For Strong Women, by Marge Piercy

A strong woman is a woman who is straining
A strong woman is a woman standing
on tiptoe and lifting a barbell
while trying to sing “Boris Godunov.”
A strong woman is a woman at work
cleaning out the cesspool of the ages,
and while she shovels, she talks about
how she doesn’t mind crying, it opens
the ducts of the eyes, and throwing up
develops the stomach muscles, and
she goes on shoveling with tears in her nose.
A strong woman is a woman in whose head
a voice is repeating, I told you so,
ugly, bad girl, bitch, nag, shrill, witch,
ballbuster, nobody will ever love you back,
why aren’t you feminine, why aren’t
you soft, why aren’t you quiet, why aren’t you dead?
A strong woman is a woman determined
to do something others are determined
not be done. She is pushing up on the bottom
of a lead coffin lid. She is trying to raise
a manhole cover with her head, she is trying
to butt her way through a steel wall.
Her head hurts. People waiting for the hole
to be made say, hurry, you’re so strong.
A strong woman is a woman bleeding
inside. A strong woman is a woman making
herself strong every morning while her teeth
loosen and her back throbs. Every baby,
a tooth, midwives used to say, and now
every battle a scar. A strong woman
is a mass of scar tissue that aches
when it rains and wounds that bleed
when you bump them and memories that get up
in the night and pace in boots to and fro.
A strong woman is a woman who craves love
like oxygen or she turns blue choking.
A strong woman is a woman who loves
strongly and weeps strongly and is strongly
terrified and has strong needs. A strong woman is strong
in words, in action, in connection, in feeling;
she is not strong as a stone but as a wolf
suckling her young. Strength is not in her, but she
enacts it as the wind fills a sail.
What comforts her is others loving
her equally for the strength and for the weakness
from which it issues, lightning from a cloud.
Lightning stuns. In rain, the clouds disperse.
Only water of connection remains,
flowing through us. Strong is what we make
each other. Until we are all strong together,
a strong woman is a woman strongly afraid.

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2 Responses to For Strong Women, by Marge Piercy

  1. Dear Rach (is it okay to call you Rach – the ‘-el’, implied; not forgotten?) goosebumps. . . how did you know this was exactly the poem I needed to read this morning? How did you know my late night conversations with family, scattered – and scattered around the world (two very different things) – would leave me reeling in both my strengths and my vulnerabilities? Marge Piercy’s poem is a gift to me today. A deep gift. And you, gift and bearer, both – thank you. xo

    • rachvb says:

      Rach is perfect. And used often. Along with ‘Dach’ and ‘Ray-Ray’ and ‘Van B’ or ‘VB’ =)
      I read this a couple days ago. It was a gift to me then as well and another gift this morning when I read it again. Sometimes, I think we need to be reminded that we are strong and fragile at the same time and there is a strength in revealing our vulnerabilities and not being ashamed of them. I’m learning slowly they are a part of me. I sent it also to a friend of mine – I think she needed to read it as well, but then again, I think we all do at some point because it’s the truth of us women.
      Hope your heart is well.
      Rach =)

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