To the Inadvertent Misogynists in My Life

by Beate Sigriddaughter

Spirit says: No one will fall in love
with your bitterness.
I say: Then maybe with my sadness
at least?
Spirit: The jury is still out on that.

All my life I have wanted to be loved
above all else.
I believe
I am not alone.

I do not want to hurt you.
That is why I move
into my silence, my beloved

I am wounded, stranded
in this loveless world
where men encourage each other
in brotherhood swagger
to avoid the appearance of
pleasing women.

A fellow poet, male, praises me
to a journalist, male,
for being sensitive and elegant
which, self-effacingly, he postures
he is not. A fist bump
among men. I feel belittled,
but I must not say so, though
I wonder, why not?

This is why not: The knife pain
in my upper back would dim                                                             
my vigilance. Remember,                                                                 
I do not want to hurt you,
and I probably would.
I know I could.

I do understand you often
do not mean to damage me
at all. You just don't know
how else to conduct
your confidence in your world.

When it corrupts my world,
you rarely notice.

At a burger place I stand
in line, patiently waiting
for the next open window
when a young man sails
importantly right by me,
never sees me.
I am invisible.

I bring a rose to
a Middle Eastern cook's mother.
She sits by herself all day
at Aladdin's stand, watches
the world that does not speak
her language. When her son
is not busy, he sits at a distance
with his male friends
in animated conversation.
I do not speak her language.
We sit and hold hands
for a while.

I am invisible in so many ways.

Not all misogynists are male.

I am frightened:
such a beautiful world, and I
am getting blinder by the minute,
one slight after another dims
the patterned tree trunks, the lines
in the rocks, the grasses casting
shadows in the wind.

Yes, I know life
has been lenient with me.
So many others suffer
physical wounds, or trade sex
for bread, or even chewing gum,
and the concomitant disdain,
whereas my back merely aches,
no blood, no bruises,
though it makes me stoop
as I try to ward off
bitterness and blindness
faced with this world.

On the mountain trails I am
sacred, if only to myself.
Oh, dazzling world, how
I love you.