Tag Archives: power

“Birthing” and “The Menstrual Lodge”

There are two poems today. Spring is here bringing the annual seasonal time of new birth. The power of birth is undeniable and available to all of us in its many faces. The first poem celebrates the poetic possibilities of fresh emergence while the second poem is much darker.

Birthing                                                                                              Mary Tallmountain

On the dark side I slip

 

like silk through night and chaos

wind splinters my hair

peacocks stalking

wild and sensuous as jewels

I see earth through their eyes

past bursting patterns

milestones

flashing at utmost speed

 

O I hear the light

 

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?

 

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The Colonel

I am going to state right now this poem is about listening. But, first you have to get through the horrors of reality that this piece brings to the forefront.  It is also about timing -the beat of the words, the rhythm of the reporting and the selection of images are masterful. And I can’t imagine a better ending to a poem.

“We have two ears and one mouth and we should use them proportionally.” Susan CainQuiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

 

The Colonel                           Carolyn Forché

What you have heard is true. I was in his house.

His wife carried a tray of coffee and sugar. His

daughter filed her nails, his son went out for the

night. There were daily papers, pet dogs, a pistol

on the cushion beside him. The moon swung bare on

its black cord over the house. On the television

was a cop show. It was in English. Broken bottles

were embedded in the walls around the house to

scoop the kneecaps from a man’s legs or cut his

hands to lace. On the windows there were gratings

like those in liquor stores. We had dinner, rack of

lamb, good wine, a gold bell was on the table for

calling the maid. The maid brought green mangoes,

salt, a type of bread. I was asked how I enjoyed

the country. There was a brief commercial in

Spanish. His wife took everything away. There was

some talk of how difficult it had become to govern.

The parrot said hello on the terrace. The colonel

told it to shut up, and pushed himself from the

table. My friend said to me with his eyes: say

nothing. The colonel returned with a sack used to

bring groceries home. He spilled many human ears on

the table. They were like dried peach halves. There

is no other way to say this. He took one of them in

his hands, shook it in our faces, dropped it into a

water glass. It came alive there. I am tired of

fooling around he said. As for the rights of anyone,

tell your people they can go f— themselves. He

swept the ears to the floor with his arm and held

the last of his wine in the air. Something for your

poetry, no? he said. Some of the ears on the floor

caught this scrap of his voice. Some of the ears on

the floor were pressed to the ground.

 

“The Colonel”relates Forche’s experience in El Salvador in 1978 and exposes the military brutality of Latin American dictatorship. El Salvador was in the midst of a civil war waged between the country’s US-backed military-led government and the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN).

Let America Be America Again

Langston Hughes  !1902-1967) is an important poet who was well known in his time and his words resonate in today’s world as well. This poem offers up a great open dialogue in a unique form which points to the different Americas we still live in racially and economically.

Let America Be America Again                                                                               Langston Hughes

Let America be America again.

Let it be the dream it used to be.

Let it be the pioneer on the plain

Seeking a home where he himself is free.

 

(America never was America to me.)

 

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—

Let it be that great strong land of love

Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme

That any man be crushed by one above.

 

(It never was America to me.)

 

O, let my land be a land where Liberty

Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,

But opportunity is real, and life is free,

Equality is in the air we breathe.

 

(There’s never been equality for me,

Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

 

Chemotherapy

This is a powerful poem that contains ideas and iconic images that will stick with you. I added some definitions at the end of the post which will make your enjoyment greater if you don’t know exactly what is being said. May we all be free of disease and pain.

Chemotherapy                                                                                 Kathryn Kirkpatrick

Up from the massage table

I catch sight of myself

in the unavoidable mirror.

 

Afternoon light doesn’t blink.

Basic bald head. Bare pudendum.

Soft pile of belly and hips.

 

Once mirrors drew me like friends,

broke my gloomy moods

with a smile, eyes brighter

 

than I’d remembered. Now I’m sacra

to myself, a neutral suggestion,

transpersonal form. Stripped

 

to Neolithic goddess, I’m all

that’s behind all that will ever be,

prima mater, prima material,

 

impersonal as rain, kneaded

to dozens of shapes, except

that my chest is scarred

 

which is what you’d expect

of a goddess in this 21st century.

 

*pudendum: the sexual organs on the outside of a person’s body.

*sacra in ancient Roman religion are transactions relating to the worship of the gods, especially sacrifice and prayer undertaken on behalf of the individual by herself, on behalf of the family or by the whole body of the people.

*prima mater, prima material is first mother, first material.

 

After the Accident

This poem is full of lovely images because they are painted specifically and succinctly. The poem builds as it moves from one thing to the next, the pay off as it concludes hits the heart. Don’t think the narrator doesn’t have choices, if you’ve missed her power take another look at the poem.

After the Accident                                                         Sue Ellen Thompson

the old rose-colored Buick turns in

past the rows of slush-covered cars

with webbed windshields and wrinkled doors.

My father steps out, unfolding himself

on the ice-slick asphalt with an old bird’s grace

and stands, hands at the back of his waist,

leaning against the sky. My mother,

buoyed along by her puffed blue coat,

is all scurry and search as she hurries

toward me through the glass door marked

“Service,” her arms already rising

from her sides. Swept up into

the car’s small warmth, I let myself

be taken to lunch, I let them order for me—

a cheeseburger in the golden arms

of mounded onion rings, a cookie the size

of my own spread palm

weighted with chocolate. I eat

and I eat, as if I’d been trapped

in that snow choked ravine for days,

as if food were love and I could absorb it,

turning it into flesh the way

they turned their love into me.

But seeing all that is left—a thinnish woman

in her forties without a car, without

even a purse, they must think

it is not enough. So they feed me and I

eat, and all that keeps me from an infant’s sleep

is who will carry me home when they are gone?