The 1950’s hangs over womanhood like a specter, Like the ghost of a dead poet. She stalks the halls of nostalgia, Shaking pill bottles to and fro. She is shut like a shell, Weighed down by the sand and grit around her, An inelegant ocean.
The banalities of femaleness settle around her She looks more at home in it Then I do. The modern woman, Who is not a woman, Who is a woman somedays, Both confined and liberated By ribbons and lace. You cannot revisit something That you have never left to begin with.
We remember the times we had to be all things domestic When today’s woman must be pan, All, Everything to everyone Self-care’s champion The lamb looking straight ahead. The specter does not know she is dead yet, Her tobacco-stained fingers still thumb through magazines Listen to the radio We pretend for her that things are still the same And we pretend for ourselves that things are different.
Lizzie Borden’s father gifted her a sealskin cape After a lifetime of Lukewarm dinners under flickering candles Cold sittings in the outhouse No other recorded acts of generosity Such extravagance Seemed out of place
The seal-folk of the British Isles Were brought to land by the theft of their skins Prisoners of lust and sand It was only in the reclaiming of their skins That they were free To return home again
I sometimes imagine Lizzie Borden Covered in the blood of her pet pigeons Wondering what burden such small things could have been Her father, with the axe, staring into the middle distance
Like the selkie stares at the sea
Cursing the land that has taken their home from them
The question remains Could women do such things As abandon children they were never meant to have Or murder parents who neglected them And killed their pets Gave them sealskin capes Kept them on the shores When they were always meant to dance in the waves
Women learn to shed their skins
From an early age
We learn to shed blood later
And we never unlearn it.