Friday, April 30, 2010

Glory at the Movies

Every Saturday
I was there,
out of my mother's hair
for a quarter or a dime,
and a second dime for sweets,
at the Ace
the Albee
the Paramount
the Fox
the Metropolitan
the Majestic
the RKO Orpheum
or the Duffield,
glowing opals
in the rubble of our slum.

With Marilyn
or Edna
or Helen
or my little sister
I was there,
by two chocolate candy bars
or five slim red boxes
of Indian brand sunflower seeds,
lightly salted, with the shells on.
At the Saturday matinee
we built great pyramids of shells.
They rose
on the floor in front of us
all through
the double feature
ten cartoons
the coming attractions
the newsreel
a comedy short
and a serial, too.

All afternoon
chewing and spitting
I did nothing so grudging
as suspend disbelief.
Rather, I was enthralled
by total belief.
I gave myself
more fully to the screen
than ever to a lover.
Brooklyn was my Kansas;
the movies were Oz,
a larger, brighter world,
its technicolor more real than real,
a swashbuckling world
peopled by handsome heroes
who robbed the rich and defended the poor,
Errol Flynn and Paul Henreid,
Sterling Hayden and Robert Taylor,
Stewart Granger and Tyrone Power,
and always, in every film,
either Yvonne DeCarlo or Maureen O'Hara,
looking gorgous on the Spanish Main.

Their eyes flashed with righteousness.
They made quips in dungeons.
It was a world large enough
for principles and laughter both,
and to this day,
that is how I define gallantry.

It was all a pack of lies, of course,
two dimensions only,
the height and width of the screen
the utter lack of depth.

Later, I had to unlearn
a great deal of nonsense.
I had to learn
that there were female heroes,
and handsome villains,
and evil systems.
I had to learn
about mixed motives
and shades of grey.

When I go to a movie today,
I know it's only a movie,
and I go somewhat reluctantly,
that I will probably
be both robbed and disappointed.
But even today, sometimes,
a few, the greatest of films,
surround me with glory.

Thursday, April 29, 2010


was a large clay pot
with flowing female curves,
and intricately decorated
with old, old patterns

that I smashed
in an asymetric

Shards of passions
scrape together,
grind each other
smaller, smaller.
From their dust
I shall compose
a stronger vessel.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Forty-five in the Washroom Mirror

Treasonous hairs of grey
And me without a man.
A few unripe ones slipped away
And while I waited for the next and best
The season passed
And suddenly there were no more,
Only a strand or two of grey
Slithering through the tall grass.

Somewhere in the jungle
Men crawl on their bellies,
Cradling rifles
Not yet pointed my way.

Women greying in the mirror,
How can I be growing old
And feel so immature?
Should I grow it wild and woolly again
As in rebellious youth, my hair,
Or shear it, clip it back or up,
Dam the flow of rage and laughter?

Somewhere in the jungle
Those men are creeping closer.

I pull out the traitorous grey,
One, two, a dozen,
But as I do, I touch
How strong they are,
Thicker cable than the threads of youth,
Tougher cloth to weave.
There will be some compensation
For the lost brass ring.

And I will be ready
For the sniper's bullet
When it comes.
In a rough cotton smock
I will stand in the clearing
And face the green jungle.
Perhaps as I raise my aged arms
I will tremble.
But I will be ready.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

I Write for Women

I write for women, not for men,
For women, first and foremost,
My gender-kind.
I write from our own perspective,
And am immediately understood.
In my words, as in a true mirror,
Women recognize

As for men, well yes,
They should read me, too,
Make the effort,
As foreigners,
As a French person studies
A Japanese classic.

Then will they learn
What we know now,
That their norm
Is only the norm
For men,
Not the nor
For people.

I, for example,
Do not need to harpoon a fish,
Like pegleg Melville
And old man Hemingway,
To prove myself to myself,
Indeed, to prove anything.
I do not need to go to war,
Or carry a big stick,
Or kick ass,
Or kick a ball,
Or sit in front of a TV
Watching other men
Kick a ball,
To prove, and prove again, my manhood.

