At GLIDE Memorial Church there will always be poetry—it is part of our soul. But this message marks the last of our weekly poem emails as the 25th National Poetry Month comes to a close tomorrow.
We hope you have found as much inspiration and joy in these poems as all of us here at GLIDE. We want to thank all of you who have spread their beauty further out into the world by sharing them with your friends and family on Facebook.
Our poem this week comes from our very own Janice Mirikitani, the second San Francisco Poet Laureate and co-founder of our church along with her husband, Cecil Williams.
With Mother’s Day approaching, Janice’s “A Woman Will Do That” illustrates the many virtues and many burdens of mothers, grandmothers, and women everywhere.
And, with the start of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month just a couple days away, Janice’s poem also shines a light onto the legacy of racism in our country, including the shameful Japanese internment camps of the 1940s.
We hope you enjoy this last weekly poem, and that you will share its power, defiance and hope with your loved ones today.
“A Woman Will Do That”
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.
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.
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 religiosity.
Let the power of women lead, harmoniously,
Because a woman
will do that.
We hope you enjoyed our weekly poem by Janice Mirikitani. Please consider sharing its power, defiance and hope with your community today.
Copyright © 2021 by Janice Mirikitani.