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arts and culture | gender & sexuality

Persona - a poem by Marian Drake

From Portland Writers --  http://portlandwriters.com

Did I think I was a man
Because the pronoun "he"
Was talking about me?
No! I never swaggered and never
Tatooed dragons
On my smooth forearm.
But neither did I cripple my feet
With shoes pointed at toe or heel.
I ran, and didn't mince
My step, or voice
Complaint about libraries
Filled with "he", when
Did they mean me?

I was a person, being
Human, a child -
Called "they" whenever gender was in question.
When someone's hiding, children ask:
Where can "they" be?
Children know souls have no gender.


The pronoun "he" worried me
It wasn't true, I knew, but too
It must be me
Books meant when they said "he".
Violinist Marion Thede wrote
"Every fiddler he" - did she
Feel like a curiosity, a lone
Wandering up dusty Oklahoma roads with her Fiddle Book
Under her arm,
Collecting tunes
In the 'Thirties
As male fiddlers played? Or did she, like me,
See dancers and musicians
Packed in music halls
With all-human bands?
But what were fiddlers in ancient Rome?
Nero fiddled while it burned,
And pronouns illi and illae say
The Romans used the male plural "they"
If all the world were women,
Save one baby boy.


Maybe they should have called me "he"
One party night,
When thirty men laughed 'round the fireplace
With fiddles, banjos held triumphantly,
While in the center was me.
Did I think I was "he" as I stomped and sang,
A lone woman
While the women,
Were calm, smiled
And whiled away the evening there
By the fire, feeding children
And men?

Maybe, I mused,
Cheeks glowing hot and lacking grace,
Maybe when they say "he"
They don't mean me!
(I'd never heard them say "the hoedowner she"!)
Was I somewhere out of place?
Should I be skirted, full of grace
And skirt
Round the edge
Of vivid and vivacious?
Be a "calming influence", careful
Not to wrinkle my brow
In worry
Or my lips
In a snarl?
Where were the personae?
That night were only male, and female
And me.


It seems everybody swaggers,
Or simpers.
There's never a muscle-y giggle
Or a perfumed guffaw.
Our spirits are corseted,
Constricted by pronouns.
Women unmentioned
Become invisible - a world peopled
With "he's"
And vapors.

homepage: homepage: http://portlandwriters.com

thumbs up 10.Nov.2004 11:48


"women unmentioned become invisible"

love it. thank you

Thank you! 16.Jun.2007 21:28

Marian Drake

Thank you, Sam. And thanks to whoever posted my poem here. I did not know it was here until today, in 2007! It's been here for three years! Wow! Thank you.