“Woman: American” a poem

by Ann E. Michael

American WomanShe has really white teeth.
When half the world is looking for a meal, she is
taking a shower.
She relies more on her dishwasher than on her mate.
She believes in Barbie dolls; but then,
she grew up with television.

Her mother made grocery lists, her grandmother made pies.
Her culture emerged from English colonies
in the bustle and sweat of work and childbirth
and death in childbirth,
in unmarked stones, and wove
itself through dozens of immigrant women and
native women and
enslaved women
until she emerged cleaned-up and shiny in
a post-World War II kitchen.

At the turn of the 20th century she was said
to have a case of nerves.
Then she developed neurosis.
She’s inherited Dr. Spock and Joy of Cooking and
The Female Eunuch and Fear of Flying.
She can wear high-heeled shoes.
She has back trouble and heart troubles,
migraines and menstrual woes, she has
chronic fatigue syndrome.

This is the woman who protested, the one who got the vote
and leaped from a window when the Triangle Factory burned;
this is the woman who escaped the flames
by climbing to the top floor
where she was rescued with the corporate executives.
She is quick-thinking.

She’s the one who was raped and the one who gave solace.
She takes calcium at bedtime.
The American woman has only one face but
she never looks the same way twice.
She has children or wants children or gives up her children
or has them taken away, or beats them or drowns them.
She doesn’t want children.

She’s everywhere shifting and unrecognizable.
She brushes her teeth. She lives on the streets—
without a toothbrush.
This is the woman who is singing. Not always about a man.
Not always in English.
You can’t place a bet on her actions:
she’s surprising. Look at her, smiling.
You cannot know what that means.

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