences, and I was not alone for a second of it. I felt the collective weight of generations of Women of Colour. I felt the intersectionality of culture, identity, and sexuality, and the confusion and validation this oftentimes simultaneously brings.
I also felt the softness in my pain, and how even though it’s heavy, it softens to release because it has to. This pain is a canvas that all women have painted on, each layer of paint adding radiance upon radiance. Yet adding Hardship upon hardship too. Many of our experiences are laden with the struggle to be everything for everyone, and this burden we carry is deeply woven in the fabric of what it means to be a Woman of Colour.
But this pain is made bearable by the words of other women who articulate similar experiences with such radical honesty and fervour. These women strengthen my spine, and I grow inches taller in the presence of their work.
I hope it moves you as it has moved me:
I’ve had enough
I’m sick of seeing and touching
Both sides of things
Sick of being the damn bridge for everybody
Can talk to anybody
I explain my mother to my father my father to my little sister
My little sister to my brother my brother to the white feminists
The white feminists to the Black church folks the Black church folks
To the Ex-hippies the ex-hippies to the Black separatists the
Black separatists to the artists the artists to my friends’ parents…
I’ve got the explain myself
I do more translating
Than the Gawdamn U.N.
I’m sick of it
I’m sick of filling in your gaps
Sick of being your insurance against
The isolation of your self-imposed limitations
Sick of being the crazy at your holiday dinners
Sick of being the odd one at your Sunday Brunches
Sick of being the sole Black friend to 34 individual white people
Find another connection to the rest of the world
Find something else to make you legitimate
Find some other way to be political and hip
I will not be the bridge to your womanhood
I’m sick of reminding you not to
Close off too tight for too long
I’m sick of mediating with your worst self
On behalf of your better selves
I am sick
Of having to remind you
Before you suffocate
Your own fool self
Stretch or drown
Evolve or die
The bridge I must be
Is the bridge to my own power
I must translate
My own fears
My own weaknesses
I must be the bridge to nowhere
But my true self
I will be useful.
From This Bridge Called My Back
Edited by: Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldua