not pretty; just true

They weren’t pretty — not by the standards of our American culture today. And what they held up for us to see in the mirror of truth wasn’t pretty either.
Betty Friedan, the feminist icon of my times, died yesterday at the age of 85. This is my favorite Friedan quote, given in an interview with LIfe magazine in 1963:
Some people think I’m saying, ‘Women of the world unite — you have nothing to lose but your men.” It’s not true. You have nothing to lose but your vacuum cleaners.
Sojourner Truth, much of whose life was lived not too far from where I am now, is featured in my local newspaper today. The piece ends with the following:
‘Ain’t I A Woman?’
Sojourner Truth gave this speech in 1851 at a women’s convention in Akron, Ohio.
“That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman?
“Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman?
“I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman?
“I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?

I look around me for the Betty Friedans and Sojourner Truths of this generation, yet all I see are Hillary Clintons.
It is not that I don’t try to look attractive myself. After all, I did just blow a bunch of money on getting a hair cut and highlighting.
Double Vision — © Elaine Frankonis
I choose the cosmic and the common,
refusing to sever half my soul.
I choose to grow in all directions:
to bear with thorns as well as fruit;
to glory in the ground
and desire the sky;
to stretch roots across acres
and reach for bedrock;
to stand firm in my space
yet assume the varying shapes of the seasons.
I eschew the single-minded vision.
I am all
Every day my mother tells me that I look pretty (even if I’m in my sweats and my hair looks like a fright wig). To her, the important thing is to look pretty, and she believes that it’s my first priority as well. I have long since recognized that my mother never looks beyond the packaging. Which is why she’s never seen the truth of who I am. Denial is her faith of choice.
speaking of beauty:
from the frontispiece of ANOTHER BEAUTY (prose, 2000)
& in the collection TREMOR: Selected Poems –
by Adam Zagajewski, tr. Clare Cavanagh
We find comfort only in
another beauty, in others’
music, in the poetry of others.
Salvation lies with others,
though solitude may taste like
opium. Other people aren’t hell
if you glimpse them at dawn, when
their brows are clean, rinsed by dreams.
This is why I pause: which word
to use, you or he. Each he
betrays some you, but
calm conversation bides its time
in others’ poems.

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