DaguerreoTyped #16: Ekphrastic Response by Rommel Chrisden Rollan Samarita

Rommel Chrisden Rollan Samarita responds to our monthly historical photo prompt with “What Can a Woman Do.”


“What Can a Woman Do”

The very first question of Power to men was
“What can you do with your hands?”
Can your hands hold a pipe
Or a pistol? Can your hands
Hold a maul or a rifle? Can
Your hands carry the weight
Of lumber? Or can
They carry the load
Of your timber?

The second question of Power to men was
“What can you do with your fingers?”
Can your fingers feel the cold
Metal rod? Can your fingers
Pull the gun trigger? Can
Your fingers hold firm
The heavy lumber
Or your hard
Timber?

To strike the penetrable!
To smite the penetrable
Wall, the penetrable
Wall of a Woman — 
Nation!

The third question of Power to men was
“What can you do with your mouth?”
Can your lips take a lit tobacco?
Can your teeth and tongue take
The heat of a sizzling muzzle?
Can your mouth take the myths
Of salvation and civilization
And tell tales of deliverance
And liberation befouled
By Black bondage
And red death
Rows?

The last question of Power was for women.
The only question of Power to women was
“What can you do?” What can a Black
Woman do? When she still thinks that
No man and no one is benevolent
And there’s no benevolence
In all these perforations!
She can only let men

Like when she
Let him
Grab the
Pipe and
Let her
Son run
Toward
That
Rifle.

What can a woman do but let men
Because a woman knows men
Are not possessions. What
Can a woman do? She
Let men and she
Looked at them.
She stood
There

And she … She
Has stared
At Power.

ROMMEL CHRISDEN ROLLAN SAMARITA is a graduate student of the Department of Literature at De La Salle University, Manila, Philippines. He is the author of “There, in Folded Space, We Must Have Met,’ Artist’s Choice winner in Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge. He researches contemporary Philippine writing, modern American poetry, and their conceptual intersections.

Each month, Alternating Current Press presents an ekphrastic challenge for writers and lovers of history: We feature a different public domain historical photograph or illustration, and ask writers to respond to it. There is no wrong answer, and no set style guidelines. Poetry, prose, hybrid, fiction or non, experimental — Anything goes that has a history bent. The best responses will be published on The Coil two months after each challenge. Check out our homepage for your chance to participate in the current DaguerreoTyped historical ekphrastic challenge, and read all of the past archives here.