It’s Thoughtful Thursday, and in honor of  International Woman’s Day (which is tomorrow, March 8), today we are featuring a diverse slate of fantastic women poets.

From June Jordan we have “Oughta Be a Woman”, a poem that pays special tribute to mothers of color but is an ode to mothers everywhere. Chilean poet and visual artist Celia Vicuña gives us “Three Fragments of Istan”, a beautiful bilingual poem, and Nikki Giovanni sings her own praises and the praises of all women in “Ego Tripping (there’s a reason why)”.  And finally, one of my favorites, “Memo” by Marge Piercy, an anthem dedicated to a group of strong female poets but really designed for all women with goals and dreams who are feeling a bit discouraged. The last two lines of this poem are golden.   (Brace yourself, “Memo” is a bit more raw than the normal Thoughtful Thursday fare, so perhaps you don’t want to share this one with your younger children.)

All of these poems should be read aloud so that you can appreciate their rhythms and moods, so be sure to do so.  Talk to your children about Women’s History Month (which we will be celebrating in Thoughtful Thursdays all March). Share some of these poems with them.   Share all of these poems with women you want to support and honor.  Enjoy.


Oughta Be a Woman

Washing the floors to send you to college
Staying at home so you can feel safe
What do you think is the soul of her knowledge
What do you think that makes her feel safe

Biting her lips and lowering her eyes
To make sure there’s food on the table
What do you think would be her surprise
If the world was as willing as she’s able

Hugging herself in an old kitchen chair
She listens to your hurt and your rage
What do you think she knows of despair
What is the aching of age

The fathers, the children, the brothers
Turn to her and everybody white turns to her
What about her turning around
Alone in the everyday light

There oughta be a woman can break
Down, sit down, break down, sit down
Like everybody else call it quits on Mondays
Blues on Tuesdays, sleep until Sunday
Down, sit down, break down, sit down

A way outa no way is flesh outa flesh
Courage that cries out at night
A way outa no way is flesh outa flesh
Bravery kept outa sight
A way outa no way is too much to ask
Too much of a task for any one woman

June Jordan (1936 -2002)


Three Fragments of Instan

alba saliva
el instan

time bending

the betwixt


del habla

del gen


of time

time awakes

inside words


mi away

voy a tejer
mis tres


el instante
es la cuerda

seco fluir

dry elixir

are the loom
of the stars

life’s breath

la palabra
es la estrella
del estar

the inner

Cecilia Vicuña


Ego Tripping (there may be a reason why)

I was born in the congo
I walked to the fertile crescent and built
the sphinx
I designed a pyramid so tough that a star
that only glows every one hundred years falls
into the center giving divine perfect light
I am bad

I sat on the throne
drinking nectar with allah
I got hot and sent an ice age to europe
to cool my thirst
My oldest daughter is nefertiti
the tears from my birth pains
created the nile
I am a beautiful woman

I gazed on the forest and burned
out the sahara desert
with a packet of goat’s meat
and a change of clothes
I crossed it in two hours
I am a gazelle so swift
so swift you can’t catch me

For a birthday present when he was three
I gave my son hannibal an elephant
He gave me rome for mother’s day
My strength flows ever on

My son noah built new/ark and
I stood proudly at the helm
as we sailed on a soft summer day
I turned myself into myself and was
men intone my loving name
All praises All praises
I am the one who would save

I sowed diamonds in my back yard
My bowels deliver uranium
the filings from my fingernails are
semi-precious jewels
On a trip north
I caught a cold and blew
My nose giving oil to the arab world
I am so hip even my errors are correct
I sailed west to reach east and had to round off
the earth as I went
The hair from my head thinned and gold was laid
across three continents

I am so perfect so divine so ethereal so surreal
I cannot be comprehended
except by my permission

I mean . . . I . . . can fly
like a bird in the sky . . .

Nikki Giovanni


Memo to: Alta, Margaret Atwood, Olga Broumas, Diane DiPrima, Miriam Dyak, Judy Grahn, Susan Griffin, June Jordan, Faye Kicknosway, Maxine Kumin, Denise Levertov, Karen Lindsey, Audre Lorde, Mary Mackey, Honor Moore, Robin Morgan, Adrienne Rich, Sonia Sanchez, Kathleen Spivak, Alice Walker, and all the rest of us female poets.

 Alternatives to what has become expected
When living resembles airport food;
when the morning paper hands you Chile
with the throat slit; the black children of South
Africa wounded thrashing like fish in a basket,
blood on asphalt the sun dries; when your last lover
announces her conversion to the Reverend Moon
explaining how your impure body impeded her pure mind;
when the second to last lover publishes
his novel in which you sprawl with your legs
spread saying all those things he always
wanted you to say, garish scenes you will have
to live with as if you had lived them
like a candid snap of you
on the toilet for the next twenty years;
when your daughter elopes with an FBI accountant
stealing your only credit card; when your son
shoots sugar and shit; when disdain
mounts you on a colored toothpick
like a smoked clam; when your friends misunderstand
your books and your enemies
understand them far too well;
when you lie alone on the sharp stones of unspoken
retorts fallen in the ravine of garrulous night
in the canyon of echoes where the dead
whisper reproaches; when you are empty of words,
a worm in your own apple,
ignore, ignore that death murmuring at your ear
like a lover far too pretty for you, whose attentions
flatter you, and how people will talk,
you will show them yet if you
but turn your head. Ignore those soft
shapes from the stone cold fog
welling from the back of the throat.He is not pretty, that boy, only well
advertised. Give your enemies nothing.
Let our tears freeze to stones
we can throw from catapults.
Death is their mercenary, their agent.
He seduces you for hire.
After your death he will pander
your books and explain you.I know we can’t make promises.
Every work pushed out through the jagged
bottleneck sewer of the industry
is a defeat, mutilated before it’s born.
My faucets drip at night too. I wake
tired. From the ceiling over my bed
troubles spin down on growing threads.
Only promise if you do get too weary,
take a bank president to lunch,
take a Rockefeller with you. Write
your own epitaph and say it loud.
This life is a war we are not yet
winning for our daughters’ children.
Don’t do your enemies’ work for them.
Finish your own.
Marge Piercy