Tag Archives: imagery

Fast Gas

When I was about 14, I worked for a gas station doing their accounting! It’s clear looking back, that it was work they definitely didn’t want to do and it’s doubtful I was any good at it. I have had work that is traditionally defined as women’s work and jobs traditionally defined as men’s work. Both are freeing in their own ways.

On a different thread, I have also responded unusually to a situation, but have never expressed that as exquisitely as this poem does.

Fast Gas                                                                                 Dorianne Laux

 for Richard

Before the days of self service,

when you never had to pump your own gas,

I was the one who did it for you, the girl

who stepped out at the sound of a bell

with a blue rag in my hand, my hair pulled back

in a straight, unlovely ponytail.

This was before automatic shut-offs

and vapor seals, and once, while filling a tank,

I hit a bubble of trapped air and the gas

backed up, came arcing out of the hole

in a bright gold wave and soaked me — face, breasts,

belly and legs. And I had to hurry

back to the booth, the small employee bathroom

with the broken lock, to change my uniform,

peel the gas-soaked cloth from my skin

and wash myself in the sink.

Light-headed, scrubbed raw, I felt

pure and amazed — the way the amber gas

glazed my flesh, the searing,

subterranean pain of it, how my skin

shimmered and ached, glowed

like rainbowed oil on the pavement.

I was twenty. In a few weeks I would fall,

for the first time, in love, that man waiting

patiently in my future like a red leaf

on the sidewalk, the kind of beauty

that asks to be noticed. How was I to know

it would begin this way: every cell of my body

burning with a dangerous beauty, the air around me

a nimbus of light that would carry me

through the days, how when he found me,

weeks later, he would find me like that,

an ordinary woman who could rise

in flame, all he would have to do

is come close and touch me.


The Year I Was Diagnosed with a Sacrilegious Heart  

This poet grew up with an activist father and he certainly took it to heart as you’ll see in this poem.  That the concept of compromise is offered in school amazes me. I also remember my own unwillingness to recite the Pledge of Allegiance and wish today that we lived in a world where compromises seem possible.

The Year I Was Diagnosed with a Sacrilegious Heart                              Martín Espada

At twelve, I quit reciting

the Pledge of Allegiance,

could not salute the flag

in 1969, and I,

undecorated for grades or sports,

was never again anonymous in school.


A girl in homeroom

caught my delinquent hand

and pinned a salute

against my chest;

my cafeteria name was Commie,

though I too drank the milk

with presidential portraits on the carton;

but when the school assembly stood

for the flags and stiff soldiers’ choreography

of the color guard,

and I stuck to my seat

like a back pocket snagged on coil,

the principal’s office

quickly found my file.

A balding man in a brown suit

asked me if I understood compromise,

and we nodded in compromise,

a pair of Brooklyn wardheelers.


Next assembly, when the color guard

marched down the aisle,


I stood with the rest,

then pivoted up the aisle,

the flags and me

brushing past each other

without apologies,

my unlaced sneakers

dragging out of the auditorium.


I pressed my spyglass eye

against the doors

for the Pledge:

no one saw my right hand

crumpled in a pocket

instead of spreading

across my sacrilegious heart.


Ceremony done, the flagpoles

pointed their eagle beaks at me,

and I ducked

under their shifting banner wings

back to my seat,

inoculated against staring,

my mind a room after school

where baseball cards

could be stacked by team

in a plastic locker.


The Menstrual Lodge

It has taken me awhile to post this poem because of the potentially upsetting content. But it contains some truths and may help someone write about their experiences and thoughts. A poem like this can gift the writer with new entry into material that has been waiting to be expressed. What happens to an individual may seem like something that has been happening to women throughout the ages, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be expressed. It keeps happening  and does not become old news and writing your story may show someone the way through it.


The Menstrual Lodge                                                Ursula K. Le Guin


Accepting the heavy destiny of power,

I went to the small house when the time came.

I ate no meat, looked no one in the eye,

and scratched my fleabites with a stick:

to touch myself would close the circle

that must be open so a man can enter.

After five days I came home,

having washed myself and all I touched and wore

in Bear Creek, washed away the sign,

the color, and the smell of power.


It was no use. Nothing,

no ritual or servitude or shame,

unmade my power, or your fear.


You waited in the thickets in the winter rain

as I went alone from the small house.

You beat my head and face and raped me

and went to boast. When my womb swelled,

your friends made a small circle with you:

We all fucked that one.

Who knows who’s the father?


By Bear Creek I gave birth, in Bear Creek

I drowned it. Who knows who’s the mother?

Its father was your fear of me.


I am the dirt beneath your feet.

What are you frightened of? Go fight your wars,

be great in club and lodge and politics.

When you find out what power is, come back.


I am the dirt, and the raincloud, and the rain.

The walls of my house are the steps I walk

from the day of birth around the work I work,

from giving birth to day of death.

The roof of my house is thunder,

the doorway is the wind.

I keep this house, this great house.


When will you come in?