Friday, April 22, 2016

I Wish I'd Written This

Brick-Dumb Motherfucker
By Shay Caroline Simmons 

A co-worker, a woman I'd liked quite well up to then
for her quick mind and ready smile,
said, as we were completing a delivery together,
that she thought
only went that way because they couldn't get a man.

She said it as an observation
without any rancor
and without any idea who she was talking to. 
Then she looked at me to agree, the way women do.
I thought of my then-girlfriend
and how she knew me like a crow knows its nest.
I thought of her blackbird eyes,
her sure touch and drag race temperament.

"That's not true," I told my co-worker, who remained
It's death by a thousand cuts, this living on the outside,
but we are warriors--have to be--and we keep on.

Later that day, I read about a transwoman who was murdered
by her boyfriend, who felt
he'd been lied to.
Listen, you brick-dumb motherfucker, I thought,
the woman beat herself up every day,
all her life,
until she found the stupendous guts to live as herself
and living as yourself
is always the stone cold truth.

The next day, some god squad evangelist
told me the bible says how I love is an abomination.
All I know is,
his squeaky clean Sunday jesus
wouldn't last ten minutes--
would be curled up fetal-style in some vestibule by the mailboxes,
sucking his thumb and begging to go home-- 
if he had to live where we live all the time.

I'm not eligible to write exactly this – on account of I'm what's called straight. Which I regard as just as much an accident of birth and genetics as any other orientation. However I am very glad someone wrote this, albeit deploring the fact that it was even necessary.  It is necessary; and that is good cause for rage, sorrow, outrage, and speaking up. 

I sometimes hear of the 'duty' of poets to say thus or so. I don't know that there is any obligation on us to do anything except make the best poems we can as long as we are impelled to do so. And that is a matter of vocation rather than duty. But most of us in this poetic community live in countries where we do have a lot of freedom to say whatever we like in our poems, and I absolutely applaud those who take the opportunity to speak up against injustice, intolerance, cruelty, and all the other evils humanity is prey to. 

Maybe we can help educate the ignorant and prejudiced – including the many unthinking, like the woman in this poem, who had no notion of being nasty or hurtful. She might well be so blind as to need it spelled out to her just how and why her prejudice is very much those things: nasty, and hurtful. It is well spelled out by this brilliant poet, whom I've long admired.

Shay probably needs little introduction to this audience. But if you haven't yet encountered her wonderful writing, she blogs as Fireblossom at Shay's Word Garden

She was featured here with a couple of other equally wonderful poets in Sherry's 'POEMS OF THE WEEK ~ BY THREE REAL TOADS on July 13 2015.  

There are even more riches to be found at her blog. As well as lots of excellent poems, she has an article on free verse which I think is a great read, and you can find her books too. (One of them, which I own and adore, is a collaboration with Joy Ann Jones aka Hedgewitch and Kelli Simpson aka Mama Zen – the aforementioned wonderful poets featured with her in Sherry's article. The rest, which I plan to own, are monographs.) 

If you prefer, you can consult Shay's Amazon page and/or her Goodreads page. 

Just read her poetry! It has a wide range of styles and themes, and it never disappoints.

Material shared in 'I Wish I'd Written This' is presented for study and review. Poems, photos and other writings remain the property of the copyright owners, usually their authors.


  1. Wonderful choice, Rosemary, and I also applaud your article. Every word is true. And the three parts of this poem draw us into the emotions of the narrator, from being able to stay rational to where the warrior spirit recognizes the strength it takes to be so vigilant. I think the Jesus who was/is would have given back to all until he was the one being executed--he was no squeaky weak Sunday Jesus, but one of us.

    1. Well, I think there's the Jesus who walked around in ancient Israel, and then there are all the different versions of Jesus in the minds of people ever since.

    2. ...which is why i did not capitalize "jesus", because i was not talking about The Man, but the cardboard cutout some seem to mistake for him! ;-)

  2. Wow! I am thrilled, surprised and delighted to come in here this morning and find this fantastic poem and article. Somehow I didnt notice what was brewing behind the scenes, so I am delighted. First, it goes without saying, Shay's poem is deep, wonderful warrior writing. I especially love "she knew me like a crow knows its nest...her blackbird eyes...." SO beautiful. I have been a devoted fan since, in the first of Shay's poems I ever read, someone on a porch threw a dead squirrel through the open window of a passing truck. After I picked my jaw up off the desk, I clicked Follow and never looked back.

    Rosemary, your article speaks truth, that deep, still, sure knowing of what is just and right and what is not. Humanity has such a long way to go. I often think of the bumper sticker I saw once in Tofino: EVOLVE, DAMMIT. We are taking way too long. Thanks for featuring our poet-friend, and for your article, which resonates deeply with me. We do have the chance, in the blogosphere, to raise awareness. But mostly, we write because we just care, so damned much.

    This was a brilliant start to my Friday. Thank you both.

  3. It's nice to learn more about the Toads and the people behind the pond. Since I've been writing with you I've read some great poetry and made some very good friends. I'm so glad I stopped by and saw this.

    Hugs! Bekkie

  4. You had me at the title. BRILLIANT!! I love the hard-hitting honesty and beautiful language. I couldn't agree more.

    Thank you for sharing, Rosemary! I will definitely be looking for more of Shay's work.


  5. Having admired the poem the first time I read it at Shay's blog I'm delighted for your choice.. excellent.

  6. Thank you, Rosemary, so much, for sharing my poem here and for your kind words about my books and so forth. I rarely hesitate to say a thing unvarnished (in my poetry), but I have to confess that I did hesitate over the title of this one, so I'm gratified to see that someone picked that out as something that caught their attention.

    I think that the person living any given kind of life is in a unique position to educate about what goes with that life. I know that reading Langston Hughes gave this white suburban girl a glimpse into what it means to be black; it's just a little understanding, but a little can go a long way to changing attitudes. I hope that my poem can do that, with so much misunderstanding about LGBT issues still abounding. Thanks again for featuring my poem!

  7. It's always very gratifying to me to see Shay get some of the attention she deserves as one of the best poets writing today on the blogosphere. Her work is always real, never affected, never holds back, and she always has something to say that needs to be said, whether it is a stark poem like this, or one of her lyric love poems. Thanks so much for giving me a chance to reread this and for giving her a well-deserved spotlight here.

  8. So glad you chose this poem Rosemary. I had read it before, and it is worthy of many reads because of its empowerment. I like your article. Ttruth is a necessary ingredient in poetry. I'll definitely be reading more of Shay's poetry.

  9. Totally agree that the only duty poets have is to write the best poems they can...still I am so glad this poem was written. A great choice. Will definitely read it many times and share it as well. Thanks Shay and Rosemary.

  10. Amazing poem - i think whatever our difference or our story we owe it to ourselves more than anyone else to tell it where and how we see fit - so true that those who judge wouldn't survive an hour in the shoes of the person they condemn - thank you for this..relatable in many ways..

  11. My goodness - whilst trying to find the words to respond as this poem, and poem deserve - here is Sherry giving voice to my soul... I don't think I've ever let anyone speak for me ..but in this case i don't think I could say it any differently. EVOLVE! Thank you to Shay , Rosemary , and Sherry ...

  12. Shay is never afraid to speak truth to power, and no one does it better!

  13. The title drew me here from Sundays poetry pantry and I am SO glad it did. Wow! Living on the outside is, "death by a thousand cuts' and the way Shay's words shares those cuts in detail here...stunning!! Thank you for bring this poem to our attention, Rosemary....I will not soon forget it!


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