My daughter, at twenty-one, stands to my right.
The gentleman to my left turns to light my candle.
I do not know him, in that moment he is a friend.
I turn to my daughter, and with the small flame of my candle,
Light the candle she holds.
I lift my eyes to look upon her face and I know.
I feel it within me. A tiny spark jumps back
As I think of my own mother and wonder.
Did she ever look at me and feel that light, that flame inside?
Feel that spark of her soul live inside me?
It matters not what I have left undone:
No trip to Paris, No months spent living in Europe,
No books published, Nothing I wish for is important.
Nothing I long for matters to be lived, matters to be accomplished.
I have accomplished all that truly matters
And I can be at peace with any death
My daughter lives.
We reject the second mother you would give us, reject subjugation of ripped rib bone, accept not the pain from seeking knowledge.
We have borne brutality for the ages, Silent always, In churches, In governments, In streets, And in our homes. Our mouths learned silence, keeping us, at least, alive.
Oh, we were worthy of protection As long as we were your possessions: Your mothers, your daughters, Your sisters, your wives. As long as you owned us And we did as we were told, We lived, perhaps, unbruised.
But the brave have shown us Through the ages and now again They show us another way. We find our voice, Too strident for your ears, But even our whispers Are too strident for you.
You will mock us, Vilify us, this we know. Proudly we wear the mantle Of the first mother, Lilith, the one you deemed An enemy long ago and banished. Her spirit moves us to speak Against the men who take Even our bodies from us. You may beat us, kill us, Force us into marriage and childbearing, Rape us, place weapons into the hands Of the children we bear, Weld the chains of slavery upon us, And laughingly say we asked for it Should we complain.
Yet after all that and more, Our submission you will not have. We will rise like an ocean wave Wakened by a great quake Beneath the sea and drown you With the devastation of your hate.
Soon some of Lilith’s daughters Will march. Some will wait across The Earth.
But Lilith’s mantle Covers us all. The quake is coming. The wave will free us all.
You, your perfume, Or something in the scent of you Clogged my nose, My sinuses, My bronchial tubes With fluid like cement, Leaving me no air To live on.
Really, suffocation Never felt so sweet.
You were warmth personified Like fire you fed on the oxygen Whenever you wanted, Wherever you were. But God, it felt like heaven To warm myself near your flames. Until it felt like hell And I burned in the flames, Sucking in nothing but smoke.
Broken nesting dolls Lie in splinters Emptied of each other. At their core, Among the splinters And dust of months And years, There rests At their center A small letter Of seasons and time And meanings Within a silver ring.
In the cleaning Of brokenness, A small splinter Works under skin To be lost And never found.
She was standing at the ready
To make me say I am wrong.
Like some saint,
I had to pluck out my eyes
To see, to see
She could be with words.
I laid hands upon myself
And am cured of blindness,
Cured of deafness,
And now she hates me.
Since I said,
“Get behind me, Serpent!
That dance of manipulation
No longer mesmerizes me!”
At least my head is not upon a platter,
Being served to her.
Now, I am going to the river.
Doesn’t matter where it is.
Doesn’t matter how far I must walk.
I’ll wear my shoes out
And walk my feet bloody and raw.
I am gonna dunk myself in that river,
Not her stagnate lake.
I won’t care if it’s frozen over.
I’ll dig through the ice with just my fingers.
I’ll baptize myself in icy chunks
Of slush if I must.
For forty years, We walked days through, Asking strangers known, “How are you?”” Without really wanting to know. Our answers in kind, A litany of fines And greats and couldn’t be betters. All the while, Parts are chipped away. Our edges rough Like antique china tea cups. It is thus Life becomes measured out In phrases, And we speak of it In stages and ages Of what is next for us. Told to be grateful for what I have, I never mourned the losing Of what was wanted once Now forgotten, Or regretted, Or never attained In the first place. Until forty years have flipped Through the fingers Like the pages of a dusty book With yellow crinkled pages Written in faded ink, An anthology of years, For each of us.
On this southwest horizon, We meet once again, and We watch sunrise and sunset. Our heads bent toward each other As if in prayer. Our hair a tangle of silver and white In the winds of New Mexico. Only time will tell What comes of this Tangle of loneliness and longing.
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