Robyn Fleming

Things My Mother Taught Me

I wrote the first draft of this poem in 2003. I worry that it will never stop being relevant.

Things My Mother Taught Me

Could you kick
In those shoes
In that skirt
Could you run?
Could you drop everything
And yell
And scream
And fight?
Keep your nails short
Keep your teeth sharp
Keep your keys in your hand
And your hands free
Walk straight to your car
Don’t stop
Never stop
Lock all the doors
Put on the chain
Keep an eye on your drink
Go with a friend
Leave with your friend, not someone else
A plan only works if you stick to it
And when the man on the street asks you “Miss…?”
Don’t stop
Better to be rude than dead or worse
Trust your instincts
Trust your impulses
If you don’t like that guy
Cross the road
Get out of the elevator
Pretend you forgot something
If your gut says go, then go

Remember: Instep Knee Groin Solar plexus Throat Eyes
As he passes you, look at his eyes
And keep your eyes moving
Look alert
Look dangerous
Don’t look like a victim
Don’t wear headphones
Don’t isolate yourself
Keep yourself safe
Don’t panic

Always fear

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