The Golden Compass


At seventeen,
I am reading the same stories I did at ten:
Tamora Pierce, Phillip Pullman, Rick Riordan, Kristen Cashore-
and the list goes on.
Rented from school libraries and Sulzer regional
I lift yellowed pages to my nose
inhale the heady scent
and try to remember what these words used to taste like.

When I was ten, 
I flicked page after page
to the part where the protagonist kicks ass, 
not realizing then, that these people
are women.

That the Strong White Dude of everyone’s past
has been replaced with even stronger women:
white, brown, gold, speaking twelve different languages
and wielding sword and bow and quick thought.

On the bus to school
a gentle old woman asks me if i’m too old for this,
if maybe inconsequential fairy tales
are saved for children,
and illiterate eleventh graders.

And I want to yank her arm
and point it to the first story she read
that made any difference
show her that she, too, was ten, and didn’t care
that the only book she loved
had dark magic and black cats,
because she knew the dragon would be defeated; or maybe, if you were lucky-

I am told
that when Eukaryotes evolved
they carried saltwater in their circulatory systems
so blood can survive on land.
That we carry evidence of our history
in every vein in our body.

So I wonder if it’s the same with the words we’re given.
If every atom in our bodies
remembers the stars they once came from
or if coal remembers the forests they once were:
and how the only thing left of what’s past
is the tales of what it once was.

When I am asked why i’m still reading “kids books"
I want to go to their grandmother’s sides
trace thumbs across palm lines and scars
and tell them that these people will be stories one day,

that I believe in fiction: Not in its myth
but the so called “inconsequential" belief
that the good guys can get through this shit
and that the truth is never simple enough to be read on a compass.
and that the first time I thought women could be warriors too
was reading the stories of Wise Girl Silvertongue Lionesses.

So ask me
if i’m too old for this.


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