Poem: I Know (For Virginia Woolf)

I Know (For Virginia Woolf)


“Five hundred a year stands for the power to contemplate,…”

when you grow up
eating white beans
and ham-hocks,
peeing off the back porch
of a condemned house
without plumbing,
and wearing your mother’s
wedding dress
for eighth grade graduation,
self confidence
is as unattainable
as your own room

when you birth
your first child
at the age of seventeen,
learn neither friendship
nor romance will
play in your sandbox,
and survive on three hundred
a month and food stamps
to earn your diploma,
the dream of composing poetry
is as impractical
as a prom date

when madness
creeps in to take
your wits hostage,
a naïve choice in a lover
leads to his gun
in your bedroom,
and your second child
is conceived in rape
rather than love,
freedom of mind
is as hopeless
as a safe place to sleep

when your days become
blurred snapshots,
writing research papers
while nursing at midnight,
picking lice from your
daughter’s corkscrew curls,
and crumpling into bed
alone and weeping,
the power to contemplate
is as unlikely
as finding a devoted father
for your children

when winning bread
means struggling
to keep poverty
from possessing your family,
success entices you
to give up your imagination,
and the american dream
attempts corporate
conquest of your heart,
your greatest power
lies in your courage
to pick up a pen and write


“…a lock on the door means the power to think for oneself.”

my stories are not
hidden behind wiggling
door handles,
my insights strut between
silly songs and giggles
with my babies

my stories are not
opened with brass keys
tinkling on a silver ring,
my brainstorms swirl and burst
among homemade bubbles
in the back yard

my stories are not
bound by scrawls on paper
or pixels on a computer screen,
my tragedies bleed from
tiny fingers with splinters
and paper cuts

my stories do not
wait for a quiet room
to reveal themselves,
they run naked through
my house and office
when least expected

my stories learn with me
that privacy is a luxury
a mother must demand
after so many years of interrupted
movies, meals, showers,
and sexual tanglings

my stories gather in my lap
each day as the sun sets,
where I kiss them one by one,
tuck them in a pocket
of my heart and whisper,
“Our time will come.”

April Cheri

* * *

This poem was written in the early 2000s as part of a submission to a competition for a writing grant for women, in response to Virginia Woolf’s quote about a woman needing a room of her own and an independent income in order to be able to write.

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