Staff Post: “Solution” by Beth Derr

As the person with the honor of writing the first staff blog post, I thought I’d share this poem I wrote at the beginning of this school year, which I feel encapsulates the unique nature of the adventures of being a student at a women’s college.  Less than a hundred days away from my graduation, I’m appreciating my Smith experience more and more, and I’m so going to miss this women’s college environment.

Solution

Sweat-soaked and scalp-strained
from hot days and high buns,
we are drawn to the river,
after dinner, after dark.

The path is smooth; we need no flashlight
the moon is a crescent; it peers through the leaves.

Clothes shed, shoes kicked,
our toes sink into silt
we slip underwater,
icecold and sweet.

The river is smooth; there is no current
the moon is a voyeur; it makes our skin shine.

Skin cooled, clothes dripping
from our blissful solution,
we walk home without towels
Drips in the night.

The pavement is smooth; there are no potholes
the moon is a classmate; it laughs in the sky.

Would You Mind

By: Setbyul Moon

Ewha Woman’s University, Seoul, South Korea

Dear Gunner,

We have the leg you lost.
Would ship it tomorrow. Before that,
When you mourn the loss by an exploded mine,
Would you mind if I mourn the mine first?
You sacrificed your leg, made one gone
And left three hundred here.
So I would mourn three hundred yellow faces
First, and then send it to you.
Mind seeing faces as grave as tombs?

Under the Yellowwood Tree

By: Tshenolo Matlala

St Mary’s Diocesan School for Girls, Hillcrest, South Africa

 

High atop a hill
Is a Yellowwood tree
Whose dwelling companions
Consist of you and me
A full rotation of the hour hand
Occurring visitation always stand
Reds and yellows
Of the autumn day
Slight breeze
Leads hairs astray
Crinkle, snap
A leaf, a twig
Quench your thirst
Take a swig
Arms spread,
Side to side
No disturbance,
Nature abides
A scent of lilies fills your nose
Deep breath in
Through nature’s hose
Sky blue
Clouds white
Yellowwood tree
A lovely sight
Twinkle,
In your pretty eye
A flock of birds flies by
No worries
No frustrations
No trials or
Tribulations
All is calm
All is peace
We must have caught the Golden Fleece
You turn your head and look at me
“We must leave, it’s nearly three”
Well that’s okay
We’ve overstayed
We will return
Another day.

Love in the Hearth

By: Izzi Kessner

Marlborough School, Los Angeles, California

 

Food and fire and warmth and dance

The way we act is not by chance

The smell of it all takes you back

To Sunday traditions, happy and packed

Stuff ourselves with wood from the fireplace

Make the shot, the family ace

The big skirts, the masked dancing

When you were young, you bet you were prancing

Vibrant songs and sunny tunes

Grandmother taught you to sew a loom

And the oldest traditions seem the farthest

From useful, but trust, they give the heartest

We love and care for our family

We live in peace and with amity

Out Of Line

By: Julia Mastandrea

Winsor School, Boston, Massachusetts

Calm down.
Don’t tell me to
Not judge a woman’s appearance, so
Unattractive. You should
Not criticize a man for being
Quick to point out the truth. A woman would
Be better served to be
Quiet and gentle and still
Remain calm.
I am able to
Shout my opinions
I do not need to
Appease your foolish sense of entitlement
There won’t be anything to
Make me feel weak
If I decide to speak you won’t
Step out of line and
I will speak my mind.

(now read from the bottom up)

Shaking Hands With The White Man

By: Afia Oduro-Manu

Kent Place School, Summit, New Jersey

 

November 11, 1620

We see them step onto our land
Off of a big ship with grand, white sails
With black shoes
That leave imprints in our muddy soil
Which provides life for our plentiful crops

There are not many of them
Their faces are all as pale as snow
And their cheeks are as rosy as berry juice
Because of the chilliness nipping at their skin

The mothers look distraught
And keep hold of their children’s hands
Children wiggle free from their grasps
And run around in excitement
The journey, perhaps, did not tire them
The men look at us
Some with indifference, others with uncertainty
And all with a glimmer of hope

November 18, 1620

At a tribal meeting
Massasoit tells us to be wary of these people
For they are from the same nation
That took some of our people years ago
And made them their slaves
And even put some of them in their graves

We see these pale-faced people
Riding atop fast creatures
Which they call horses
And use black weapons, guns
To shoot down their prey
Very useful tools
We are very wary of these dangerous people
So we keep our suspicions and watch with a careful eye

November 25, 1620

Our people are dying and we do not know why
The elders suspect it is the White men
Who have brought us this disease

They tell Massasoit to lead a fight against them
But he says “No”
Because they could easily kill us
The village men are very angry
“For the gods are with us and will not be defeated!” they cry

