DaguerreoTyped #16: Ekphrastic Response by Rommel Chrisden Rollan Samarita

“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.

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The Coil

Literature to change your lightbulb.