June 29, 2010
There are too many instances in the world when women’s voices are discounted. Not just our figurative voices – the words we speak and the meanings of those words – butour literal voices too – our sometimes soft, high-timbre ululations. We are told that we are too soft-spoken to hear, that our proclamations carry too much emotion, too much shame, too many tears.
Today I was flipping through YouTube looking at slam poetry readings for a non-blog project, and I was reminded how powerful women’s voices truly are. In spoken word poetry, female voices are just as strong as men’s, just as effective. In honor of those voices, I wanted to share this poem by Andrea Gibson, a truly kick-ass lady with amazing stage presence who uses words like bullets. This particular poem is called “Pursuit of Happiness,” and it reminds me a great deal of the things we discussed back during the Boobquake debacle, when Mary B reminded us about all the baggage that comes with the notion of “saving” the women of other countries.
[Transcrip below the fold]
Tonight in iraq there is a race to rape little girls before they can be raped by U.S. soldiers
Tonight in Iran there is a missile aimed at the hill where Hafiz cut pieces of his soul with a knife and wove them into a blanket to protect us
Tonight my skin is the color of a hundred white flags
torn apart at the seams and sewn together into the body bag that holds her only son
and I am told God’s will is done
by hands that pan for gold in the bloodstreams of children
while a million souls are sold on the slave blocks of a pipeline
and a mother turns her bones into a bunker
fills her lungs with sand and cradles her baby daughter
until her own clavicle is blown to powder fine as the dust on a butterfly’s wing
But tonight there are no flowers
Every flashing red light is a heart threatening to quit
The moon is a tourniquet we will bleed through by morning
Is this your pursuit of happiness?
The casket as small as a music box
A mother holding that song to her ear
America, I dare you to rest your holy water beside her tears and see where Jesus chooses to walk
Heaven doesn’t know your name
only the sound of you rolling your barrels of blood to its gates thinking grace
is something you can buy with Mohammed’s pulse
again how you intend to rescue their women
how you will teach them how to read in the schools you have turned to prisons
how you will offer them doctors in the hospitals you have burned with their children inside
Tell me how they won’t have to hide beneath their burkas
how you will wrap them in lace til they are all as conveniently rapable as women in the States
Do you know how much desert sand is on the floor of the women’s shelter in this city?
Have you ever heard a skull crack on a kitchen sink
Have you ever tried to blink the light back?
Do you know the man who beat her had been ordered to fit five Afghani children in a single body bag
Is this your pursuit of happiness?
The orphanage you lit like a cigarette
you cough and it sounds like screams
You cancel the soul with your holy flag
You dog-tagged your son,
choke-chained his two years into eight
and forgot his name when you couldn’t afford the gas to drive to his funeral
do you know how his family loved you?
Their trust was an orchard
Now tonight at their table nothing is alive but his empty chair
If you are a nation under God, how is hell so close to your prayers?
Do you see what you are pressing between your bones?
Bones cannot break
A mother can never find the right place to store an empty cradle
A mouth can never find the right shape to hold the lullabies it will never sing
America, if you could rip the pipelines from your throat,
if you could hang them like windchimes from the battered night
would you remember how freedom rings?
Would you remember that every river is a lantern running without oil
and your children sing your anthems, so proud
where you melted the desert the sand became a mirror
If you could stand so close the flames caught the lashes of your eyes
If you could memorize one face fading into smoke and never ever forget
If you could let one more soldier write his blood type on his boots
Would you let your pursuit of happiness steal so much God
from the heart that I know is still pounding beneath your bloody hands?