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A poem about men and women

Nov 12, 2018 · 4 min read
Illustration: Fernando Alvarez Charro via Invisible Nature/iStock/Getty Images Plus


Sometimes, I think of men like a particularly long stampede
in the grass. They are not cruel, not any more than animals
have a right to be. They heard something alarming, and they followed

The call. It was your bad luck, wasn’t it
that you happened to be there, caught underfoot—eyes wide, back thoroughly broken
Face flung up—something they did not know they were running over—


Simba’s father died in a stampede.
I confess it is difficult to watch even now, aware as I am of the ridiculous—
of being moved by pathetic shapes. “They just stopped drawing him,” whispers
my mother.

There is something desolate in that, in not being drawn—the easiness of it.
Oh, I’m tired! says the Creator and flings down his immortal crayon.


I deliberate my face—the irregular planes of it. No
beauty, but much character. This is how is in books
written by women.

(In books written by men, is much the same, but
there is always something—beauty flapping its wings, just underneath,
lighting the face like a candle held under a sheet. They are quick to explain
that this does not matter: as long as there is character.)

Character cannot be ground through. It would hurt to try.


I get out my little red Bible and read the story of Lot’s wife again.
The book is good enough to explain that she looked back
at the city she was leaving—and that was enough. She was not

On the side of the angels. She became radiant, a pillar of salt.
Human only, in the end, and then something less than. Utterly lickable.
I am visited by dreams of a pack of wild dogs, starving hungry
Licking her until nothing remained but crystals and some dirt.


Sometimes, I wonder if men have their parts in the wrong places. Can’t
you picture it? Livers swapped clumsily for legs; kidneys
where their brains should be; brains where their furious hearts should be…

It is a fine idea. The story I am reading
is about a man who has lost his memory. Imagine, he came home to his pregnant wife of nine
years and told her he didn’t love her anymore, that he wanted to leave—

He left because of his now no-good memory. He left because they wereactually strangers to each other now—

P.S. I didn’t make up the story. But I did make up the part about him losing his memory. I’m sorry, but that doesn’t make more sense?


I have a fear of being buried alive.
Truth be told, I do not even want to be buried

Why should I, when so many neater options exist? A neat little pile of ash,
I think. I hear they can make anything ash. But I have a donor card that says
That what is usable may be donated. (Phew!) A spare, a silver gleam—

I am round of eye and useful still in parts.


Thirty is your Sylvia year, like thirty-three is your Jesus year.
At some point in every woman’s life, there comes a desperation.

It is a long quiet sword that runs you through, though some may not understand what it is—
This desire to get back to the earth. Poor Sylvia! If she had only waited, says a male
poet kindly—she have given us some more great poems. Thirty is not old—there
may have been more left of her—

Indeed. I close my eyes and wait for the great burning of day.


What I know of love is that it is an absolute sinking.

Men tell me that it feels good to be desired. They assure me that
if they only felt as desirable as women, they would stop raging and longing and
settle into a goodness as calm and chilly as anything women have—

If only we would desire them more. If only we could stretch out our groping hands—
Engage in that brutal confusion of body part and being… men have a kind of blessed blindness, you see—


I climb to the top of a turret. The coldness is universal,
and there is nothing to be said about saints, about women ascending—

—there is nothing rarefied about me, however.
There is only a turning and a kind of warning lurch—and then the men put you
in the ground. It is complete, sure of itself—

I stretch out my hands to the dark, in the final ironic coda of sisterhood.

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