Rashes continue to spread like wildfire on the bodies of our people
From the chubby-cheeked, little children
To the wrinkled elderly
The elders again say that it is the white man’s fault
I see my younger sister
Laying still on the ground
Her chest still
I hold my breath and turn her over
She is dead
My mother and father cry, despair etched into their faces

Something must be done
Do the gods want us to act?
Did they bring these foreigners to us for a reason?
Only time will tell

December 1620

The winter is approaching
Cold air cracks our lungs to remind us of the battle we have to fight
Against the Pequot and Narragansett
Our tribe leaders are worried
We are outnumbered and our warriors are dying
And our weapons are not effective

The morning-light people have their worries too
For they are dying
They are not used to the relentless weather
We are all at our breaking points
But we don’t know who will break first

March 1621

We shook our hands with the white man today
Squanto and Samoset went to trade with them
And make peace
We need their weapons
And they need our fur to keep warm

I hope that we are making the right choice
Some of our people are angry
They believe that the men will betray us and take our land
Others are optimistic, like my father
He believes that our tribe is doing the right thing
I hope that my father is right

September 1621

As we give thanks to the Earth
For her bountiful sources that allow us to thrive on her land
The Whites come to us
To keep peace
So Samoset and Squanto agree
To prepare a big meal for both of our people
With plenty of meats
Vegetables of all colors
And pastries from the women of the whites
My sister would have loved the sweet, tart pies
I can imagine her sitting next to me
With the berries staining the area next to her mouth
And her tongue a dark, cranberry red

Oh, I hope that the peace between us prevails
To keep our people alive for generations to come
For this has been a lesson to us all
To keep faith in the gods, and the spirits of nature
And most importantly
In the power of unity
Because everyone
White and Brown
Knows that “The Earth only works because the elements work as one”

Reliance

By: Jocelyn Mosman

Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, Massachusetts

You are every stretch of tendon
wrist flexed, then relaxed
the curvature of hand,
steady and bent.

You are brain stem activity,
words and pain both flowing
down your spinal cord
until it is too hard to write.

You are mouth and throat,
soft spoken and fragile,
swallowing blood,
choking back heart.

You rely on the body:
hand to write,
spine to stand,
mouth to speak.

As you collapse inward
like a burning house,
all I can do is hold sound
the walls,

resist the destruction,
or flee.

I will not leave.
I will not watch you burn.

I will guide your hand
until words flow past
unspeakable pain
onto open page.

I will stand tall beside you,
become sturdy
lumbar vertebrae,
help you climb and stretch.

I will give your voice legacy
as student, as friend,
next generation of oral tradition
passed hand-to-hand like communion,

But when the house smolders,
the skeleton screams,
the joints crack.
I smell smoke.

As body relies on body,
I rely on you.

I will not leave.
I will not watch you burn.

From Ashes to Rage

Jaya Yadav
LADY SHRI RAM COLLEGE FOR WOMEN, NEW DELHI, INDIA

The flames soar
Ashes float into space
Hear the oceans roar
This is love’s rage

It’s deep, it’s brutal
It’s tsunamic, suicidal

The sun blazes red
The sky turns blue
The anger burns the dead
As I don’t say I love you

So I sit and write
You sit and wait
Till the sun’s out of sight
I say your name into hollow space

We’re separated by a twist of fate
I can’t even say it’s too late

This too shall pass
Like the star that shines before it burns
My love will last
Far beyond the pages as you turn

So we part like the red sea without a staff
No goodbyes were needed, we’ve come too far

I can’t turn around for one last gaze
Love just turned out to be maze

I can’t turn around for one last look
It shows me the path you took

I won’t wait for someone who would never return
And my last wish is only for you to learn

It’s painful, painless
In faith I confess
As the universe conspires
Against all my desires

I wouldn’t step onto a pyre1
My love isn’t for hire

So I guess this is where I bid adieu
Without saying I might’ve never loved you.

1 Refers to the ancient Hindu practice of sati, where a widowed Hindu woman would  immolate herself on her husband’s pyre. It has been outlawed since 1829.

At a Reading by Pat Rosal

Hannah Rousselot ’14
SMITH COLLEGE, NORTHAMPTON, MASSACHUSETTS, USA

I drank her iced coffee
and knew I was in trouble.

I had already promised my heart
to a man who called me everything
my father didn’t.

I had never liked the taste of coffee before.
It had always reminded me of icy days,
watching my mother and father
argue over which one of them deserves
the most blame. That pungent smell
invaded the room and made me plug up my nose.
I locked up my eyes and concentrated
on my ears so all I could hear
was the microwave beep that meant
I could get my hot chocolate
and leave.

