A poem by Isabel Newcom, senior English Major
I come from a long line of women –
Women who rage against a storm
For daring to cross them and
Wipe their tears for daughters with curses on
Their painted lips.
Women who shrink against their fathers’
Hands and belts and minds
While their daughters learn to strike out
With the same weapons that scarred them.
Women whose hearts were broken
One too many times,
And women whose hearts molded mine.
I come from the woman who birthed me
In a storm.
Tornado sirens’ screams yelled in sync with my mother,
And she wept with the rain
When I was placed into my father’s arms.
She bore the pain of another life and smiled,
As many women do,
Because she too is born of a storm.
I come from the woman who taught me that men want silence
As if I hadn’t been born from the anguished screams
Of my mother.
As if she hadn’t been born of the same.
Stillness and invisibility were her supposed virtues,
Like the silence between the trees during a hunt,
But I’ve never heard a man’s laugh carry
Quite as far as hers
Through the forest that her hands have tended.
I come from the woman who taught me hatred
Before I even reached her knees.
Her father’s hatred transformed into a hatred
For my father, but it was nothing if not a lesson
Of first hand experience.
With malice in her eyes and rage in mine,
I stood against her fire and brimstone
With the first realization that I carried
A fire of my own.
I come from the woman who taught me the strength
Of a girl whose back can take lashes better than most.
The man with the cigarette and the Cheshire grin
Caused none of the fear that the sight of her
Shot through my unsteady soul,
But I know now that she has always shared the weight
Of Atlas’ daughters and deserves to hold her head high
Above Orion’s stars.
I come from the woman who taught me kindness
In the face of anguish.
Her hands were steady and weathered as they tended
To the wounds on my knees with patience
That only comes from a gentle soul.
Those same hands held my own
And told me about my strength
In a way that no one else ever would.
A kind woman can bring devils to their knees,
And this woman had fought bigger devils
Than any man could conjure for me.
I come from a long line of women -
Storms birthed from the roar of Scylla,
Dryads whose footsteps always echo,
Chimeras with flame-tipped tongues,
Starlit doves singing ballads full of grief,
Angels armed with both swords and shields -
Whose own mothers’ fury will always follow me.
Ancient lines of mothers and daughters course
Through our veins,
So god help the men that cross us
Because they’ll need all the help they can get.