An immigrant in a Man’s World / Why the Birth Rate is Low
I applied after years of observation in a co-ed public school,
and flew into the world of sexual freedom on the birth control pill.
I revelled in my new land: sex without pregnancy and equal pay;
I had found where I wanted to live.
I honoured my origins with makeup,
with my bra and boots as flag, I declared my background
in this new land I loved.
Then the man who supported his wife spoke to the
“rising young man” who supported his wife
in a language I didn’t understand, and wasn’t supposed to hear.
But this was my place; I had earned my way and arrived here
and I belonged, I insisted.
Then my birthright called, and called.
I decided to see if a child would come
while I stayed in this world
of old men and “rising young men”
(and women who knew their places).
It was a slow gestation and a hard birth.
Women whispered to me and men looked away.
The wives who were supported accused me
of inadequacies, and the old men
reminded me that I had to keep up
to the men who had wives who succoured them.
I had friends and a good mate, but it was a hard land,
a hard time and place, living as a stowaway in a man’s world,
too tired and busy to organize a union with the other stowaways,
to have our citizenship in the world of work
recognized, and our needs as parents honoured.
The nanny was not a wife, good to my daughter
but leaving for her life when I arrived home.
My mate was there, and helped, but we both
I was the mother, with all that had meant
before I’d emigrated
to the man’s world.
So I became neither and both, a mother
living in a man-shaped world –
watching a meeting while breastfeeding,
watching the man who supported his wife scheduling
to help another man who supported his wife,
ignoring my mothering needs requests.
both mother and job-holder,
but blocked the chance
of another child.
Gethsemane – is a garden at the foot of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, most famous as the place where Jesus prayed and his disciples slept the night before Jesus’ crucifixion.
The bleeping heartbeat
Naming the losses,
Watching them grow:
The unknown husband,
The useless hands:
They sit together, his arm holding her, the woman who was,
and is no longer there
to answer or demand, while
he keeps trying to share:
He talks with his friend, as they speak of nothings
and not of wives; while they avoid
the questions that have no answers,
He returns to the house that looks like home
and smells of her absence
while nothing can repair the silences and spaces
waiting for him:
Caught between my mirror
and blackouts, my mother and hope
twisting around to glare into
headlights and greasy black highways
behind me …
I don’t want to be here, but
to stand entwined, taking Communion
as if I were holy
as if I could hide from the whale’s lesson
as if I could pray
Walking to the coffeeshop,
with my glasses off,
I stumble and fall.
Falling asleep with my glasses on,
I dream of empty coffins,
Reading emailed obituaries
sent by old acquaintances
I hit “Delete”
before I’m finished.
My silver trickster shoes.
Beautiful on, my silver shoes,
But when I walked, they slipped and rubbed,
My painful silver shoes.
I took them off and gave them to
A friend with sturdier feet,
My poor-fitting silver shoes.
One early morning in my closet
I saw again the silver shoes,
My absent silver shoes.
A dream, a phantasm,
A joke, a delusion,
My trickster silver shoes.
The name I used to murmur in delight
Now I sob over in the night.
The woman I used to find so annoying
Now I watch, envious and admiring
The work I loved and did so well
I’ve left behind; I lost the joy.
The fear I carried so long and deep
I look at now and no longer weep.
The crone arrives like an undesired lover
the shape of my body
Like an adolescent girl, I sense
unsought losses, unclear gifts.
I rage and sleep,
There are no fairy tales here,
no promise of princes and beautiful gowns,
the crone’s belly
and a different cloak of invisibility.