March is Women’s History Month

March is Women’s History Month. How many of you knew that? I’m thinking fewer than should. We all know Black History Month is February, and many of us know April is Poetry Month, but for some reason Women’s History Month isn’t well known.

I’m thinking it may be because so much of women’s history isn’t known. It’s been suppressed in favor of men’s account of women’s history. I found it interesting, for instance, when I happened upon this little tidbit of women’s history on a trek around my hometown:

I did a little research on Emeline. Her name is alternately spelled Emmeline and Piggott or Piggot or Pigot or Pigott—even once in a newspaper clipping about her arrest “Eveline”. There are many stories about her, including that she “entertained” Union soldiers while her brother-in-law carried contraband to Confederate troops, that she ate a letter when she was arrested instead of turning it over to Union soldiers, and that while she was jailed an attempted assassination by chloroform failed because she broke a window to breathe through until help arrived.

It’s interesting to me because in some places, these stories about Emeline are referred to as legends and in other places are reported as facts. Even here on the sign, it says “According to local tradition”. That’s almost equivalent to “Once upon a time”. But Emeline was not a fairytale. She was a real woman, and, regardless of politics, she suffered for a cause she believed in.

It got me thinking about what women went through to get the vote. Until a few years ago I’d believed they marched peacefully, well-dressed and carrying banners because that’s what the school history books depicted. The reality is less appetizing, though. A few years ago I read about “the Night of Terror” when suffragists were beaten and tortured. A little shocked, I did more research.

Suffragists were badasses. Seriously. They didn’t just stand around with polite placards saying please let us vote until reasonable white men decided to give them the nineteenth amendment. There was property damage, rude signs and screaming at the president and Congress. Incarcerated women went on hunger strikes and were force fed with rubber tubes.

No doubt they were told at some point not to be so emotional.

I wonder if today’s men would dare to tell them to “smile more”.

My point is, you won’t learn about most of women’s history in schoolbooks. “Women held protests on the White House lawn and were given the right to vote in 1920” is about all you’ll get there. What women need to remember is that for decades women fought for the right to vote. They fought with much more than just orderly parades and when saying please failed, they didn’t hesitate to declare all out war.

Should we allow that history to be repressed? Shouldn’t we be teaching it to our daughters?

Infamous suffragist leader Lucy Burns, on the third day of a hunger strike following her imprisonment on the Night of Terror, was tempted with fried chicken to break her strike. With contempt, she said, “They think there is nothing in our souls above fried chicken.”

There is so much more in the soul of women than what we’re given credit for by the history in schoolbooks. I may not agree with Emeline Pigott’s politics, but I do think she carried iron in her soul, and I believe she deserves the credit for that. Her story should not be relegated to the same level of history as fairytales. Whatever happened to her while jailed, or while she was “entertaining” Union soldiers, it is part of women’s history and women’s history isn’t fried chicken. It’s iron and blood and suffering and triumph. And we should never forget that.

Poem: Red Sky Vow

I’ve been thinking a lot about the nature of the promise. Like the old saying, “Red sky at night, sailors’ delight.” How do we know a red sky at night means clear sailing? Because nature makes a promise and actually follows through.

This year I’ve decided to depend less on others’ promises to me and more on my own promises to myself. Promises from outside entities may never become reality. I am the one in charge of promises to myself. Michelangelo agreed with me, evidently. He said:

“The promises of this world are, for the most part, vain phantoms; and to confide in one’s self, and become something of worth and value is the best and safest course.”

Was he right? Undoubtedly. We cannot depend on the “world”, whether that be our government, our friends, our schools or our churches. What really matters is the promises we make ourselves—more specifically the promises we make to ourselves that we keep.

Nature, after all, does not make its red sky vow to us. It makes it to itself. Tomorrow, it tells itself, I will make a beautiful day. And that vow shows in its beauty that it will be followed through on.

I’ve made myself a vow to reach beyond my comfort zone and try things I’ve never tried because I thought I couldn’t do them. I’ve promised myself when things are wrong in the world, I’ll do what I can to make them right. My promises are not to others. They are to me.

The result is a kind of red sky in my own soul. I’ve written a children’s book though I’ve always sworn I’m not smart enough to write for children. I’m taking singing lessons because, in spite of a lifelong love of music and singing, I’ve never thought I could sing—but I can, at least a little. I’m not as tone deaf as I thought. I’m writing poetry and I’m speaking out instead of shrugging things off. It feels right.

What red sky vow could you make?

Red Sky Vow

By Michelle Garren Flye

Make a red sky vow today.

The power comes from within.

Tomorrow is the promise—

A better and brighter day;

The end of rain, the sun will shine.

Follow through comes from you—

Light the candle of your vow,

Watch the air brighten and clear.

A red sky vow is one you make yourself

And fulfill for the good of your soul.

I’m Building an Army of Daffodils (poem and pictures)

With great respect for Emily Dickinson

I’m Building an Army of Daffodils (with pictures as proof)

By Michelle Garren Flye

I’m building an army of daffodils.

It grows larger every day.

New recruits swell the ranks,

Bursting to take up the fight.

You’d think they’d be frightened,

But slender stems are strong,

And I’ve found them guarding

The most dark and unfriendly places.

Time and toil cannot dim golden rays.

