Women’s Studies

Reeva Steenkamp

Cameras adore him —
that chiseled face, all
angle and shadow,
bright with tears. He sobs
about waking from nightmares,
won’t look at the picture
of what used to be my head.

His beauty blazes from each
newspaper and magazine
as they sell his
cripple to hero myth.
Me they confuse with Nicole
Brown, Bonnie Bakley, Natalie Wood.
Only my mother, granite-faced
in the front row, knows
my nickname, my favorite food.
He swears when I went
to bed that night, I felt loved.
Whether the judge buys it or not,
he’ll make the history books. I’m just
the dead girl, forgettable,
common as a shoe.



This is for all the gifted girls
forced to hide
because our power threatens.
Guilty, hidden, numb, so lonely
we’ll try anything —
conceal, don’t feel — the soul-
dulling mantra that promises
a place at the dance.

Let us take off our gloves.
Conjure stairs, then climb them,
making palaces and monsters
rise. Let our secrets sculpt
themselves from ice as weak
men cower and each flagrant note
of Now they know soars
from out open throats.

Let us be cold
as we need to be.
Suss the pretty prince
for what he is.
Whip up storms and skating rinks.
When our sisters stumble,
let us take their hands
and guide them into glide.



A giant spider crouches by the door.
Moans grow louder
in the darkness, one green
glowing finger reaches out. The other mom
and I shriek, recoil from a doll
mummified in toilet paper, red
paint in teacups, plates of river rocks
meant to be bones.
Were you scared? For real? my daughter asks,
giggling with her friend, both girls
paint-smeared and shining, unaware
this morning a politician said
women who earn as much as men
will have trouble finding husbands.
I want to chain them here, safe
among monsters of their own making,
before lipstick and self-loathing and silence.
Above them, a vampire her older brother
built spreads his wings.