A 21ST CENTURY POEM FOR GLORIA STEINEM 1. Start with this: a man on a sidewalk, a large man on a narrow sidewalk, the sidewalk in a midnight city, any season. Across the street a woman reaches her doorstep, fumbles for keys in the darkness. This could be 1972 or 50 years later. Fear is timeless. 2. No solace in windows if there are no doors. But when a woman understands herself, she can bring down a world. There is hope in this, always. 3. I see my young self more clearly now as one can see the whole forest only from a distance. She stands still as a tree, her roots deepening. Soon she will pull free, begin her race toward comprehension. Look at her run. There is a fierce push in her. She is intent on alighting. COURAGE My poetry wanted them and so they came, the tumultuous hours, the bouts of love, the obsessions like a fever. Throughout it all, there you were, friend of a lifetime, watching me wend my way to adulthood, my complex relationship with doors. But the capricious moods of time, inevitable, insistent as waves on rock, wash over us, wear us down. And the selves we were, less visible with each passing year, recede and diminish. You knew me then, you know me now. To the end this will sustain me. Come, let us link arms, whistle bravely into the gaining dark. EXPERIENCED MUSIC I can’t talk about my singing; I’m inside it. --Janis Joplin 1. It didn’t work for you—the crowd love— in the end. Not possible to reconcile singular and plural, the I and all the others (and in that truce to find the no-rage of understanding). It was your time, and not your time. Your gift: to make of art an urgency. Decades later, still it drives a stake into the heart—your voice— cleaves it open. What you had in the end: the certainty of aloneness, no comfort in the stark aftermath of adulation. It prevails: something alive caught in your throat, howling. 2. You didn’t trust romance, craved it just the same, your marrow a woman’s marrow sweet and raw with longing, your eye a woman’s eye reckless and burning through. Within the years of need, grief also. You contain, but refuse to be contained. The curse of hindsight: regret. As you always said, you get what you settle for. 3. Euphoria: when the tribe dances at your feet, goddess of the profane and the deep wild. Note by note you live what they can’t. You bay at the world as if it were the moon. In the rude rebellious night, poised on the edge of your darkest dreaming, you are safe in your singing, holy animal. 4. What is there to say? That there is no end to anything but eventually the endings. That we surmise and negotiate and give in to surrender. That the music offers a brief respite (glorious) from the tyranny of waiting. The day breaks already broken yet still we hope. Don’t feel sorry. Eat, and be comforted. Drink, and be comforted. The void is hungrier and thirstier than you can imagine. It cannot be consumed by you, or anyone. Strange day, when you realize there is nothing but strangeness.
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Eva Tihanyi has published eight books of poetry, most recently The Largeness of Rescue (Inanna, 2016) which was awarded a Fred Cogswell Award for Excellence in Poetry. She has also published a collection of short stories, Truth and Other Fictions (Inanna, 2009). Currently she is working on Circle Tour, her new poetry volume. She lives in St. Catharines, Ontario. Visit her web site www.evatihanyi.com for more information.