The Bearded Lady

Poems are full immersion experiences. Sometimes the symbols or extended metaphor may make you feel out of your depth. But if you can stay afloat long enough with a doggy paddle, it can feel more like a natural habitat. Friends who are clinical psychologists may send out a life raft. (Thank you, Bláthaín! And you, too, Tony!) It is true of our dreams, too. It can take a while to fathom their depths when you are swirling in the currents of culturally defined masculinity and femininity.

Bearded Lady

She's a freak,
a circus sideshow combing
her facial hirsutism
on display for all to see,
which feels so wrong
in so many ways.
She inspires pity and terror,
(the ancient Greek formula
for pure tragedy)
that she may never know love
or the safety
of a good husband.

I have sprouted the blonde beard
of a Viking sailor,
but without the moustache,
which comes out looking
disconcertingly Amish,
pacifist Anabaptist farmer
meeting Scandi noir-ior-
marauder, raider, rapist,
coloniser, usurper,
appropriator, trader.

No, no, no, no!
I cannot have that!
There is not enough beard oil
in the world
that can soften all that bristle.
I do not want to identify
with that!

Get out the trimmer.
Consider the strap and the blade.
Pour on the chemical
depilatory cream to disable
any stray traces
of masculine shade.

But when I look in the mirror
what I see
is that Viking sailor
with that weirdly Amish
non-tache
and I now have the task
of masking my bearded lady
who is still there
without her whiskers
nonetheless.

living with the knowledge
I am only the circus' sideshow
while the main event
is happening out
in the Big Top tent,
where the only women
who get to perform
are certain speciality acts.
They balance on the high wire.
The only ones who get to fly
swing on the trapeze.
Both without a safety net.



Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Today’s featured image is of a vintage circus poster which can be found and purchased fromhttp://garageartsigns.com/product-tag/vintage-circus-posters/

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GloPoWriMo2018 Day 2

Global Poetry Writing Month (GloPoWriMo), the spin off from NaPoWriMo, which does apply to countries where April is not just the cruelest month (according to T.S. Elliot), but the designated month to celebrate all things poetry. NaPoWriMo set the global poetry community alight with poetry writing fervour each spring.  Ireland has Poetry Day Ireland on 26th April. Not a whole month for sure, but enough that I think I need to fly both national and global flags. Doing the double as usual for someone living in border country with multiple nationalities.

And my response to Day 2’s prompt is one that is grounded in recent Irish news.

Today’s prompt:

we’d like to challenge you to write a poem that plays with voice. For example, you might try writing a stanza that recounts something in the first-person, followed by a stanza recounting the same incident in the second-person, followed by a stanza that treats the incident from a third-person point of view. Or you might try a poem in the form of a dialogue, which necessarily has two “I” speakers, addressing two “you”s. Another way to go is to take an existing poem of yours or someone else’s, and try rewriting it in a different voice. The point is just to play with who is speaking to who and how.

I am not sure that I have actually played along with complete spirit of the prompt, but the alternating hashtags that have appeared in the wake of the acquitals in Belfast and the subsequent responses that have broken down gender lines, seemed like a jumping off point. Also, as a feminist, I get how the legal system muffles the ‘reasonable doubt’ element down to a ‘he said/she said’ storyline. Too frequently, unless a woman nearly dies and has the courage to confront her assaulter in court, the ‘reasonable doubt’ is all too often the outcome. Which leaves women angry and less likely to report rape. Because who wants to volunteer to be assaulted all over again by an institution? Too often victims wind up in court and, like Joan of Arc, get roasted and metaphorically burnt at the stake.

Believe You Me

 

#IBelieveYou

#WeBelieveYou

 

Because I drank too much wine one night

Because sometimes we all want to delight the party

Especially because I thought h was a really nice guy

Because we learn nice can be a big lie

Because I believed he liked me

Because we are all taught we ought to please

Because I didn’t like the darkness

Because we all know someone hurt

 

#I BelieveYou

#WeBelieveYou

 

Because

Too many of us  have been in that room

With you

At some point

With a sister friend

Or our mother

Who conceived in terror

 

#IBelieveYou

#WeBelieveYou

 

Because

It should be okay to change your mind

To not have to submit in pain

To be able to disappoint

To not walk away vagina bleeding, and shamed

 

#IBelieveYou

#WeBelieveYou

 

©BeeSmith2018

On Being a Bad Woman

Shame is a feminist issue. Brené Brown, the social worker academic who researches shame, has said in various written and video sources, that shame does seem to narrow down to certain gender categories. With men it seems to centre around being seen to be not in control. With women, the shame is about imperfections. And let’s face it, the multitude of mixed messages about womanhood and femininity are land mines we step on daily. It is exhausting trying to uphold perfection when the goal posts are constantly moving and competing on both sides at times!

