In honor of Women’s History Month, a poem for the ones who came before.
You never once got to stand on a podium
and make everyone listen. You buried your husband
and your son, and you worked all day every day
until you retired to the old brown chair.
No one was ever weighed down by your opinions
or objections or your voice in the world.
You never once got to stand on a stage
and hear everyone’s ears turning toward you.
You never got to be paid for your work:
shuffling laundry and sons from the dresser to school,
burning a line between the sink and the stove
so deep you couldn’t see your way out.
Your husband married you not out of love
or even something like affection, but because your sister
was already taken, and then you settled down and lived
in the same house on the same plot of land
until the old brown chair got thrown out.
Now you sit in the nursing home asking
Where is he, why doesn’t he pick me up
and take me home. For the first time, everyone listens
and answers carefully — repeatedly, relentlessly —
but you can’t hear the truth. Your voice warbles
around the room and returns to you, confused:
Where are you, why don’t you pick me up and take me home.
P.S. More poems here, or in book form here.