First, I have to admit that I have no recollection of who wrote this poem. I found it over the New Year’s holiday while rummaging through a stack of old papers. It is, however, written about a large photograph that hung in my Women’s Studies office at the University of Akron and then again on the wall of my Criminal Justice office at Eastern Kentucky University. The portrait was part of an exhibition that we brought to the university for a Women’s History Month celebration of women artists sometime in the late 1980s. When I retired from academia in 2010, I gifted the photo to my former student assistant who had been my right hand, indeed my logistics coordinator, in the heady days of Women’s Studies. It now hangs in her living room. That is where it belongs.
She hangs by a nail in Carole’s office.
She is sitting on her haunches in a mud hut,
A thin hand holding up her head.
Her eyes are bright,
As though they see angels.
Her skin is the color of the earth
And the lines on her face
Are as complex as those on a leaf.
On her bony head she wears a head band.
It says: REVOLUTION.
How it got there, I don’t know,
But she wears it as naturally
As any queen ever wore a tiara.
On mornings when it seems meaningless to
Get out of bed.
On days when the world is a pair of dirty socks
I don’t want to get into,
She is my reason for continuing to breathe.
In my dreams, I see a revolution
Led by toothless grandmothers
From Peru and India and Poland,
Ringing in a new day, with their
Battered pots and pans.
I can hear them cackling with laughter
In between the cracks of rifles,
These good-natured generals
Who have left their kitchens and fields
To come save their children.
In my dreams, I see this
Glass planet snuggled safe in a pair
Of wizened brown hands,
Hands that once rocked cradles
And now rock the world, hands
That sprout tree saplings that cool
The feverish air, cover the ragged mountains
And coax this hurt and betrayed earth
Back into dancing.
For me, the most confounding part of not knowing the author is the dedication: For Carole, who dreams the same dreams. Boy, I wish I could remember who took the photo and, more personally, who wrote the poem.