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Old Hierarchies

A poem inspired by a dinner I had with my visiting American trump voting boss on the day of the US election.

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It might have been something you said
right off the bat
my arrival
the night of the election

I didn’t even know it
at the time, we sat
drinking wine, casually

trying to make things work
while I was still battered
fearful, unkempt as usual

wondering what was next
undecided on whether I should
get ugly or extend a hand

I just kept silent
listened, aware how tenuous
my status, always
the room close
while you tried to explain
why you didn’t care
about bigotry

you were so tough
not wanting concessions, ever
your femininity tucked into a back pocket
smoking a metaphorical cigar

I disagreed with every word

what you were able to discount
not just on my behalf
but on your own

so many years of playing hard
taking it like a man
whistles and cat calls, missed promotions
the bent head
shrugs and laughter

while the sting kept going deeper
hitting home
every time.

 

First published in Project 365+1

 

Artists statement

This is a piece about coming to terms with being a feminist in the wake of the US election – not just in terms of what it means for policy now (and what has officially been ‘sanctioned’ as acceptable behaviour), but also what it means to have an ongoing association with an intelligent, strong woman who supported Trump. I wanted to try and understand that and where that impetus came from and what my response should be.

VIAFirst published on Project 365+1
SOURCEWritten by Magdalena Ball, Martinsville, Australia
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I am editor-in-chief of Compulsive Reader, and the author of several published books of poetry and fiction, including most recently the novel Black Cow (Bewrite Books), and the poetry book Unmaking Atoms (forthcoming, Ginninderra Press). Female sexuality, sensuality, and perception have been strongly present throughout my writing especially when I’m able to conflate this female bodily sense with something more seemingly objective like the state of the environment or politics. As a second generation feminist (my mother played guitar and sung in a women’s lib band in the 1960s and she often played women’s prisons and took me on marches with her), I grew up thinking that my mother had already fought these fights and that feminism was a given. This was something that I tended to take for granted - wrongly, as has become increasingly obvious. As Gloria Steinem has made very clear, we cannot speak of post-feminism anymore because these old hierarchies are so much more firmly entrenched than I ever realised. Poetry seems to allow for the exploration of these revelations very well - the way in which we have to come to grips with our situation and identity and advocate for change, but allows for a much more subtle and nuanced exploration than political speech.

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