Vashti Poems By Carol Barrett
Carol Barrett directs the Creative Writing Certificate Program at Union Institute & University, which is devoted to social justice at all levels of instruction. Her poems have appeared in JAMA, The Women's Review of Books, Poetry International, Nimrod, and many other venues, including over forty anthologies.
Vashti Bids Farewell to the Harem
You know his nakedness
as well as I. Cherish the day
a fettered concubine said No!
and grieve not for your Queen.
We have had our time, our place.
We have kept him little from his.
You’d think they prefer a woman
on her own terms, and willing!
But no, the Queen is to pose
in her keter, while they loll
in their brew, dreaming a slick
thrust inside the royal passage.
No more! Such fate I’m handed
I’ll relish, remembering you.
We reveled in the common bread,
the lace of laughter. Toast
each veiled dancer refusing
the coin of torment.
Your Queen abandons you not,
honors you above a drunk.
I go to the end of my calling;
go to yours. What history makes
of us cannot be wholly stilled.
His royal soup has simmered down
and now the verdict’s clear:
one maid to tend me till I die,
removed from all the marble meddling.
He’s shrewd to keep this punishment
alive for all the wives.
I’ve picked you, facile Fatahmah,
from all the hands that lend me
grace, for agile ears to capture
innuendos of the court.
So bring me all you can of that
invisible provision, the steady talk
in women’s rooms, that I may know
its fatted end ahead of Ahasuerus,
and warm my silk-robbed breast
upon the story I have started.
Vashti Salutes Pope Joan
Not all loaves are blessed.
In the Rhine, a hallucinogenic fungus
devours the grain, bakes into bread.
You pray for the masses,
the poison of hysteria.
Hail sister of the crown!
Honored one, urn of living water.
(Briefly – a delicate matter
for history’s indelicate
the verb of patriarchy.
They flatten our stories,
press them into wine.
Not all wine is blessed.
It was the year 855.
What scribes record of the time:
the invention of algebra,
of coffee, the first print book,
The Diamond Sutra.
But do they remember Vashti (they have had twelve hundred years)
or the first wavy tresses
beneath the papal crown?
What daring made them
yank you by the hair,
marked the demise of all
but a wind-born legend?
Another one of us erased.
A woman once governed state
and soul. She vanished.
Who will write the next
Vashti Preaches to Jessica Hahn
We could talk miracles.
Or how a man loves to love
your body – its heavenly
mountains, its small stream
in the moss –
lays you under
his idea of God.
Gene. John. Jim.
Disciples of Judas
pander in betrayal:
hustling the cross,
in the vestibule,
up holy cove.
Small wonder Hugh Heffner
seemed a clean
Men have been leaving
to your private well
since birth, their mouths
full of miracles.
In their hands, an offering
of fur, lotion,
In the house of lies
are many thieves.
There is only one
danger, one small celestial
fire: it is need.
Vashti, Dressed as a Laundress, Preps Anita Hill
This not bout you’n him. This bout us’n them.
We alway outnumbered, they see to that.
This bout a black girl an the master’s
bedroom/boardroom. This bout suits an ties
put on smug after a night on the town. This bout
the boys’ club, they pretendin to take on a black dude
so’s a good woman can’t put a man down.
This not bout you, honey. This bout how smart
they looks. This ain’t bout no truth we knows.
They gots to snug up them ties an ask you things.
They bein observed, honey. You hear?
They gonna shove that mike on the table,
you sittin there all by yo’self, they gonna say
was it this big? They gots to have it done you ‘gain.
No woman gonna say no to a man.
They gots to know how a girl like you
get herself in such a fix. Where you been
all this time? Wanna know where you messed up,
how that coke be tastin’, the one with the
pubic hair. They gots to know how you like
ol’ Long Dong Silver. They gonna watch you,
sweetheart. They gonna watch you real good.
They gonna ask how come you wid dis man?
How come you di’nt just up an leave
when he bein so bad? How come you git in his car,
whad’ya expect, baby? They gonna wanna know
bout them big breasts he be talkin bout.
How big, bigger ‘n yers?
What kinda dogs those women layin wid?
They dark like you?
You gots to have a strong stomach
fer this kinda thing. They ask you ‘bout that,
how come you ain’t got a stronger stomach, girl?
Lookit you. Out in the world. You wanna play
wid dem, you gots to have a stronger stomach.
They snug up them ties ’gain like they’s
pullin’ on it. They adjustin their selves.
They wantin their turn.
Go on. Jes tell the truth.
Don’t matter who believe.
The whole truth. You cn do it.
No question. No question.
Vashti Interviews Nadia Comaneci
I know what it is, Nadia, the years of drill. Those wizards
of motion, thigh, of chin, they coached me too, kept you
from school chums, your body tumbling through Romanian winters
gripping the thin air. So long between events, mats under our feet.
How did you manage the waiting? I held to the discipline