High School Poetry Series: Gender, Identity, & Race — Genesis Gonzalez

16403407_10103555321683718_111071533205757261_oA note from Series Editor Sarah Marcus-Donnelly: Born from a powerful in-class discussion that we had about gender, race, and the role of masculinity in rape culture, many of these poems are an analysis of gendered, racial personal experience and a study of our intersectionality. This poetry series was inspired by a HuffPost essay I wrote called, “Why I Teach Feminism at an Urban High School.” The poets featured here are all current students whose work I found to be brave and progressive. Please help me support their crucial and influential voices.

I chose this poem for its relatability. This work so clearly encapsulates the pressure of respectability and its insidious impact on young women. I am especially drawn to the complicated relationship the speaker has with wanting to please her father and her eventual self-realization and freedom.


The Apology

I am sorry

I say it too often.

Walking around with so much precaution.

What I want to say is

fuck tradition.

As a soldier, I was on a mission.

Make sure I am never too sexy;

only trained to be a Virgin Mary.

Or at least, that’s what I made myself believe.

I am sorry

I never realized

that God didn’t create me to be holy.

He made me to rewrite a story.

To cut down trees

rooted in the belief that I am not worthy.

I am worthy.

I am sorry

I kept myself so quiet.

Wore only long-sleeve shirts,

kept to a strict diet.

No mistakes, no drinking, no sex.

All to keep my father’s respect.

Followed the rules for eighteen years

and never realized I could come first.

I am sorry

I had to keep my head down,

And even on solid ground

the wet dreams embedded in men’s brains

made me feel like I might drown.

I fought the currents of the ocean,  

swimming and pleasing everyone but myself.

I am sorry

I always tried to be kind

even though I lost my peace of mind.   

Even though it made me feel out of place.

I did it all

to keep a smile on my father’s face.




Genesis Gonzalez is a high school senior from Cleveland. She enjoys photography, volunteering, and softball.

About Sarah Marcus

Sarah Marcus is the author of They Were Bears (2017, Sundress Publications), Nothing Good Ever Happens After Midnight (2016, GTK Press), and the chapbooks BACKCOUNTRY (2013) and Every Bird, To You (2013). Her other work can be found at NPR’s Prosody, The Huffington Post, McSweeney’s, Cimarron Review, Spork, The Establishment, Cosmopolitan.com, and Marie Claire.com SA, among others. She is an editor at Gazing Grain Press, a spirited VIDA: Women in Literary Arts volunteer, and the Series Editor for As It Ought To Be’s High School Poetry Series: Gender, Identity, & Race. She holds an MFA in poetry from George Mason University and currently teaches and writes in Cleveland, OH. Find her at www.sarahannmarcus.com.
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1 Response to High School Poetry Series: Gender, Identity, & Race — Genesis Gonzalez

  1. Karina Onofre says:

    I felt identified with this poem. As a woman I still fighting with a society where just men have the rights to brake rules.

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