Feminist Poem

By the time women are allowed to be ministers
People stop believing in God.
So many influential
Women in my life were not feminists.
My mother lived alone for many years without a man
Which I can’t help but see
As a sign of strength
Yet fiercely believed that man was the head
Of the household and women should submit.
She once told me that my younger brother
Had authority over me because he is a man.
Mom made us go to church —
What was that poem by Alice Walker
About women whose hands were strong
And who had clean words to say
And dragged her off to church?
She only had eyes for the Bible.

Mom tried to get her Papa to stop drinking
When she was a kid.
He told her if she didn’t stop being so religious
She’d end up in the mental hospital like his mother,
Her grandmother, who was in an institution for 20 years.
That was back when they could lock you up for good.
Ironically Papa’s unkind prediction came true.

My mother said in therapy that she wanted to talk about gender roles.
The therapist tried to redirect her to talk about her case manager
Whose appointment she’d missed.
Mom just said the caseworker was a good friend.

I’m going on about my anger at anyone who says women can’t be ministers
Speculating that in that case I have a calling
Thinking in 5 or 10 years I can see myself as a Unitarian minister.
I called God She to my stepfather once
And he said, “That’s a deception of the Devil!”

I reject this.
I reject my mother’s gospel of non feminism.
I reject her gathering up the wretched of the earth,
The rejected of our small town
Into her arms and her red car and carting them off to church.
I reject the husband who would beat his mentally retarded wife
Leave her doubled up on the kitchen floor
Then pose beside her in the church directory.

I reject this.
I reject submitting to your husband.
I reject the man as head of the household,
Even if this means I will live in my own solitary household
With no man to call my own.

She says she’s praying for me to meet a Godly man
And I think of dear closely held Southern archetypes
Like the Gentleman Caller who I’d sip ice tea with
On a cool summer evening
In a veranda wearing a white lace dress surrounded by jonquils
And A Good Man is Hard to Find
Who Flannery O’Connor writes about as a serial killer.

But that’s not what she means. She wants a man–
And it must be a man–
To pray and read the Bible with me
And go to church and raise a family,
Like she wrote on a wipe-board magnet on her refrigerator:
My future spouse and children.

c. Arlaina Ash 2014


American Nightmare (after James Arthur)

The red, white, and blue lights
of a white Ford Crown Victoria
flash in my rearview.

A mix of local punk from a student ghetto free box
“You and I could be lovers on the run in 1933”
drowns out the roly-poly siren.

Ford decided to retire the model this year.

I pull onto a side street. I got a warning last time.
The news won’t be good.
I expect citations, but not handcuffs.

He makes me stand against my sky-blue Hyundai Accent
and pats me down.
Boyish with a crew cut,
he reminds me of my brother, the Army captain.

It is night.

Soon I’m in Orwell’s place of no darkness.
The sun shone as I drove to Carlsbad
one of the last times I saw my mother
before she died of stage four liver cancer.

Speeding on old Coors, I got pulled over.
Life and death happen and make one forget
trivialities like unpaid traffic tickets.

In the holding cell, I tell a woman
about something I read online:
warning signs that one is in a bad relationship.

A good feminist, I say she doesn’t have to stay
with the boyfriend who gave her the bruises she displays
on her body.
I can’t remember where.
I have always had problems with insomnia.

I watch the waif coming down from heroin,
in my black cashmere sweater.
Valerie Stevens,
a thrift store find, but still.

Thinking my experience was interesting
is a defense mechanism.

c. Arlaina Ash 2012