Swivel

I want to unite once again with poetry

But I no longer cope

Concocting false hope

Projecting upon a limitless background

The audacious human tendency

To call his own perception, true reality

When we exist as a near-infinite improbability

 

I knew this, at once, when I was born.

I knew I had been here before

I was old, bent and worn,

Then I was new and young again

I knew this life would not be easy

But between two parents, I was made to swivel

 

For days, the word has echoed in my head

Swivel to the right,

Hip out, carry the toddler

Even if you’re too small to have hips

Swivel to the left,

Balance a laundry basket

No kissing boys was allowed,

But hungry babies could suck your lips

 

The swivel point wakes me up in the morning

Stretch

Swivel

Right arm up

Crack in the elbow

Right hand on head

Crack in the neck

 

The muscles lock around my lower back

Now an adult

Aged too quickly

Everyone else at my specialist’s office

Is three times my age

 

They look at me, “young girl, are you lost?

What has life done to you

That you wake each morning

Wincing like an old woman

Weeping like a widow

Whose children were torn from her arms?”

 

I say, please believe me when I say

I can’t work anymore, I’ve tried

I will die if I go back to trying to stand and work

I’ve paid my dues –

Twenty years of unpaid labor

That robbed me of education

Opportunity

Privilege

 

And now I wonder that I took those things for granted

Blind to my own family’s wealth

But they said we were poor

That

 

Swivel, move those hips,

They should be ready for childbearing

But hide them, sweetie,

Imagine if a pervert looked at you in that

Let me look at you with the eyes of ownership

Your features must be plain

And your education stunted

Now go catch a man

With only the knowledge

Of how to manage in a house of too many children

 

Now go change your clothes

Your existence deserves humiliation

You are evil without God

And God looks like me

 

So I swiveled. Counter to counter,

Chopping and boiling and mixing

Plant my feet and swivel around

Well, now there’s a protrusion in my back

And they don’t seem to care

That if all you’ve got to sleep on is a bare floor

It’s only worsening the damage

 

Bring a basket to the laundry room

I unload the dryer

Swiveling on the axis in my young lower back

And I lift wet laundry from the washer to the dryer

Again, again, again,

Swivel, swivel, swivel

All day

Eight loads a day

 

Swivel from wash to rinse

(why is she so tired? She must be sick)

Swivel to hold a baby

(where is the baby?)

Swivel the faucet

(shh-ssh-shh)

Fill the sink

(be careful not to throw)

Bathe the baby

(out with the bathwater)

Diaper and dress and lay down

(we aren’t animals)

Down for a nap

(hush, baby, mommy says the medicine is safe)

Then back to dishes

(desirable women have calloused hands)

 

Hot water

Cold water

Wake up

Be perfect

Have no complaints

Even in your mind

 

Swivel on the axis

Of your tiny little body

Spin around until you faint

Swing from one extreme to the next

Guessing desperately

For what will please God

How to feel like

They meant it

When they said

They loved you