In Other’s Words

I always loved April in the Prison Library. It was National Poetry Month and we would host Poetry Slams in the library. I invited the inmates to read original poems or something from a favorite author. I felt it helped to prepare them for “real world experience” to be able to speak publicly. To practice presence, articulation and “owning the space” would assist with future job interviews.

One of my favorite authors is Sandra Cisneros. She is not only a favored children’s author, but a poet of renown.  Today I am sharing one of her poems.

Loose Woman
by Sandra Cisneros

They say I’m a beast.
And feast on it. When all along
I thought that’s what a woman was.

They say I’m a bitch.
Or witch. I’ve claimed
the same and never winced.

They say I’m a macha, hell on wheels,
viva-la-vulva, fire and brimstone,
man-hating, devastating,
boogey-woman lesbian.
Not necessarily,
but I like the compliment.

The mob arrives with stones and sticks
to maim and lame and do me in.
All the same, when I open my mouth,
they wobble like gin.

Diamonds and pearls
tumble from my tongue.
Or toads and serpents.
Depending on the mood I’m in.

I like the itch I provoke.
The rustle of rumor
like crinoline.

I am the woman of myth and bullshit.
(True. I authored some of it.)
I built my house of ill repute.
Brick by brick. Labored,
loved and masoned it.

I live like so.
Heart as sail, ballast, rudder, bow.
Rowdy. Indulgent to excess.
My sin and success–
I think of me to gluttony.

By all accounts I am
a danger to society.
I’m Pancha Villa.

I break laws,
upset the natural order,
anguish the Pope and make fathers cry.
I am beyond the jaw of law.
I’m la desperada, most-wanted public enemy.
My happy picture grinning from the wall.

I strike terror among the men.
I can’t be bothered what they think.
Que se vayan a la ching chang chong!
For this, the cross, the Calvary.
In other words, I’m anarchy.

I’m an aim-well,
loose woman.
Beware, honey.

I’m Bitch. Beast. Macha.
Ping! Ping! Ping!
I break things.


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Wishes For Sons – Poem by Lucille Clifton

i wish them cramps.

i wish them a strange town
and the last tampon.
I wish them no 7-11.

i wish them one week early
and wearing a white skirt.
i wish them one week late.

later i wish them hot flashes
and clots like you
wouldn’t believe. let the
flashes come when they
meet someone special.
let the clots come
when they want to.

let them think they have accepted
arrogance in the universe,
then bring them to gynecologists
not unlike themselves.


Lucille Clifton

I suppose I learned as much about poetry as those inmates in the Creative Writing Workshop. When I first read Ms Clifton’s work, I was mesmerized by the power of her words. Simple, pared down, no capitalization. I wanted to read more and more of her words. I found I could rest in the bosom of her words. Fortunately, our workshop was under the care of Professor Richard Shelton of the University of Arizona. We received many gifts of books and poetry reviews.

Clifton and Shelton were good friends, so we were blessed with a number of her books. Since I was the one who organized the processing of the books, I held on to hers until such time as I had finished reading her words.

She could twist a phrase around my heart, so that I was ashamed to have been born white and not know the pain of growing up in a segregated community. My small town upbringing was all white and as vanilla as one could ever imagine. That is, until I began to have a thought of my own and watch the national news during the turbulent 60’s and 70’s.  Civil rights, Viet Nam, the Kennedy family, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Malcom X and the feminist perspective.

Try as I might to express my thoughts, I was always shut down in the home I grew up in. I had more progressive family – the teachers, the educators who encouraged my thought and expression. It was so liberating to exchange ideas and thoughts with them.

As I am able, I will publish more of Lucille’s words as well as the inmate poetry.