Sinko Da Majo

Mexican

Today many people in the USA celebrate Mexican Independence Day.  This is a source of amusement for most Mexicans who celebrate their Independence on Sept 16th.  But if you own a Mexican restaurant are you going to argue with hungry customers?

Cinco de Mayo is in fact the celebration of a victory over the French rather than independence from the Spanish.  The French lent money to Mexico and the Mexicans defaulted on the loan.  The French invaded Mexico to reclaim the money or to seize goods equal to the value of the debt.  The Mexicans thwarted them.  So the 5th May celebration is really more in the nature of a celebration of beating the repo man.

I think that is a celebration that might resonate with Mexico’s most famous poet, Octavio Paz.  A committed socialist he founded a school to educate poor kids in Yucatán.  He fought with the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War.  He later advised that Mexico should steer its own path free of Communist and Capitalist influences.  He was appointed Mexican ambassador to India in the 1960’s but resigned his post in protest against Government treatment of student demonstrators.  A winner of the Nobel prize for literature in 1990.

The Street; by Octavio Paz

Here is a long and silent street.
I walk in blackness and I stumble and fall
and rise, and I walk blind, my feet
trampling the silent stones and the dry leaves.
Someone behind me also tramples, stones, leaves:
if I slow down, he slows;
if I run, he runs I turn : nobody.
Everything dark and doorless,
only my steps aware of me,
I turning and turning among these corners
which lead forever to the street
where nobody waits for, nobody follows me,
where I pursue a man who stumbles
and rises and says when he sees me : nobody.

Happy Birthday Marge Piercy

Marge-Piercy-photo-with-cat1

Poet, Feminist, Novelist, Sci-fi writer, Piercy is quite the woman of parts.  To boot she shares her birth date with some pretty heavy hitters, including J.S. Bach, Andrew Marvell, Joseph Haydn, Edward Fitzgerald (translator of Omar Khayyam), Octavio Paz and Canadian Hockey legend, “Mr Hockey” Gordie Howe.

I choose Marge Piercy because more than ever this is a time for feminist voices.  In Belfast last week “Not Guilty” verdicts were given to four Ulster rugby players on rape and sexual assault charges.  On Twitter a full scale war is in progress between #IBelieveHer and #IBelieveThem.

There is a danger that the war of words will distract from the most important issue.  There is a groundswell of public appetite for reform of the legal procedures in rape trials.  This opportunity needs to be grasped now.  It does not matter who was “right” or “wrong” because past has passed.  It is time to own the future.  Campaign for reform.  Use the energy to deliver a better tomorrow.

What Are Big Girls Made Of? ; by Marge Piercy

The construction of a woman:
a woman is not made of flesh
of bone and sinew
belly and breasts, elbows and liver and toe.
She is manufactured like a sports sedan.
She is retooled, refitted and redesigned
every decade.
Cecile had been seduction itself in college.
She wriggled through bars like a satin eel,
her hips and ass promising, her mouth pursed
in the dark red lipstick of desire.

She visited in ’68 still wearing skirts
tight to the knees, dark red lipstick,
while I danced through Manhattan in mini skirt,
lipstick pale as apricot milk,
hair loose as a horse’s mane. Oh dear,
I thought in my superiority of the moment,
whatever has happened to poor Cecile?
She was out of fashion, out of the game,
disqualified, disdained, dis-
membered from the club of desire.

Look at pictures in French fashion
magazines of the 18th century:
century of the ultimate lady
fantasy wrought of silk and corseting.
Paniers bring her hips out three feet
each way, while the waist is pinched
and the belly flattened under wood.
The breasts are stuffed up and out
offered like apples in a bowl.
The tiny foot is encased in a slipper
never meant for walking.
On top is a grandiose headache:
hair like a museum piece, daily
ornamented with ribbons, vases,
grottoes, mountains, frigates in full
sail, balloons, baboons, the fancy
of a hairdresser turned loose.
The hats were rococo wedding cakes
that would dim the Las Vegas strip.
Here is a woman forced into shape
rigid exoskeleton torturing flesh:
a woman made of pain.

How superior we are now: see the modern woman
thin as a blade of scissors.
She runs on a treadmill every morning,
fits herself into machines of weights
and pulleys to heave and grunt,
an image in her mind she can never
approximate, a body of rosy
glass that never wrinkles,
never grows, never fades. She
sits at the table closing her eyes to food
hungry, always hungry:
a woman made of pain.

A cat or dog approaches another,
they sniff noses. They sniff asses.
They bristle or lick. They fall
in love as often as we do,
as passionately. But they fall
in love or lust with furry flesh,
not hoop skirts or push up bras
rib removal or liposuction.
It is not for male or female dogs
that poodles are clipped
to topiary hedges.

If only we could like each other raw.
If only we could love ourselves
like healthy babies burbling in our arms.
If only we were not programmed and reprogrammed
to need what is sold us.
Why should we want to live inside ads?
Why should we want to scourge our softness
to straight lines like a Mondrian painting?
Why should we punish each other with scorn
as if to have a large ass
were worse than being greedy or mean?

When will women not be compelled
to view their bodies as science projects,
gardens to be weeded,
dogs to be trained?
When will a woman cease
to be made of pain?