I'm mulling over being female this morning. I've been preaching to anyone who'll listen about how my sex does not matter in my poetry. Then I stopped and remembered all the poems I've written about that very thing. The question now is.....and I writing about being "me" and "me" just happens to be a female, or am I so much of a closet-militant that I can't even see it?
You be the judge:
There is no safe tomorrow, only fear
which follows night. Anticipation waits
Behind the sun, beneath the moon. I hear
the voice of God each time the wind abates -
each time a shadow falls - each time the rain
revives a drowning ghost then dissipates
to bonelesness in soft tearstained refrain.
I've been insane. I've been the woman, frail
and wan, with parchment skin. I've been restrained.
I've traced my name in raindrops on the pale
soft flesh of strangers until God foretold
the danger and the downpour turned to hail.
I've been afraid. I've watched the storms unfold
around me while my lover's lies grew cold.
I talk to God. He leaves the truth untold.
Once I knelt as mere chattel, bought cheaply
at the marketplace for the price of a thin gold finger ring
and invisible chains around my heart. (In China, feet
are bound and women trip tightly...possession
is somehow stated in stunted toe tips.)
I endured a fashionable slavery...stunned and staring
like a steer anticipating slaughter - (only not in India, where even
beef is more revered) - my heart forever measured in China feet.
I gave him nothing, keeping the secret of the Indian cow.
I took instead, his male children...and feed them milk dreams.
My sons will not grow chains which masquerade as thin gold
finger rings (my joy will be your daughters, dancing on bigger feet.)
You're painting me in chains - my aching arms
held high above my head, my hands restrained,
my legs spread open wide enough that worms
can crawl between the crevices and gain
control. Your dragonflies sew shut my eyes
while seven snakes sleep nestled in my hair.
Wild bees wax close my lips, my ears. My thighs
and hips are stilled by spider-webs. You prove
you're worthy to be hung in a museum while I -
I wear indignity as easily
as if it were a dress I could remove.
The Death of the Infant Sun
Perhaps we women laughed too loud, too long,
or not enough. Perhaps our sins were far
too large for God to overlook. How wrong
the darkness has become - how midnight-marred
each day begins and ends. There is no joy
in walking half the night - or counting stars
or dreaming back or looking straight ahead.
There is no daytime ruse we can employ -
no sleight of hand has ever brought the dead
sky back to light, concealed our scars, or paused
the anguish long enough for us to cry.
We women know that we alone have caused
the dark to fall - the light cast out our wombs to die.