Whispers from A Grandmother

Life restricted her, bound her cruelly,
limiting her as I have never been.
She was confined to servitude by female bondage,
her body used, spread-eagled under male dominance,
her purpose, predetermined,
without choices to be pondered.
Life just prodded her along
through the mud and the blood,
though she never traveled anywhere
other than to church occasionally.
A good suffering Christian,
she spent her life on her knees,
scrubbing, praying, begging.
Praying he’d come home sober,
then begging him not to hurt her.
She whispers from the shadows,
though she’s been gone for sixty years.
Only I still hear her, taste her bitter tears.
She whispers from the shadows,
uninhibited by space or time,
empowering me to dignify
the memory of her name.
Grandmother, kind and gentle,
a woman, wise and strong,
born with all the hopes and dreams
any girl has ever known.
Although she never saw the world,
or read its finest literature,
she had the gift of healing,
of knowledge never learned.
She had courage and compassion,
and tolerance for her pain.
She did her birthing at home, mostly alone,
and kept her humor through it all.
She should have been honored,
praised, worshiped on a pedestal.
Instead, life laid its burdens upon her,
and kept her tethered to her stall.

Forgive the Grandmothers

orig logo soap pic

Forgive the grandmothers
their docile obeisance,
their unopinionated views,
their unassertiveness,
their servile attitudes.
It was absolute authority
that made her bow her head,
a cultural thing that prohibited her,
but praised and honored him.

Forgive the grandmothers
for teaching male superiority,
for misleading us about
what feminine decency meant.
That decency was white starched shirts,
and shiny scrubbed floors–
fresh baked bread, piousness,
literacy restricted to reading scriptures.

Forgive the hovering about,
always at beckoning call,
for believing she was most attractive
when he stood proud and tall.
For countless family dinners
that served the menfolk first,
while she was judged by tasty meals,
the value of her worth.
And for steadfastly believing
her place was in the home,
while understanding that when menfolk gathered,
she was limited to certain rooms.

So, forgive her her part in enabling him to reign:
Head of the Table, Head of the House, Head of Everything.

Forgive her quietly giving birth
in a quality show of strength:
Any woman worth her salt,
decently endured pain.

Forgive her performance of duty
in keeping the children quiet,
Careful not to disturb Daddy
when he came home at night.

Forgive her mindless chatter,
her silence when it would have mattered,
for the mockery made
each time she marked her ballot.

Forgive her disdain for the sister
who resisted
by voting alone,
refusing to double his.

Forgive the grandmothers if you can,
for their clucking godliness,
for the little women robed in velvet steel
deserve our graciousness.

Forgive them, forgive them,
lift up their lowered heads.
Forgive them their delusions,
for they knew not what they did.
Anita Stubbs, 1993