Grahn’s poem illuminates where we rise from as a people and where too many remain stuck. I don’t understand bigotry, cruelty, or a lack of empathy, but do know when someone finds a way to clearly expose and trace its ripples. I’m relieved I couldn’t write “A Woman is Talking to Death,” because I wouldn’t want the experiences; however, I’d be grateful to write with this brilliance and power.
How she watched him turn me on the stairs, force his tongue in my nine year old mouth as she basked in the warmth of fire and merlot, and left me for weekends with his Marine Corps son though I cried, begged her not to, his crew cut head telling me to lie down, stop crying, spread my legs. And the Mother’s Day when she slapped my face, kicked my ribs, ripped the head off my doll because I was still making her gift when she woke—she screamed you worthless shit after all I’ve done these seven years. Even now I would forgive the nights from the time I was five that I pressed the cold glass of her bedroom window against my cheek while he beat her, waiting for her to tell me to run next door, call the police, forbidden to run before ordered, forced to listen to her pleas, his fist, the breaking chair. Forgive if she didn’t wish me dead or could engage in dialogue, but instead she remains three, six, twelve years old simultaneously, unwilling to approach maturity or sanity. I too have crawled the edge of madness, felt its sweet vortex as if cauterizing pain, but I keep stepping back from her outstretched arms, reaching always to pull me beside her.