I had never liked the taste of coffee before,
but that day I willed myself to be brave.
Besides, your cerulean eyes
turned it into something
irresistible. I closed my eyes
and drank it, hoping it would kill
the child within me, so I never
have to hear her complaints again.

The new bitter taste
over-stimulated my mouth.
The icy flavor ran down me
and soothed my burning throat.

I drank your iced coffee.
But this, too, was not allowed.

Pat Rosal began to read, and I
handed her coffee back.

Bound

Priyam Mathur
LADY SHRI RAM COLLEGE FOR WOMEN, NEW DELHI, INDIA

For those eyes that beam
into futures of blur;
My heart pours
to denounce this cosmetic
Hope for change
that has now risen.

Born as answers to Yeats’ prayers
Are we who succeed
the call of knitted destines,
That flame heat in those cocoons
that were constructed
from the time our arrival was expected.

All that fire
I refuge in these breasts
Never oozes molten
At any.

Because, I am the best daughter;
taking silent steps
with a lowered head.
Passionless, obsequious:
As petite
As you liked it.

Because, mother
From the youngest of my age
You were training me
to not be the slut
that I was to become.

So, here I am,
floating on the rough sea
In the body of a plastic polythene
Existing in a void,
To avoid;
those who will pick me tomorrow
And throw me back to
where I just never was.

The Background Radiation of My Non-existent Sex Life

Stephanie Marrie
BRYN MAWR COLLEGE, BRYN MAWR, PENNSYLVANIA, USA

I look up Mom’s posters
And see my dream cities–
Roma and Paris.
Which of these two is the true city of love?
Maybe Roma, cuz backwards it’s Amor

Suddenly 6:10 p.m. snaps me out of it.
I’ve got to catch dinner,
but the Hot Wall tempts me.

Sexy is just a naked bod, right?
Then why is the hottest pic
Just two people snogging?
The true definition of EROS

I wish I could be like them
though I’d feel very sore
I never even looked at a boy
So why have I devolved from adult
to hormonal Looney Tune?

right before I enter the cafeteria, I am repulsed by the sight of
Vagina Monologues

Haffner is strangely lacking today
baloney sags
spotted bananas
unsweet milk
My bod ain’t satisfied.

I may go to town,
Fuji Mountain’s soft white nipple beckons me so.
So do the star-crossed at Starbucks!
I would go to the Lusty Cup
But there is nothing lusty about it.
Just like Haffner.

A Letter to the Voices in Your Head

Robyn Green ’16
SMITH COLLEGE, NORTHAMPTON, MASSACHUSETTS, USA

You become a woman the moment you understand that
Knowing you won’t care later, doesn’t make it hurt less now
A real woman won’t tiptoe through a minefield
But stomp triumphantly,
Uprooting grenades and hearts as she marches.

And if a blonde girl asks if your hair is fake,
Smile, and don’t swear under your breath as she walks away.
If she asks if black people blush, or get hickeys, don’t look away,
Even when your cheeks are burning.

For every time you were younger and looked at her tall pale frame,
Wishing your eyes had a little green to them too,
So they could also be uniquely olive,
Don’t look down.

When he comments earnestly on your irises,
How they’re not perfectly round,
But that’s what makes them charming,
Keep eye contact.

Please know that nothing is really perfectly round anyways.

When you miss a step on the second floor stairs in front of Daniel Cusack,
Don’t turn red.
If he makes fun of you for it later and you get upset,
Stop taking yourself so seriously.
You’ve rode this ride before and know where all the loops are.
And I heard God saves the sinners too,
So pick two bluebonnets and run through that park after midnight with that boy.
Morning, and your mother will be there eventually,
Both equally disappointed in you.

There will be moments that will shake all the money out of your pockets,
Bully your brain into thinking life will always be like high school,
Do not believe them,

When you learn the five keys to happiness from your painting teacher,
Write it all, don’t look down.
He will say, I’ve got some advice you’re gunna need.
Actively seek out these five things in your life,
Chase the wild laughter of happiness as it whistles away in the trees.
Do not turn red at the prospect of being happy, not even for a second.

He will say, 1. Meaningful Employment
When you love what you do, and you can support yourself off it,
Take pride and drudge the leftover receipts in car-a-mel
To soak up the debts you will accumulate from shoes.
Do not look down when your boss yells at you,
But look her right in the eyes, answer calmly.

He’ll say 2. Good health
This means honey,
Sleep in,
Be thankful you have your two good hands and a heart that beats,
And don’t ever let Daniel Cusack break it.

3. Valuable friendships,
Occurring only when
When you invest your time in people who don’t play it cautious
When you love those who will hold laughter in higher regard
Than the price of the shirt on your back,
Give ‘em all you got.

Please 4. Don’t live beyond your means
money isn’t something to chase,
It will not soothe you,
It will not lock your uncertainties in the basement and bolt the double-doors.
They will keep pounding out tones on your structure until your house grows woozy.
Until you’re weak from all the worry.

