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I inhabit this body

that I thought was mine

but the gaze on my skin

claims it as otherwise

Why do preying eyes grasp

at every surface I wear

at every angle of my neck

at every strand of my hair?


I inhabit this body

that I thought was mine

but the words that ring around me

have branded it otherwise.

Why do these streets echo

with calls carving open my flesh - 

shouts and passing whispers all

tearing apart my chest?


I inhabit this body

that I thought was mine.

The suffocating silence

has told me otherwise.

Why is it they’ll have

my breasts and my thighs and their choice

of any part of this body - my body -

except for my voice?


At the beginning of it all, nobody told that little girl

who so loved this city at the heart of the world

that before she would have the chance to live and learn as woman,

these streets would turn auction, a marketplace without respect for her decisions.

But these streets are not mere blocks where I am lined up

for every male passerby to leer and erupt

with violent lashes of language, because while I know

their words seek possession, I have verses of my own.


And I’ll fill every alley from Canal to Broadway

with the sound of my voice, singing night and day,

Until this city and this world stand beating with the truth of just one line -

I inhabit this body because it is mine.

I live in this body because it is mine.


Helen Mingwen Chen
Christopher James Chin
Chun Fung Kevin Chiu
Columbia College
Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Sciences