Poem of the Week, by Betsy Brown

IMG_0531The men I love most get it, with “it” being the malevolence of treating women as if we’re not equal. At one point the other night, when I could suddenly barely talk because of the rage that filled me, a male friend said about sexism, It’s like air, invisible and everywhere. And you breathe it in your whole life, but when the switch flips and you suddenly realize how deep it goes and how awful it is, it’s fucking overwhelming. 

Yes. It is.

Me at 10: Waiting on the stairs to go back into school after kickball, a classmate reached out, grabbed my breast bud and jeered as he twisted it as hard as he could in front of everyone, a moment that changed the course of my life. At 16: Standing on a subway too crowded to move a single inch, a man standing behind me shoved his fingers up my skirt and inside me. At 19: Working as a summer hotel housekeeper, a guest called for help from inside his room, and when I went in, flipped over naked on the bed to show me his erection and ask me to help him with it. At 23: A man I was making out with yanked my underwear down and kept pushing at me until I escaped and ran. 

These memories and others, which are nothing compared to what so many of my women friends have endured, bring back the humiliation and bewilderment and self-hatred I felt when they happened, when all I could think was What did I do wrong? Which is why the ending lines of the poem below, by the remarkable Betsy Brown, will be with me forever.    


Midwest Boys, by Betsy Brown

In Oshkosh, Wisconsin,
we kept it in mind
I-41 went clear down

to Florida. These scoop-necked
midsized midwestern
towns, set up separate originally

on waterways for trading–
first furs, then lumber,
the worker drinkers

voiceless then fierce
for the hell of it, tense
machinery, construction.

As a teenager you noted
mainly the routes out.
Spring, the dead mud,

the bad paint job, drifting jarred
eaves troughs, sullen pickup
sunk to its axles on the lawn.

A boy’s mind turns to the road.
Tract houses, one, one,
all along the frontage road

with tequila and Old Style, pot,
cheap speed; if you’re
a girl you try to remember:

They shoved candlesticks
up Linda. They drew on her
with her Bonne Bell.

If you pass out
they’ll strip you,
you won’t know

and if you’re lucky only
photograph you. These pictures
show up on bulletin boards.

In Eau Claire, 1992, teenage
boys dropped rocks from
an overpass over I-94,

aiming for windshields.
Martin Blommer in his
Winnebago, hit by a 32-

pound rock; his wife alongside
didn’t hear it, the crash,
the RV veered in a second

into the median, staggering
to stop, and he, in silence,
transfixed instantly, forever.

32 pounds. These are
my highways. I remember.
Long-play radio stations,

driving in moonlight
past hours of white
white mute fields.

I never wanted
to go back to Florida.
As a girl I didn’t

have much to compare–
dime bags, shot glasses, lives
that trudged with losses

and butane. I can’t forgive them.
Where could one drunk girl
find an ocean?

In the first forced blink of spring
I hate you.
I remember your names.

My curse on you is this:
May you have daughters
and may you love them.



For more information about Betsy Brown, please click here.





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  1. Marion Dane Bauer · September 22, 2018

    Wow! Alison, to both you and Betsy Brown. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Will Weaver · September 23, 2018

    Thanks for this.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jeff Gitchel · September 28, 2018

    Thank you.


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