A statue of Lady Godiva, nude astride a horse
Photo: Michael Day / Flickr

July 10, 1040: Lady Godiva, wife of the Earl of Mercia, rides naked on horseback to force her husband to lower taxes.

July 10, 2015: Sandra Bland was pulled over by a state trooper for an alleged traffic violation.

I could ride bare-breasted bareback             (if my hair were long) 
trail through a city                                            (if I could convince my husband,
                                                                                              if he might contemplate 
                                                                                              my modesty)
to lower injustices                                             (if he were to look)
my fuzzy mound to decide
be fair                                                                   (if I could)
to the people
fair as the under of hand 
ride                                                                       (if I were on a horse)
several centuries                                                (if I may part my river of hair
to show the man                                                                 he might stare 
                                                                                               at my hilly breasts, if he)
himself an emperor,
I a lady, 
might he not lower woman like tax             (might)
bones not beat ground like hooves              (if my new clothes were no clothes)
                                                                            (if I stripped and mounted, nude, 
                                                                                             if only to change)
my lesser-ribbed counterpart                       (if I have to) 
I undress for him, for every life                    (if I want)
to save                                                                (if that includes my own)
                                                                             (if I weren’t afraid to)
say either of our names                                  (if the officer could have seen her 
                                                                                              and her mother, too)
if my body 
brought better,                                                 (if)
it means something 
Lady Godiva traversed the city bare            (if many wars ago)
hitched hips to horse                                      (as if a lover)
the same day Sandra Bland was arrested   (might if a woman ride a thing 
                                                                                       she not be driven beneath it?)

Ashanti Anderson is a poet and screenwriter. She received her MFA in creative writing from the University of California, Riverside. You can read more of her work in Poetry, Crab Fat Magazine, and Foothill. She currently lives in Texas.