As I prepare for guests to arrive I am walking the Slut Walk of House Beautiful & Hygiene Shame. Most of my friends accept that country living, two dogs, three cats and a husband whose mother preferred to read than clean house (bless her!) and therefore is blind to dustbunnies, is just how it is in our home. There are many more exciting, life enhancing things to do than wash the cobwebs from the kitchen cupboards.

But let the prospect of ‘company’ be on the horizon and I am crippled with shame over my the general level of slovenlyness. We are not rich enough to outsource cleaning. Also, some vestigial German hausfrau DNA is horrified at that prospect. I tell myself I should do better. The feminist in me tells myself not to care. Then I feel guilty for caring. Or ashamed, if I allow my mind to make it toxic, for both caring and being a House Slut.

Fortunately, these attacks pass and I just nibble away at the tasks, often a shelf and drawer at a time. And, let’s face it, if I am going to obey some rubric of femininity I will obviously opt to bake a cake, rather than sweep the floor daily.  Because, you know, the byproduct is CAKE! I can enjoy it and also watch others enjoy eating it. There is a higher ratio of satisfaction even when you have a day of bad cake karma.

Women are hard on themselves. And, as Elena Ferrante pointed out in last Saturday’s Guardian, women can be hard on each other. “Not only is female power suffocated, but also, for the sake of peace and quiet, we suffocate ourselves.” Which may have been at the root of my wanting to photograph the interior of my newly resplendent, sparkling and hygienic fridge to have my friend Jo show her 91 year old mother.  I quelled that impulse. But just note that I am still preening myself publicly.

So, after throwing in a load of laundry, I penned this as my weekly poem exercise.

Being a Bad Woman

Undoubtably, she will come to a bad end

Desperado housewife, bandit, the less loved

Desperation being the operative word

For the one with nerve

For the one who got her maths wrong

In so many ways over so many months and days

 

She is the one with the gimlet eye

Peering over her vodka stinger

Stink eye glare, the shoulder shrug devil may care

The one with the iron jaw

Who won’t take it on the chin

The one who relaxes the rictus grin

 

She is the one

Who can’t do the dance on stilts

She is the one

Who can’t paint on a face anymore

She is the one

Who is all  “too much”

 

Once, she was the leggy little girl

Who saw nudity

And has since dispensed

With clothing

And power dressing

Entirely

 

She is hairy and fanged

The bitch on heat and permanent virgin

The handmaid, the house angel

She is Mary

She is Lilith

She is mitochondrial Eve

 

She is this everything and all

Or nothing. But now

She is done with being

Woman – Professional Version point

An infinity of naughts since

In this world, goodness has no just desserts

 

Copyright 2018 Bee Smith

Image by ArtsyBee found on Pixabay

 

 

 

 

NaPoWriMo2017 Day 24

Day 21 NaPoWriMo 2017

This is today’s challenge:  “I’d like to challenge you to write a poem that incorporates overheard speech. It could be something you’ve heard on the radio, or a phrase you remember from your childhood, even something you overheard a coworker say in the break room! Use the overheard speech as a springboard from which to launch your poem. Your poem could comment directly on the overheard phrase or simply use it as illustration or tone-setting material.”

Which had me schussing back to childhood, down the pneumatic tube of memory.

Pink

 

Pink is for girls. Blue is for boys.

 

Such was the wisdom

of my four year old playmate

who, like Barbie™ Doll,

was born in 1958.

 

Which confused me

as he lorded over

our snack time choice

of plastic juice cups.

 

I wanted the blue.

It was my colour.

My mommy said so!

I argued vehemently.

 

It was the colour

of my eyes you see.

We loved blue

my Mommy and me.

 

Pink just was not

in our palette.

Just open the door.

Look inside our closets.

 

There was orange in

The bodice of my carrot dress,

seed pearls stitched on navy taffeta

1961’s Sunday Best.

 

There was peach  – once-

in organza

for a wedding.

Pink wasn’t even

 

Branded Barbie ™ yet

She and I, last progeny

of the Baby Boom years.

But even when Ken

 

Came on the scene

they shared blue.

Odd in pre-feminist 1950s

that, in future, pink

 

Would paint and dominate

all things Girl today.

Just like Richie Good

said before 1964.

 

But my mother and I

she with the royal blue

chiffon scarf in the drawer

she never wore,

 

her paste sapphire

lapel broach last worn

on utility grey

power suit post-war –

 

I lift  it from

The Pinkie and Blue Boy

Embossed jewellery box

I inherited from her.

 

Turn the broach

over in my hand

Will I wear it?

Do I dare yet?

 

We are not pink. Blue is for girls.