Turning a Train of Thought Upside Down:
An Anthology of Women’s Poetry
Edited by Andrena Zawinski
TURNING A TRAIN OF THOUGHT UPSIDE DOWN
...as a woman, I have no country. As a woman I want no country.
As a woman, my country is the whole world...
(or What We Learn)
Under the bottlebrush tree the lovers sit,
circled by each other’s arms, all alone
right in front of us all
on our walks around the city lake,
their kisses blind to the afternoon
breathing down on them and us.
I think of my own first love,
how a woman can learn not to take
but to give, how not to gain a self
but to lose one inside another—
natural as breathing, to be in exile
under her own skin, colonized
without knowing she was occupied.
Long ago, women in my family
carried bundles of wash on their backs
down to the creek bed to scrub it all clean,
later balanced books on their heads
for good posture and the possibility
of a cover shot on a fashion magazine,
having been fed a diet of Cinderella,
Sleeping Beauty, the Snow White tales.
Just look at the statistics—how many
of us have sported the split lips,
bruised eyes, broken limbs,
how many assaulted and betrayed,
how many isolated and afraid,
our homes gone up in flames
from so many hearts afire.
Yet we have resisted and rebelled,
conquered enemies, negotiated peace.
We have also had our feet bound,
bodies girdled and gagged, some buried
beneath layers of cloth. We have been
overthrown, dispossessed, imprisoned,
enslaved, burned wholesale at the stake.
We have also been venerated and feared
as Congolese leading warriors into battle
with shields and spears, as Mongolians
riding steeds armed with bows and arrows,
as Seneca ruling the land and the clan
drumming and healing, as Balkans singing
in the company of women just for the song.
Some of us now build muscles in our legs
and take to running for the thrill of the race,
work them in our arms wielding swords
and wrestling whatever might confront us.
We grow strong enough to carry ourselves
to our own shade tree, dream beneath its leaves
in the kiss of our own breath, learn to love
ourselves deeply and with great abandon.