When someone asks too much of you, say no.
When strangers ask for favors, hesitate.
Don’t go to places you don’t want to go.
Walk tall, head up, eyes front. Keep walking straight
past men who whistle threats at you then smile.
When strangers ask for favors, hesitate,
say you’ll get back to them, then wait a while.
Don’t slouch or sink into your bones, glide tall
past men who whistle threats at you. Don’t smile.
Give what you want to give, but don’t give all;
keep part of you intact, untouched, pristine.
Don’t slouch or sink into your bones, glide tall,
strut if you like and don’t think it’s obscene
to like yourself when others call you weak.
Keep part of you intact, untouched, pristine,
but speak your mind, not timid, scared or meek
when someone asks too much of you. Say no.
To like yourself when others call you weak,
don’t go to places you don’t want to go.
Allison Joseph lives in Carbondale, Illinois, where she directs the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Southern Illinois University. She serves as poetry editor of Crab Orchard Review. Her books and chapbooks include What Keeps Us Here (Ampersand Press), Soul Train (Carnegie Mellon University Press), In Every Seam (University of Pittsburgh Press), Worldly Pleasures (Word Tech Communications), Imitation of Life (Carnegie Mellon UP), Voice: Poems (Mayapple Press), My Father's Kites (Steel Toe Books), Trace Particles (Backbone Press), Little Epiphanies (Imaginary Friend Press), Mercurial (Mayapple Press), Mortal Rewards (White Violet Press), Multitudes (Word Poetry), The Purpose of Hands (Glass Lyre Press), Double Identity (Singing Bone Press) Corporal Muse (Yellow Chair Press) and What Once You Loved (Barefoot Muse Press). She is the literary partner and wife of poet and editor Jon Tribble.