April is National Poetry Month for Canada. I am a poet of sorts – sorta not a very good one. However, I found this effort tucked away in a folder that I had cleverly labeled “Original Writings” at some point in my life. This poem is untitled. Maybe it’s not even a poem. Oh, well. Forgive me, Canada.
There are some things that I am.
I am glad that I am a woman born in this particular time.
I am grateful for the opportunities that I have had in my life to choose my own spaces, my own career, my own roles in life.
I am fortunate.
I am also concerned about the future.
I am worried that my struggles and the struggles of women before me are going to reappear unnecessarily.
I am angry at the thought of having to fight battles again that I thought had already been won.
I am tired of a political climate that threatens my survival as a real person in a world that is as much mine as it is anyone’s.
There are many things that I am not.
I am not going to pretend that there are no problems.
I am not going to hope that things will work out without my help.
I am not going to depend on someone else to speak up for me anymore.
I am not going to quit.
The poem is undated, but it was typed with several typos on a real typewriter on plain white typing paper that is now yellowed with age. The tone indicates the time period during the efforts to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment so that would be forty years ago. I like it not because of the quality of the writing but because I like the young woman in her twenties who wrote it, and I like to think she followed through on her promise not to quit.
Social justice issues were struggles which often required courage and tenacity on small battlefields in churches and offices and at dinner tables and cocktail parties and family reunions. Consciousness raising in the days before Will and Grace was a thankless task in everyday conversations at work and play. The light at the end of the tunnel appeared to be the proverbial oncoming train.
But the times did change. I wept as I added my partner’s name to my company benefits paperwork for the first time in 2003. I was sitting in my new office by myself and was overwhelmed by the enormity of the moment. Domestic partner benefits. I was fifty-seven years old and the light at the end of the tunnel wasn’t a train.
So today I celebrate National Poetry Month with my friends in Canada and remind myself that, unlike Cher, if I could turn back time — I wouldn’t.