But 5. Reciprocated love
Someone giving you their hand,
Their reassurance not of forever, but for as long as they can,

This happiness is something to chase
Not the blonde girl,
Not Daniel
When you see them,
Don’t turn red,
Do not look down.

Just swear under your breath a little and smile.

Honey, God loves the sinners too.

travelers

Molly Fessler
BRYN MAWR COLLEGE, BRYN MAWR, PENNSYLVANIA, USA

they welcomed us to the city, so we took that as the sign, the divine right granted by, given to citizens of the world.
you are mine and i am yours.
we bought dates, ran through alleys, into spouts of streams of water that
cleaned the streets
lanes where figs blushed in the sun,
unloaded by worn hands on flat trays
we walked until our shoes yelled.
the oranges unpeeled each day,
do you remember, boarding the bus, tugging sand from socks and then
diving
into tulips, gathering the folds of its cup around as silk as smooth as gold sparks
that flaked from the static of the radio.
the power, the pulse, when my hand takes yours to cross a bridge
over Bosporus or Jordan.
we swam through waves made by seas Black and Dead, cradled each other
as fevers rose when miles grew.
we came to the city and pulled the concert posters off the walls.
we came to the city and danced.

A Day’s Tale

Anam Fatima
LADY SHRI RAM COLLEGE FOR WOMEN, NEW DELHI, INDIA

Ah! Another morning arrived,
Get up, O silent soul,
Life’s battles only brave ones survived,
Open thine eyes, pursue thy goals.

Now ready for college,
Say goodbye and explore,
The world of fun and knowledge,
Enter it, open the door!

The long journey, begin it fast,
Be quick and careful, but avoid haste,
See the birds soaring above,
Smile my friend, smile with love.

Take auto, then walk, then change metro thrice,
What to say, it’s a better life’s price,
Don’t stop, keep going ahead,
The golden path to success has to be tread.

Suddenly heartbeats catch a new rhyme,
Entering the college, winks the time,
Knowledge hugs lovingly, heart fills with delight,
Life attains a shine, soul feels the silver light.

Treading LSR lanes, enjoying, smiling,
Book of happiness, compiling,
Sweet tune of tension free days, humming in ears,
Feeling gratified, life deserted fears.

Trees looking greener than ever before,
Natural world, heart adores,
Flowers flooded with nectar, happy honeybees,
Cats enjoying sunlight, heart enjoying cool breeze.

Looking at my world, with visions widespread,
Exploring things, long, complex paths to be tread,
Missing mom’s smile, dad’s advice,
In every new person, finding something nice.

Often smiling, to reduce, forget pain,
But life isn’t all about gain,
Talking with oneself, quite a lot,
Finding solace in every new thought.

Then journey back to home, last class ends,
Treading path to home, with lots of bends,
Then walking, getting closer to destination,
Reaching home, with winning warrior’s sensation.

A day’s tale over, yet certain things remaining,
Whom to complain, ah, my leg is paining,
Tired, pretty enough, o warrior, take rest,
Consoling the soul, flattering ‘thou art the best’.

Anger, often uninvited, ready to arrive,
Oh, this sad soul, wondering how to survive,
Little pain, ache, little fun, felicity,
These contents make life, may be pretty.

No more left to say, night arrives, soul feels drowsy,
All that remains is dream, sweet dream to see,
Such went the days, nights, at a relative’s far home from college,
Letting heart feed alone on knowledge.

A Woman of Strength

Aishwarya Khanna
LADY SHRI RAM COLLEGE FOR WOMEN, NEW DELHI, INDIA

A woman is the peace during a storm
She is the anchor onto which we hold
Like an angel descending from the sky
She shines with love, affection and pride

She moulds herself into the roles of a daughter, a wife and a mother
Burdened with responsibilities, yet walking with confidence
She is someone you can turn to in times of crisis
And she will be there with you all along, as you fight it.

A woman she is, in the world of men.
Filled with perseverance and creativity
Striving for her space and identity
Indeed she is the true nurturer of life.

An epitome of selflessness
She gives her all, without expecting anything in return
A friend, a guide and a teacher to her child
Never will she let him go awhile.

And yet you treat her with disgrace
Molesting her and then thrashing her, showing your false might
Do you not feel ashamed of yourself?
Or does it boost your false pride when she cries for help?

BUT remember! She is neither weak nor alone,
And will not stop until the path of justice is shown.
Because she has as much right to move freely as you do
And giving the culprits a death sentence to protect the victim’s honor
Is the least the government must do!

A woman is an image of courage and determinism,
Fighting with full might against all kinds of discrimination.
Hoping for a new dawn, where the family celebrates when a girl child is born.