2011 tantigle totem

my mother
and my grandmother
and her mother before her
churned.
up and down
down and up
they’d send the paddle,
until the sweetness rose to the top . . .

my beloved friend and writing partner
julie daley
has posted some remarkable
things on her blog,
but the past few weeks,
she’s really outdone herself
with her posts on oppression
and silence.

this is a conversation i’ve
longed to be a part of.

this is a conversation
i’ve loathed being a part of.

///

the day julie posted silences one,
my dream:
i was part of the underground railway
there was a passionate quickening
throughout the dream,
a full-body smile.
i sat at an uncluttered table
way up high
and wrote and wrote and wrote.
then i wrote some more.
the words spilled out
and rained down
and it was good.
it was so good.

wait.
i’m a southerner.
i can’t say
“underground railway”.

///

the morning after a phone lunch
with my beloved angela,
i can’t
for the life of me
remember
if she said she’s
a conservative
or
a liberal.

and that makes me smile all over.

///

oh, i want to sit in this circle
i really, really do
but
i don’t know how to talk.

if i say “you”
i’m preaching.
if I say “i”
i’m egocentric,
stuck-up,
self-centered,
calloused,
unfeeling
navel-gazer.

or worse.

when i went to graduate school,
i knew
in the way the feminine me knows
things unspoken
and unseen
that i should buy some
birkenstocks
and wear either
long, flowing skirts
or camo pants
from the army/navy surplus store.

i’ve tried awfully hard
to be a good friend
in the ethers
just like i did at graduate school
hoping that once you got to know me,
you’d like me.
hoping that when the differences
inevitably appear,
our union would be
strong enough
safe enough
to have space enough
to survive the differences.
you, my digital tribe, have been my tour guide,
taking me to places
i’d never have been able to go
on my own.
you’ve shown me different
ways of being,
and that enriches my life
immeasurably.

///

yes, i’m from the south.
fluent in english and southern, i say.
i love being a southerner
i loathe feeling like i should apologize for it.

///

does
victim
equate
with
oppressed?

maybe
it’s only a
semantic
mixup.

maybe
i
haven’t
really been
oppressed.
maybe
i
should
excuse
myself
from this
table.

i don’t want to be
oppressed
any more than i
want to be
an oppressor.

actually, what I really, really, really want
is to help women.
but that feels so
condescending.
that feels so
privileged.
that feels so
oppressive.

i want to
support women.

i want to stand
arm in arm with women
without
comparison
without
judgment.

comparison
trips us up,
keeps us from moving forward.
comparison
is a tool of a system
that builds and maintains the
safe (for the system) and suffocating (for us)
divide and conquer scenario.

we’re women.
we’re alike,
and we’re different.

imagine us
walking on the lush green fields
we were told not to step foot on.
that’s where i want to be,
not sitting at
an assigned seat
at an assigned table
in an assigned room,
poking at each other
with forks.
the field is
open
and expansive
and green
and lush
and the moist earth
feels solid and supportive
of our bare feet.
natural.
we smile there
we chortle
we revel.

the tables are
separated into rooms.
with angles
and walls – thick, insulated, impermeable walls.
the tables are
constructed,
and designed to keep us
small
and insulated
and from being able to
hear and see each other.

///

don’t you oppress
when you
dismiss
my experience,
my stories?

///

is it
acceptable
fashionable, even
to be oppressed?

do some people
grow comfortable
in the oppressed seat?

it is
oppression
when I walk into the room
wearing pink
or blue
or anything but black or camo,
wearing lipstick
and nail polish
carrying my
new iphone4
and my ipad
and you
judge me
as
the oppressor
or
as one who
has nothing
of worth
to contribute
to the conversation?

isn’t judgment
a form of oppression?
it sure feels like it.

///

doesn’t cattiness
and don’t cat fights
feel like tools
the system uses
to keep us distracted
and in our place?

///

can we really
talk about oppression
without the conversation
degenerating into
comparisons
and
blame?

