WOMANSPEAK | Feminist Poetry and Poetics

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R A C H E L   L A U R E N   S T O R M

The Gendering of Cotacachi


With each fragmented patch of earth,

that Andean sun-god catches her step

until she is falling beneath the dung,

toward the mud fence at the foot of

her curves; this mountain her homeland.


A mother, that hushed story-teller,

whispered to wide-eyed babes,

the aged myths of the mountain.

Mass of sullen earth had appeared

to dreaming men as woman, blonde

and pigeon-toed; her deformities most

captivating to those sleeping groins.



Come rest heavy hips, 
spread-eagled, sighing, 
cushioned both under, 
while your plastic sweat 
drips down metal rims.

Come open your legs dear,
so the doctor can see,
where pink skin drapes and moves,
under wooded crowns where
leaves gasp- like you had when,
he’d been river through you.

Come breathe deeply while we prod, 
fingers in silken sea waves
inching forward even now, 
though your dress lies in a pile, 
like a still bird from your womb
and my ear by your belly
can hear its whistle and purr.

Come tighten your thumbs and respire, 
as my palms consider your breasts, 
and tire from this young voyage, 
toward my pockets lined and buried 
amid the nickels and your name, 
If only it weren’t a crime, 
to look longingly at open thighs
deep and wide and beg that tremble.


V I C T O R I A   T H O M P S O N

Love letter to Troy 


you mistake me.
I am not kind.
I will not
crawl amid the river reeds 
to pull you
white winged and wet 
from the bloated waters.

I am not kind.
All of your feathers 
will pull away,
edge off,
like pebbles spilled from bluffs.

Speaking of Helen 

Listen, what I want to say is I’ve seen 
long necked swans on swollen rivers
that have broken the arms of men.

And I’ve heard tell of Romans, who dropped
lead pearls into their bowls of wine.
Not because they didn’t know the look of death
but because they liked the taste of it.

Listen, what I mean to say is that beauty
is not the truth you’re looking for.
That Helen has always had a hollow heart
And that you, little dove, do not.


T I F F A N Y   B O W D E N


. . . For a Dark Skinned Girl


He said: You’re pretty cute

. . . for a dark skinned girl

And I almost smiled

And ran to the nearest mirror to take in the moment,

But it had come to me as loaded as a revolver pointed

square at my face.


My beauty had been qualified by a brother within my

own race

Who stopped to pay tribute once he had gotten close

enough to my face to distinguish my features

I had blended in with the darkness of the room so he

had to get close, just to be sure.

And when he did, he smiled.

And I almost smiled back

But I knew I had failed.

And I wanted to take the brown paper bag that he had

tested me with from his mind

And hyperventilate in it as the room closed in around



And I watched as he invited the girl whose skin

reminded me of carefully churned butter

To dance.

And as her hair swung hypnotically above her waist


I know he fantasized about how pretty their children

would be.

How pretty and curly their children’s hair would be.

Their “good” hair

With skin like sweet caramel.

They proceeded,


Careful not to pass down anymore melanin than was

absolutely unavoidable

As a matter of selective evolution.


But even so,

He looked back at me and smiled.

And I almost smiled back

But I couldn’t get over the question:

With admirers like you, who needs oppressors?

Caught up in music video fantasies

Where ethnicity + mystery = commodity and anything

but me.

And I knew that if I could have looked a little more


A little more Indian

A little more Puerto Rican or

Anything else but like a little dark skinned girl,


I would have held his attention.

And he wasn’t so bad. Wasn’t so arrogant, for a light

skinned boy.

And did I mention I almost smiled?

Because I did

But my bliss was broken by the tint of my skin.

And I couldn’t figure out if I was too much of a


Or not enough hoe

To be simply greeted as a woman,

A beautiful woman just for a woman’s sake.

Not to be trapped in the “dark skinned box.”

Couldn’t help wondering if I was just a jigaboo with

a nicely chosen lipgloss.



B R I A N N A  W A L K E R


A Five-Figure Wedding


A five-figure wedding, a drama of romance.

Three different forks, two knives and a spoon

for every guest. It will not do to eat with just one fork.

Here are the evenly spaced place settings,

here is the dove cage, ready for release,

here are the crystals of champagne,

dripping cold as the bride and groom.

A forest wedding, their marital dreams.

Crystals and candles and rings of gold.

‘More wine!’ he snarls as I take away his plate,

and I nod, clinical and sober with a smile to boot.


A blessed break, some time to sit.

Across the wood a song sparrow sings–

Song sparrow, song sparrow, teach me how to sing,

sing a song for working women, sing a song for me.

Fly to the tree stump where I sift the dying earth.

I came here once and planted my corn,

row after row of raging, vital corn.

But this was so many years ago even I cannot remember.

And now the stalks have wilted

and the earth is acidic as a stomach knot.

No life has grown here in years,

and the sparrow’s song is lost among the doves.


The doves in a row like bleached teeth

in the salivating earth. Their coos and caws

around me like an old damp cloak.

Shoo doves, shoo. Make room for the sparrow’s song.

I want it between my fingers, I want it in my hair,

I want fertile ground, I want to plant my corn,

but I must pour your wine, bride and groom.

Your wedding has spread over the fertile ground like a veil.

Lift for the kiss, spread it with mulch.

Try and try, but corn will never grow here again.

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