Louisa Schnaithmann

ON THE PROBLEM OF WOMANHOOD

I. 

I rip my veins
right out at
sixteen, red
ribbons that burn.

I tear what I
can, read
Ariel, full
of ghosts. 

II.

The body is
uncanny, womanhood
doubly so.

My body is a tree,
overgrown with ivy,
roots arcing

out of rocks, wrenching,
resisting. I associate
poetry with growth,

note how fine-trimmed
metaphor blooms
into truth, its

fruit bursting
in puckery thickets—
some sort of berry.

My body as tree,
scarred bark-skin
shed, fruit rotting.

III.

What is the problem
of womanhood?

IV.

When we were girls, we:
climbed, swam, jumped,
crawled, leapt, spun, sung,
wept, were trapped, sprang
free, fell asleep in hammocks
under cool breeze and late
sun.

There is a casual freedom there,
but it doesn’t last.

V.

What is the problem
of the body? We’re
trapped here, hands
stretching skyward,
aching for more.

VI.

Darkness.
I walk home alone.
My body is no
longer a tree. Now,
it is a target, a finely
crafted hymn of desire.

I try to be a tree.
I reach out and up,
hoping to transform
like Daphne. My skin
bristles. Bark, perhaps?
I spin my head around—
leaves do not grow.

I avoid the assumed
fate. My life line escapes.
I live to see morning.

VII.

The problem—
The problem is—
The problem of woman is—

She takes up space.
She contains.
She abstracts.
She defines.
She multiplies.
She grows.

VIII.

After red, and after
pills, and after ambulances
and their bills, somehow
I figure something out.

I am not so full of ghosts.
(Or they are more
properly contained.)

IX.

Trees get to grow wild.
Trees get to grow.

X. 

Thirty and alive:
a miracle!

I speak in tongues.
I edit my own work.
I speak in ciphers.
I do not write for men.

My work is unfinished

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