Womanhood, Sketch #1

“The major challenge for women is that we have knotted ourselves so firmly into the awkward, rhythmless, dissonant, societal system that we can barely breathe — much less think of breaking free from it.” ~ Maya Tiwari in “Women’s Power to Heal”

When was it
that I learned
to be a woman?

Was it when
my best friend
from high school
who taught me how to stuff
wads of dry cotton
into my vagina
through a plastic tube
probably made in China?

Then, slinking uncomfortably
into her bean bag,
we watched a TV show
to gloss over,
maybe forget,
that the primal red flow
even started
from my young body?

Was it when
I started idolizing
Debbie Gibson…

“…I get lost…
in your eyes…”

and spraying Electric Youth
on my neck, on my wrists,
smelling like a
floral pharmacy,
setting off alarms
in my primal wiring?

Maybe it was the time
that I decided to start
painting my face,
making-up for
my unaccepted imperfections?

Oh…the formalities
of matching the many shades
of base color with
my complexion…
and then the powder… lip color… eye shadow… mascara… blush…
A palette of colors
arranged in light to dark hues
to choose from…

I remember that woman
leaning over the lit glass counter
teaching me how to be………………………………pretty.

With each shade of color
I put on my face
something in me remembered,
powdered lapis lazuli…
and dried rose petals,
and deep, black coal…

My ancient skin
wanted to know what happened…?
what happened to color?

The lotions…deodorants… face washes…creams…
that I willingly slathered on my body –
an array of poorly researched,
man-made chemicals
falling from the hands
of professionally trained scientists
who did not have
my best interests in mind…

I know…
maybe it was when a boyfriend
finally convinced me to do “it” with him?
We went out to a friend’s hunting cabin,
Wheel of Fortune flashing lights
from the TV screen –
“I’d like a vowel, an ‘O’ please.”

Sweet sixteen!
Maybe that?
I was given a silver charm
to commemorate that fine day,
and a cake thick and plump with sugar –
oh that sweet legacy
of colonization and slavery –
what a delicacy.

And then, there’s the moment
when all my anxieties
could be washed away forever – how convenient!

…if I would just accept Jesus Christ into my heart — Praise be!!!

But, I never really understood
what it meant to be ‘saved’ —
even though I turned that heavy book
of Genesis through Revelations
inside and out…
It seemed that there was nothing
for me in there;
or, at least,
it didn’t seem that in those many reams
there was anything about womanhood —
only woman-should.

I would like to know,
at what point did I become a woman?

The pom-poms,
prom dresses,
hair spray messes,
Sunday school lessons,
men are from Mars,
stick-shift car,
gold rings,
phone rings,
cruising the strip trip
was just plain lame.

And who’s to blame?
Middle America tired and bloated
from conflict and wars,
busy resettling its cultural baggage
in tidy little boxes and forgetting
all the good stuff
in the midst of upheaval
and whip-lash amnesia.

Amongst these littered debris —
there was my family.
And, today I look for remains of dignity;
something to prove to me
that we still have some connection
with the basic sweetness of life.

Mom, I’m tired…
Grandmother, I’m tired…
Great grandmother, I’m tired…
Inside me, that young girl asks simply,

“Comb my hair…
pin it back with a small, pearl barrette.
Give me a nightgown to put on
that was my grandma’s.
Tell me a bedtime story from memory…
Tell me all the secrets of womanhood
when I start to bleed.
Grow a Hawthorne tree outside my door
and teach me how to speak to it
in poetry.
Teach me to feel between my words.
Tell me everything will be all right
when night falls.
Show me that every part of me,
every pore and hair and nail and bruise…
is some profound part of nature –
wild and beautiful
and dark and perfect.”

“To be authentic, to follow your own path…you have to be everything that you are. Within everyone there is a light and shadow. The play of these opposites is what constantly moves life forward. If you can truly embrace these, you will be authentic…and as your self-acceptance expands until there is nothing to be ashamed of…your life will take on the generosity and warmth that marks a great life.” ~ Anne Falkowski, Yoga Teacher

written June 7, 2010

My womanhood has been up for me lately as I’ve been reflecting on where I’ve come from and the moments and choices that have brought me to where I am now. Women have participated in oppression or opposed it by either not using or using their voice, respectively. I think the more that women shed light on shame, guilt and things hidden, the more societies can transform into more harmonious, social organisms.

Voice is a terrible thing to waste…and the fears that we overcome to find it makes the pain worth it. I plan to do numerous sketches on this topic. I don’t know how they will shape just yet…just going to wait and see what comes up in the process of remembering and being curious. I would like to find the right music…and then add movement to this spoken word project. We shall see…

11 thoughts on “Womanhood, Sketch #1

  1. >Thanks Elizabeth… It was my first time reading my poetry at an open mic…and I loved it! There is a powerful thing that happens when someone speaks something from the heart and it is received!

  2. Pingback: Womanhood, Sketch #4 | Madhupa Maypop

  3. Hi Lindsay,

    Thank you for sharing your poem. That was beautiful. I found myself tearing up at the end. Plant a Hawthorne tree… the holy thorn. I will think about ritual for my new young woman.

    • Yes, Caroline — even though I wrote this…that part moves me so deeply every time I read it as well. There is a poetry that I would reclaim — in terms of womanhood — every day I am committed to bringing the poetics of life and being and womanhood — at least, the best that I can. Thank you for reading and I’m sure your daughter will love the ways you accent her life with love and creativity.

  4. i read this yesterday… was blown off… and shared it on FB.

    then i reconnected with it today… reading it out… over phone… to a female friend (i have a male body 🙂 )… and was blown… not away, but into… deep into my genes… of my past lives… that i lived as a woman.
    a woman who was shamed, life after life, into plastering the face and body that she wanted to hide, and yet wanted to give… to the world that wanted that body – more so that it could deny the diamond and rose that was lying deep into my true core.

    and… your poem took me to all these. and i wiped off all that shame in one single swoop of this journey.

    i lay spent. and glowing. of having freed my future selves and future generations – of these caustic-acidic shame. i have freed my feminine from a huge heap of garbage.

    you are a sorcerress.

    thank you.

    from a half woman, man.

  5. and a poem shaped itself… under the power of what i experienced through your poem. it is on my FB wall –

    i will see if i can tag you there.


    • Hi there dear Biren, thank you for your share… I am so grateful that these words came streaming one day as the process of writing this poem was so cathartic. I am even more grateful that these words provided you with some energy to work through layers of your own life/lives. What you shared opens up the dialogue around this poem even more…allowing me to see…once again…that my narrative is but a small thread in a vast tapestry of overlapping lives. And your poem is just raw and beautiful……!

      • glowing with satisfaction… to have had you see… how you – through your poem – brought me bliss.

  6. Pingback: What I’d say to my daughter, if I had one. | My Body in Fashion

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s