Work It, Girl

Powerful poem for working class women by Mensen, youth educator and advocate, facilitator, muralist, illustrator, painter, writer and project coordinator.

Work It, Girl

Sister, I see you.

I see you, with your shitty paycheck
I see you, with your kids, your bills, your debt, your dreams
I see you young and bright cheeked, skipping rope
Or playing hand clap games

I see you silver and still bright


Image by Valentin Brown

Girl, you know I see you.
You have been here through all time.

I see your asshole boss
And the one before that one
And the one before that
I see the one that called you out of your name
That other one that tricked you
That other one that fired you on Friday
When you had plans to go out
For the first time in months
The one that talked to you like
You didn’t know you were a human being.


Sister, I see you.

I see that vibrant, throbbing heart
Beating all that red blood
Under that blue or pink collar
Or that name tag
Or your apron
Or your clearance rack ill fit biz cas
all polyester and plump prints
I know it’s a servant industry
And you deserve more

Sister, I see you standing out here
Spending what feels like your whole life on line
Traffic, checkouts, bank tellers,
endless offices full of paper and computer systems
bored faces thinking you are no more valuable
than a case or account number
or a balance

All these lines you wait on
But can’t cross
All these lines
Always too slow
Always days gone
Just like that
With not enough to show for it

Sister, I see you standing out here so far past
That shifty line of men and women
Who were supposed to love you right
But couldn’t.

I see you stitching quiet wounds
Or nursing silent scars
That only glance and whisper at others
But roar inside your heart
When you least expect it
When it is least convenient

I see all those men who stole your ideas
Who smirked or tapped your ass or
thought your name was whistle

Oh, girl, I see you and I see
all those people who told you you weren’t shit
all those threads you tucked into the corners of yourself
to keep from unraveling
All those hungry eyes
And hungry mouths
And hungry hopes
And hungry days

There are all those days you tried not to cry at bus stops
And all those days you dug red half moons
Into your palms
Holding so tight to your dignity and
Your visions
Your spirit
Your self

I see you and I call your name.

I call our name.

Shout out to those of us doing work the public can’t see.

Shout out to those of us doing the work that we don’t get accolades or likes for,
Shout out to those of us who put ourselves into circumstances
face to face with power and influence
to advance the
freedom and
of our peoples.

Shout out to those of us who take risks,
hold strong,
and operate incessantly
in the realm of unpaid,
emotional labor.

Shout out to the strategists,
the reflective ones,
the hold it down ones,
the keep on-keep on, can’t-stop-won’t-stop ones

Shout out to those of us
doing what our grandmothers couldn’t
and building a life for ourselves
as we build a world for our

We need you, we love you –
we know it isn’t easy,
we know sometimes you feel lonely or confused,
sometimes you doubt yourself,
sometimes you believe them
and the lies they tell
the lies about everything you have ever loved
the lies about everyone you have ever loved
the lies about everything you love in yourself
but you just keep on going, girl

Let’s do the best we can to care for one another
and all that we can’t see.

Let’s see each other
The way they won’t.

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