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A Woman Will Do That

A Poem For Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

by Janice Mirikitani

         My grandmother washed on Sundays,
        	fed chickens, birthed nine children,
        	cooked and cleaned and grew flowers and greens
        	and grandchildren.  She'd soothe our hurts,
        	massaged the knots from my grandfather's shoulders,
                                	because a woman will do that.
        	And my mother tried to break tradition
        	because she could sing
        	her voice like velvet orchids would hush crowds,
        	But she was silenced by war,
        	locked in U.S. prison camps for no other reason but race,
        	and she did not sing anymore.
        	And tho the hurt  throbbed in her throat, she swallowed all of it,
        	never to release those bitter notes,
                                	and a woman will do that.
        	My aunt trembled so hard,
she could not hold a cup...they would not speak
of the beatings, but I knew, when she cooed
to me in Japanese to study hard and escape the dogs,
“kuso” * —  she called her husband
after he bloodied her face and raped her.
She marked the sofa with her pee
and sang her stories to me...
                                	Head for the mountains my girl she sings,
                                	grab a fistful of flowers and degrees.
                                	Don’t let a man steal laughter outta your body.
        	She picked up a rifle and shot him with her trembling hands,
        	hit one testicle, but that was enough.
        	He checked himself into a mental hospital
        	to escape the smell of the sofa and gunpowder.
                                	I'll meet you where the rain smells clean
                                	she sings, and there I will repair my face,
                                	steady my hands and grow flowers..
                                	        	And a woman will do that.
        	My daughter
        	denies she is like me,
        	independent,-- knowing the open spaces of choice.
        	She escapes the cycles of self abuse,
        	breaks the cycle of should's and supposed to be’s,
        	she is breaking tradition,
                                            	because a woman will do that.
        	At age 23, I became  pregnant, unable to care for a child,
        	lost in confusion and abusive delusion
        	illegal abortion my choiceless solution.
        	I still remember the rubber spoon that gags my screams,
        	the endless scraping .   Did I bleed?   Lord did I bleed.
We are taught to believe that our flesh
        	is a brutal cage of time;  made useful  for man's needs--
        	that whiter is better
        	and anger forbidden,
        	and acquiescence is holy and silence is golden.
                    	                    	yes, we are taught that
        	But we, now,  break tradition
of second classness and unwanted pregnancy.
We will not turn back to kitchen table abortions,
knitting needles,  deadly hangers and deadlier shame.
                    	Break tradition
because I do not want the body of my daughter nor her daughters
bound in disaffirmation. 
We must be the storms to the rivers rising,
        	thunder's great rumble, an arc of lightening,
        	a conduit of power, a bridge of arms, and multicolored hands
                    	that join and extend over  chasms of hurt
                    	inequity,  poverty and need,
                    	femicide and sex slavery.
                    	We  will not have laughter stolen from our bodies.
Let the hands of women
birth the future with arms fully open,
choose to fulfill families with care,
and foretell a new day.
Let this language of hands, the work that they do,
shout more loudly than guns, or greed or religiousity.
Let the power of women lead, harmoniously,
                                	        	Because a woman
                                            	will do that.
                                                                    	Janice Mirikitani
                                                                                	Planned Parenthood
                                                                                	30th Anniversary, May 2003