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Saturday, November 10, 2012

Girl: Exploded

I was first introduced to the poetry of Lauren Zuniga about two years ago when this particular poem - "To The Oklahoma Lawmakers" - began to circulate among those of us who work for Reproductive Justice. The bill before the Oklahoma legislature required women to receive an ultrasound and listen to the baby's heartbeat before an abortion. It continues to be challenged in court. 

I believe that is so, at least in part, because of the power of this poem - and, because of the power of the story of her own rape and abortion - and because of this line in particular: "In this country where we kill people in the name of freedom but imprison people in the name of life."

Through her webpage, I have found many other feminist poets whose poetry, in turns, makes me giggle, laugh, cry, sob, and often times fires old passions and angers I thought had laid to rest or healed long ago.

Like Tatyana Brown of San Francisco and her poem "A List of Inappropriate Questions I have Asked My Mother."  Or, Eboni Hogan from NYC and her poem, "Elmina" (one of the 'Slave Castles' in Ghana) which blows me away every time I hear it.

Well, I could go on, but I hope you check some of them out for yourself. Allow them to be the portal into discovering other poets I have not yet found. I hope they will inspire you - as they have me - to write some poetry or prose of your own.

I have come to believe that these young women are the prophets of their generation, calling women to examine the truth of their lives through the prism of poetry - ugly facts and strong opinions woven together into a beauty so compelling as to stir the soul and fire the mind and move the body into action - which is what all good prophetic poetry does, actually. 

I will leave you with Lauren Zuniga's poem "Girl: Exploded" which captures so much of the experience of being a woman in this culture - "a well engineered time bomb".  You can see her in the video clip below where you may also be inspired, as I was, to write something like this:
Because, you know, even when your candidate wins
and your sense of justice prevails
and feels restored and affirmed
and women answered the call to the War Against Women by running for office
so now there are 20 women in the Senate
and even a few states where the legislative leadership is completely comprised of women
and you hear that the new Archbishop of Canterbury
is "okay" about women but "evolving" on LGBT issues
and you know, right then and there, that he really isn't
"okay about women"
and The Affordable Health Care Act and Roe v. Wade 
are safe....well, at least, for now,
and DOMA will surely be overthrown in the next four years
and we've moved on from all that and right onto the precipice of
A Fiscal Cliff,
and you know when men in suits start talking about 'compromise'
it is often code for cutting services and resources and money to women.....
Sometimes, you just have to Explode.
Lauren provided the the inspirational framework for me to write that. 

Watch. Listen. Learn.

One of the modern prophets is speaking.

The old man takes me aside after the slam and says, 
"You can't compete with the boys. Don't explode.
Don't send fire flakes of amplified kisses
into our ears. Don't swing your microphone
like a penis drawing urine hieroglyphics.
Don't be loud like beer bobsledding down throats.
Don't choke, don't explode.
Be atomic. Particles splitting with each
carefully placed breath and sway.
Be like the woman in the white satin dress
with the long cigarette.
Be like Katherine Hepburn,
lifting appendages with a raise of the eyebrow
and a long gaze soaked in knowing.
Remember that you are Venus,
A smoldering bundle of birth and
baptismal embers but that sound and fury
should stay in your hip pockets and canals
until you are called for industry,
until we need your smoke stacks and machine parts
to start pumping with usefulness.
We need you in the piece by piece stage,
connecting breast to navel to legs to ankles
to feet slipping into stilettos
to click clack across floor
in the mating call of your generation.
Yeah, we need you like that."
And I say, “You know sir,
I think I know what you mean
when you say I can't compete
with the boys, and I think I know
what you mean when you say
Don't explode,
I don't think you know what it means to be
this well engineered time bomb
that is Woman.
This serrated edged grenade,
hard plated and pinned,
quietly tick tick tick ticking
thrown over the barricade
into a obstacle course of tire jumping men
doing their best to train for Insanity.
And Katherine Hepburn has been replaced
by a hundred versions of Britney Spears,
cheering on the side lines
with bottled sun stained legs
and Brazilian bikini waxes.
We are stripped and lit like our fuses.
We’ve traded in our minds
to become sparkling jingle muses,
blissed out with bling and our shiny new copy
of "How to Be a Modern Woman"
Volume One:
"Spend more on your hand bag than you do on rent!"
"Make a guy cum in 24 seconds!"
Ignore that ticking and
take this quiz on "How to quantify your worth"
Add the number of shoes, shampoos and open lines of credit
subtract your size and body fat percentage,
divide by marriage proposals and dozens of roses
and then you will know
if you are a worth while woman!
Tick Tick Tick.
It's okay to be smart but not smarter than him.
It's okay to be fat but not fatter than her.
Just find a good man, and have a big wedding
the bigger the wedding
the longer he'll stay.
Wait ‘til you have a career to have a baby
then give up your career to have a baby.
Coordinate your slings and boppies and diaper bags.
Breast feed, but not in public.
Join classes, do yoga.
Stay sexy but not so sexy that you forget you're a mom
and ignore that ticking,
you are a woman
not a walking time bomb.
And I know what he means
because it can get a little messy
When that sudden loud release of
angry femininity bursts forth and
showers us with the things
we'd rather leave on the Lifetime channel.
You don't have to be a channel
for every free choice denied.
Every porcelain bride with no property rights,
you don't have to prove you can fight like a man,
leave the screaming to the lesbians!
Feminism is an outdated word,
But see there’s still need for women’s movement
Because we still believe
that our sexual power is all we have, we cling to it tighter
to it then our own ovaries and we will pluck trust from fellow
women who threaten to take it.
It's huge, this tumbling history that we carry on our shoulders
It's heavy and sometimes, it's hard to keep your composure.
Sometimes you just have to explode.


Karen said...

Wow. Thanks for making me aware of this poet. Holy cow.

Marthe said...

... oh, and count on it
when this big bang comes
they will call it self-inflicted
call it creative destruction
and smirk
they will think it's natural
think they've won
point to you as cautionary tale
to discourage other women
from daring to say what they know
show and be and live what they feel
instead of submitting
doing the laundry and making nice
to make them happy
to stay safe (because, well, you know, if they have to administer a little beating to keep the little lady in line, she asked for it, deserved it, did not know her place)
when they dress up in rightous rage
it's good and justified
when we do, they call it cross-dressing
make snide remarks, demean the sex they do not understand at all
('cause if it's not all about them, well, that's just wrong)
sure, they like to blow stuff up
until the blowback burns them
boys and men be advised:
there is no flame retardant strong enough
for what is coming
if you do not learn not to play
with fire.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Karen - Isn't she just amazing? I want to go to a poetry slam where she is.

I'm sitting here, giggling, thinking that some of the men who stop by here are scratching their heads and being very confused. Or, anxious. Some men don't have a clue and will dismiss this as not even 'proper poetry' but 'stream of consciousness' - which is what many poems are, just more tightly packaged. Some women don't have a clue either, which is part of the power of this poem.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Marthe - You wrote:

"there is no flame retardant strong enough
for what is coming
if you do not learn not to play
with fire."

Unfortunately, there are women who need to learn this truth, too.

You always astonish me.

Thank you.