///

i have been
oppressed
by
judgments
stereotypes
comparisons
class warfare
religion
an abusive male
and
governments.

but

is this really about
proving that my oppression
is worse/bigger/more obnoxious than yours?
is this really about
earning a totebag
or a badge
or a yard sign?

///

i do not like writing this
i do not like thinking this
i do not like feeling this.
this is not my native language.

///

what if
we lay our measuring swords
down on the table
not pointed at
any other person
yet
within reach
for when we need to
cut through
the bullshit
or
carve an
opening
into
a new way
of being.

what if
we listen
i mean
deeply listen
to each other’s
stories of
oppression?
could it be
that the
comparisons
and judgments
are the first
steps out of silence –
like stumbling
when we flick on the lightswitch
in a room that’s
been dark
for eons?

could it be
that the
comparisons
and judgments
are
testament
to
wanting to be
seen –
really, truly, deeply
seen?

what if
every woman
felt
not pitied
or trivialized
or commoditized
or devalued
or invisible
or dismissed
but
validated
and worthy
and seen?
how would that change
her?
how would that change
us?
how would that change
the world?

what if
bearing witness
is the salve
for the soul,
the balm
that’s needed
to
heal us
through
and across
and over
and into?

could it really be that simple?

do i seriously
think that just
listening
can make
profound
changes?

well,
yes.
yes, i do.

when women
feel safe enough
to be honest
with themselves
and others,
they gain
confidence
and
assurance.
and when women feel
strong enough
and safe enough
to live
from a position
of confidence and assurance,
things will never
be the same.

i mean, shoot,
why should the oppressors
be the only ones
living
confidently
and with assurance?

///

i’m nail-biting angry
at the oppression
heaped on women.
i’m nail-biting angry
from others
and
at the oppression
i’ve heaped
upon my self.

///

when i wrote my thesis,
i used all female
pronouns
and it was
positively
liberating.

liberating.
hmmmm.
is that the opposite
of victimhood?
the goal
for ending
oppression?

sovereignty
is the word
i carry in my
heart’s pocket,
you know.
i read
Reading Lolita in Tehran
years ago
and it still lingers
in the dark
crevices,
the passion pockets.
i long to
go forth
and liberate
women
who are completely
covered
save for their eyes.
women
who are not allowed
to read
or congregate.

but
who am i
to liberate them
just because
i see that as oppression?
isn’t that arrogance?
isn’t that judgmental?
isn’t that what religions
and
governments
do –
impose their belief systems,
their political systems
on others?

why don’t i just wait
till they ask?

because
not everybody
has my phone number.

///

3/4/2011

i resist looking at privilege
because
i have authority issues.
serious authority issues.
looking at privilege
feels like something
i am forced to do
if i want to be
considered a good girl
if i want to get that bright, shiny A.

my authority issues are so damn big
and dense
that i resist
discussion of privilege.
oh, don’t get me wrong:
i’ve got it.
privilege, i mean.
yep, i’m privileged all right.

“uncle”.

i’m also a woman who was
molested as a child
by a man who worked for my dad.
right there in the shop
in front of all the other men.
“doesn’t it feel good?”
he asked in a way that let me know
i was supposed to say yes.
convincingly.

as a teenager, i was in an abusive relationship
where i heard on a daily basis
“you are so ugly and so stupid,
who else but me would go out with you?”
along with a plentiful assortment
of other punches,
both physical, verbal, and emotional.

as a young adult, i was raped at a party
in front of all the other couples
who watched quietly,
none of them saying anything.
once it was over, the
music started again,
conversations resumed
and it was as though
nothing had ever happened.

///

3/9/2011

i can’t stop crying.
i don’t have time
for such luxuries,
that pesky part of me says,
but the rising jeanne says
bunk.
i don’t have time not to cry.

so the tears
that have been held back
and squished down
and told “no”
gush forth.
and every tear –
every single tear –
has a different woman’s story on it.

this could take a while,
so i’m using handkerchiefs
that have been handed down
to me
and handkerchiefs
purchased in antique shops
because
they’re softer
and stronger
and experienced.