Tag Archives: oppression

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?


Catherine Parrill’s Memoir


Everyone has a different process when they are writing.  Cathy has been working on a memoir about her connection to Haiti and some of the important relationships & life changing experiences. Her "scroll" otherwise known as a  huge roll  of brown paper holds a visual map and some of the paper or resources that document the story as well.  In class we've been privileged to be part of story -seeing it develop and to meet some of people in it.
Everyone has a different process when they are writing. Cathy has been working on a memoir about  Haiti and her time there, and some of the important relationships she developed, and life changing experiences she lived, and is living. Her “scroll” otherwise known as a huge roll of brown paper holds a visual map of  the story and some of the papers or resources that document the story as well. In class we’ve been privileged and delighted to become part of the  story -seeing it come together and to meet some of people in it.

Experiment in Tuskegee

In the south we struggle with what to be proud of for we are passionate people who are identified with a dark past.  We hold love and anger and try to go forward with our eyes open/opened. Somewhere in there lies our hope for a better and more honest future.

Experiment in Tuskegee                                                                                  Van Potter


“Syphilis Victims in the U. S. Study Went Untreated for 40 Years”

New York Times, July 26, 1972


Jeremiah Jones

May 28, 1970


Doctor Jim,

Time after time,

I lie on your cold, white table,

and let you give me shots

for the bad blood you say I have.

Yet the tiredness rides my back

and I can’t work my land no more.

The chancre claws up

through the skin of my private place,

and the sores eat my face and hands,

and make my wife turn away.


Dr. Jim Willis

May 28, 1970 journal entry


This morning, I reflect on myself,

that 10-year-old boy hovering over a faceless fly

stunned and lying in a white saucer

on a tree stump in the back yard.

I de-wing the specimen and observe how it writhes, jerks,

pops up from the plate like a kernel in a hot skillet.

I note it takes thirty minutes for the insect to die.

Then I open the door of my office,

look through glass doors and down the corridor

at the dusty sharecroppers

sitting on benches, papering the walls,

waiting for my wonder treatment.

I turn, nod to my nurse,

and she says, “Next.”


By 1943, well into the persecution and segregation of Jews in War World II, it was also known that for anyone caught aiding Jews the penalty was death.  1943 was also the year of the ghetto uprisings in Warsaw and many losses.

For me the poem also brings up some very important questions around self identity.  Which roles could you or would you be able to play?


ON MARZALKOWSKA STREET                                                Irene Latham

Warsaw, Poland, 1943

We are no different, Mrs.Walter

says to Mrs. Rozenblum’s back

as she uses a cotton ball to paint

the dull black locks with bleach.

Then she sweeps the hair away

from Mrs. Rozenblum’s forehead,

pulls the hairbrush hard against

the scalp to banish any kinks.

Wear grey, she says, which means,

do not draw attention to yourself.

Wear a cross around your neck

at all times. The smallest detail

has the power to betray. Put away

the eyeglasses, the scarf. In case

the police stop you. Learn the Lord’s

Prayer and keep your eyes up.

Shop for pork. They will not suspect

if you can prepare Polish dishes.

Tell your husband to order bimber

and remind him to remove his hat.

Remember, it’s called a church. Then

Mrs. Walter puts down the hairbrush,

looks Mrs. Rozenblum straight in her eyes.

We will suffer, she says. We are the same.

bimber, synonymous with: booze, hooch, moonshine