It was in a valley of sunflower
blooms when the maid, the mother and the crone
came to our door. They called you out. “Daughter”
is a word hard enough to shatter stone
so now all I have left are broken rocks.
I am fine with the rites and all we do,
but not this. First they cut off your dreadlocks,
tattooed your skull, gave you a sword, taught you
how to kill. My daughter now makes chaos
kneel and beg but was taken one spring day,
leaving nothing for my arms to hold tight
but air. I wait for you, love, so that my loss
might be found. You’ll always be my blessed, fey
child; not some blood-soaked woman, dying knight.
When I trace the scars on her shoulders, thick
as my finger, grotesque tattoos that wrap
around each arm. When I kiss her lithic
muscles she starts to tremble. She could snap
my spine like that. She has killed thirty men
like that. When I play with her softest part,
the part I will not name, her talismen
I call a lifetime of love, my sweetheart
opens. It’s not words but other’s secrets
that that I won’t share. When I light her lucky
strike she groans the earth before volcano’s
blow. She clamps my face in place; her ringlets
tease my nose. I love her, from her forty
broadsword strokes to each of her missing toes.
This morning I wrote the poem “without” and after re-reading what I had written I quickly decided none of the images would be in anything remotely resembling good taste when it came to a grieving father over his lost daughter. So I present them here instead in the hope they might get used one day for a different poem. Cheers!
Daughter, how many years does a woman
have? You are now shapeless and I a lice
ridden old man. You knew all the Koran
by heart. You could wrestle any boy twice
your weight. The long bow sang only for you.
So did the war ax. Now I itch with grief.
From the vast and bleak steppe country a few
worn sobs can be heard. There is no relief
for the father I’ve become. I despair.
I’m lost beyond words. All I know now fails
me; all because of some mongrel swordsman.
Somewhere in a grave you hide; with your hair
that has stopped growing; and your tiny nails
that will never need to be cut again.
* * *
“He says, it
cannot be done,
But it is given,
(and mostly as punishment).”
— Wong Amy, A Lesson
You might have left for the Himalayas
or the island of Themyscira, somewhere
I won’t go. But you didn’t. The Muses
know I will never find the rhyme to share
your fate with the world. You were a creature
of war. I valued peace, provided I
didn’t have to give up any leisure
comforts. I know why you left. I know why
I stayed, too. The flip side. I use to brag
that long ago I’d be burned as a witch.
How posh. What airs. But that ignores our fate.
You will always know blood lust, while I’ll drag
my feet in this world and the next. I’ll bitch
but you’ll hear the call. You’ll go and I’ll wait.
* * *
Themyscira is the fictional island where, according to DC Comics, Wonder Woman and her sister Amazons came from.
If you never knew Delfi, that’s too bad.
See, I was talking with her yesterday.
She was teasing me, calling me “Comrade
Gringo,” due to my accent. Anyway,
we were catching up, the way old friends do
when they haven’t seen each other in years.
“When you die,” she said, “that era’s hairdo
will haunt you like a ghost.” Delfi still sneers
at the dictators of El Salvador.
She was murdered when I was only nine,
but that hasn’t slowed my friend down. “I said,
how can the living or the dead ignore
all our people’s troubles? There are divine
struggles that don’t stop just because you’re dead.”
The BBC has recently reported that Pentagon will end the ban on American women in front-line combat:
US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has decided to lift the military’s ban on women serving in combat, a senior Pentagon official has said. The move could open hundreds of thousands of front-line positions and elite commando jobs to women.
Which would mean that as early as 2016 it will possible to follow female generals into war, just like the ancient Mongolian days when Lady Khutulun led the Great Khan’s army against China.
I say all this because even in this era there exists a bizarre myth that women and war do not mix except as passive victims, patriotic mothers or trembling daughters waiting back at the hearth fire for their men folk to return. To all these naysayers, I say, “learn your history.” There have been women warriors and generals as long as there has been war.
Learn about Candace of the Sudan, who routed Alexander The Great; Falling Leaf of the Crow nation who counted coup and was considered a chief, sitting in the council of elders; Maria Rosa, a 15 year-old Brazilian girl who led troops in the Contestado War; Japan’s Tomoe Gozen, an onna bugeisha; the Trung Sisters, two 1st century Vietnamese leaders who repelled Chinese invasions for three years; Queen Boudica who led a major uprising of the Celtic tribes against the Roman Empire; Catherine of Aragon; Joan d’Ark; the pirate queen Teuta of Albania; Queen Zenobia of Palmyra; Egypt’s Nefertiti, just to name a few.
Now I hunt for the tomb of Queen Myrine,
was with her when the walls of Cerneh fell.
Myrine, who laid the Greek and Philistine
worlds to ash. Hippolyta, the rebel
Amazon, loved her. And, fey and childlike,
I did, too. Wars come, wars go, but hunger
remains. Once, curious what I tasted like
inside, we fell, clinging to each other
in a berserk haze. Hips grinding, amazed,
hot with blood-sweat until the war-god, Mars,
became enraptured. Now women are praised
for their chastity, not battle scars.
My queen, your tomb is lost, but your cravings
and name live on. Take these, my offerings.
Amazonomachy: art portraying battles between Greeks and Amazonian warriors; Pheidias designed an amazonomachy upon the shield of Athena Parthenos, a statue of the goddess found in the Parthenon.