What women want
Thursday, March 8, 2012
The morning news today brought its usual package of anti-woman (anti-person!) outrages. This one was the closing of women’s health clinics in Texas, but no matter. Take your pick--it could have been any one of a hundred stories of ways in which women are ground down around the world. Including here in the United States quite noticeably where it’s open (election) season on women’s rights.
And just in time, my friend Susan Donnelly has sent me this wonderful poem by Ellen Bryant Voigt. Voigt is among the poets I admire greatly when I come across her work and then somehow I forget to seek out more. Not this time though, thanks to Susan’s reminder. What this woman wants right now is more of Voigt’s wise and finely-crafted poetry.
The Wide and Varied World
Women, women, what do they want?
The first ones in the door of the plant-filled office
were the twins, fresh from the upper grades,
their matched coats dangling open.
and then their more compliant brother, leading
the dear stuffed tottering creature -- amazing
that she could lift her leg high enough
to cross the threshold to the waiting room.
Then the woman, the patient, carrying the baby
in an infant seat, his every inch of flesh
swaddled against the vicious weather.
Once inside, how skillfully the mother
unwound the many layers --
and now so quickly
must restore them: news from the lab
has passed through the nurse's sliding window.
The youngest, strapped again into his shell,
fusses for the breast, the twins tease their sister,
the eight-year-old looks almost wise as his mother
struggles into her coat with one hand and with the other
pinches his sweaty neck, her hissed threats
swarming his face like flies.
Now she's gone.
The women who remain don't need to speak.
Outside, snow falls in the streets
and quiet hills, and seems, in the window,
framed by the room's continuous greenery,
to obliterate the wide and varied world.
We half-smile, half-nod to one another.
One returns to her magazine.
One shifts gently to the right arm
her sleeping newborn, unfurls the bud of its hand.
One of us takes her turn in the inner office
where she submits to the steel table
and removes from her body its stubborn wish.
We want what you want, only
we have to want it more.
-- Ellen Bryant Voigt
in The Lotus Flowers