Nor do I need to serve
A man
An endless meal,
Or play forever
Second fiddle,
Or softly say, "There, there,"
or softer still, say nothing at all,
To prove my bountiful womanhood.
Anything at all that I do,
Any way that I do it,
Is feminine,
And all my words,
Like my hips,
Are pure female.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


"Destined for permanent marginality"
by my gender I am not,
for the side has now become
the center (your side, my center).
For me--for Everywoman,
though mislaid and sidetracked for millenia past--
I am where it's at.

And your little thing
may someday be hung,
vestigial, obsolete, or stuffed,
in a marble museum/mausoleum
in a niche with the rack and the thumbscrew
and other relics of dead religions
and the dry bones of dinosaurs.

For we curvy opticians have been grinding the lens,
laboring long
to refocus, redefine, and realign
the center and the side.
And now in the holy temple of the kitchen
at the smoking altar of the stove
bosomy Talmudic scholars barbecue masculine ribs (you liar)
and procreation flourishes, as before

In my womb,
in my heart,
in my fertile mind,
now at last seen
as the center of significance.

This poem is dedicated to Joanna Russ, in appreciation for her brilliant study entitled How to Suppress Women's Writing (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1983). On p. 84, Russ offers a quotation from an article by Judith Long Laws entitled "The Psychology of Tokenism: An Analysis" (in Sex Roles, I: 1, 1975, p. 51). A portion of Russ' quotation from Laws' article follows:

Tokenism is...found whenever a dominnat group is under pressure to share privilege, power, or other desirable commodities with a group which is excluded...tokenism advertises a promise of mobility which is severly restricted in quantity...the Token does not become assimilated into the dominant group, but is destined for permanent marginality...

Friday, April 23, 2010

When I am old and dry

When I am old and dry
And can scarcely move,
Bent of back and knotted of joint,
Sitting and setting and hardly rocking,
Hardly noticing,
Detached from all but strands of dreams
Remembered down the long tunnel of time.

Then will I pour out
The ripe poems of passiion
That I seeded and stored
But could not speak
In the years
When my bones were strong and supple,
When my skin ached with longing,
When my blood dashed against my veins,
But my training held me back.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Daddy's Little Audience

"Sit on my knee,
Gaze up at me,
And I will regale you
With tales of the sea:
Of pirates and plunder,
Adventures and wonder,
Of mountainous waves
In lightning and thunder.

"And while I declaim
Of glory and fame,
You, little pet,
Mustn't fidget or fret.
Sit as still as a bird.
Be seen, never heard,
Except once in awhile
When with radiant smile
And eyes like a flame
You may murmur my name:
`Daddy, my star,
How brave and how brilliant
You were, and you are!'"

I? I fell for it
For all those years.
I smiled and smiled,
Worse pain than tears.
And now with lamp I wander far,
Rejecting men all mouth no ears,
Searching the globe
For a man who not only talks
But listens,
And listening,
And hears.

Friday, April 2, 2010


The day I got married
Was like going to jail.
Stifled in white,
Blind in a veil,
Prodded by convention,
Propelled by compulsion,
Batlike by radar
I flew in a fog
Down the dark aisle.

Under a canoopy
Heavy with flowers,
A stranger
Stripped me
Of my mortal name,
Tied me tight
In a legal knot,
And bound me
With a golden chain.

Musicians played,
And the guests all danced.
But pedestaled
On high white heels,
How could I dance?
And when I removed the silken spikes,
Then the petticoats tripped me up
And I still could not dance.
I was trapped in the net
Of a billowing gown.

Later, in a midtown hotel,
A square room,
A small grey cell
With two windows,
Both shut.

The first time
I chose to go to jail,
I felt like a bride,
Luminous with love.
The doors spread wide
To receive me,
And within our resonating chamber
My friend and I
Sang counterpoints
And harmonies.

Being a woman,
I am composed of curves,
And the older I grow
The clearer I see,
Trailing behind me
Like a long satin train,
The parabolas of irony.

At Night

When the moon comes out
Like a lemon pie
Baked in the oven
Of the big black sky,
Then I'll fling out my arms
In the moon-sweet night
And gorge myself
On the dark so bright.