Weather cannot bring them down.

I’m heartened by their constant grace,

Humbled by their passing allegiance.

Crazy Little Thing Called Love (with a poem)

Happy Valentine’s Day! A day dedicated to this crazy thing called love.

But why “crazy”? you ask. What do you mean by that?

Because nobody knows what causes it. And you risk ruining it by examining it too closely.

Because what else could it be but crazy to open your heart and show someone else what’s in it?

Because loving someone—or something—is the biggest risk you can ever take. If they don’t fail you, the world might. Life happens all around us every single day. And it happens to all of us in different ways all at the same time.

Because if you let love into your heart, it will take up all the space there—and if life happens to the subject of your love in a way that takes it away, the emptiness might just become a black hole that sucks you into the void.

So why, then? If it’s such a big risk, why do we do it? Why do we search for love? Why do we willingly plunge into the risky waters of love?

No one knows. And certainly no one knows better than the poets that no one knows. In his aptly titled poem “Poem”, e.e. Cummings said:

love is the voice under all silences,
the hope which has no opposite in fear;
the strength so strong mere force is feebleness:
the truth more first than sun more last than star

I like this and I feel like it comes closer to identifying the what and the why better than anything I’ve ever read. It’s like “The Force” in Star Wars. Love underlies everything, is everything, the one superhuman strength that you can’t really identify but it’s really there. It makes us stronger and weaker at the same time.

Love—whether it’s for parent, sibling, child, spouse, pet or all things—is the way we connect most intimately with the world. The more we feel, the closer we are to the universe. The more we open ourselves up to love, the more risk we are willing to take for the love—the more fragilely strong we become.

A Million (and 1) Things to Love

By Michelle Garren Flye

Where is love?

Songs simplify,

Poems complicate.

But love is there.

Reach for it.

The love of saving,

The love of believing,

The love of finding.

Love fleeting,

Love flying,

Love staying.

The world is full.

All around you, things to love.

Objects for affection.

A cat, a dog, a child.

A rose, a plant, a sunset.

A soul mate for the very lucky.

Hope will find love.

Trust will strengthen love.

Faith will keep love safe.

Reach for it.

Hold it tight in your heart—

And hope it doesn’t

Break

You

Open.

A Million Zillion Liberal Dreams

Yesterday I thought a lot about the new liberal progressive Democrats and their “Green New Deal”. Though I’ve always considered myself a moderate Democrat, it seems to me that this Green New Deal makes all kind of sense. New jobs, new infrastructure, eliminating carbon from our energy sources.

Once upon a time our nation would have embraced what now seems outrageous to so many.

As usual, I had music on when I figured out something major. And the music contributed to the resounding “click” I heard in my head. This time I was in the car, and Pink’s version of “A Million Dreams” from The Greatest Showman came on. And…click

Why do poets and artists tend to be more liberal?

Why are so many liberals poets and artists?

(Click) We are dreamers.

It’s true. We dream of what could be or we let what is haunt us. We dream of change. We dream of life and love and liberty for all. We are patriots who believe our country can be better, and we can make it so.

We have a million, zillion dreams, and yes, they keep us up at night.

My ruminations left me with two questions, though.

1. Why is the Democratic Party afraid to own their dreams? Why not just say, yes, this is who we are and what we want, and we know we can get us there?

2. Why is everyone so afraid to dream these perfectly reasonable dreams that will benefit everyone in our country and the world at large? If we have a million, zillion dreams, there’s room for everyone in them, isn’t there?

Advice for Democrats running on a liberal agenda: Own your dreams. Stop apologizing for them. A Green New Deal is a dream worth fighting for.

What dreams do you have that are worth fighting for?

I am Liberal

By Michelle Garren Flye

We are

(Liberal)

Dreamers.

We stay awake

At night imagining

What we can be.

What you can be.

We are

(Liberal)

Believers.

We believe the world

Can welcome all.

A place for us.

A place for you.

We are

(Liberal)

Reformers.

We own our mistakes

(And yours) and fix them.

For your future.

For our future.

We are

Dreamers

Believers

Reformers

Imaginers

Romantics

Visionaries

Advocates

Innovators

Environmentalists

Activists

Scientists

Artists

Poets

Crusaders—

Liberals.

For tomorrow—photo by Michelle Garren Flye

Poem: Pinned

Pinned

By Michelle Garren Flye

Pins hurt, I remember. Pins stick in your skin when you put on a new shirt without checking. Crimson stains on ivory.

Why pin each other, then? Why pin those we love? Stay here. That’s your spot.

It hurts.

Why pin those unlike us? Stick them with scarlet letters. You’re not us. Stay away.

It hurts.

We do it anyway. Jab into flesh until blood comes. Pins like Judgment, like nails on the cross. Us. Other. With us, against us. Pins line up, sharpened stakes to keep us in or push us out.

I hold one in my hand, a dagger to slash and judge. Watch. The blood waits, pulsing, just beneath the sin.

Poem: For Tom (broken)

One of my heroes made the news for the wrong reasons this week, bringing home to me that all of us become less relevant as we age. Even the great ones.

For Tom (broken)

By Michelle Garren Flye

Don’t speak too loudly.

Stay out of their way.

Their edges are sharp and they will cut you,

Force you to retreat, retire.

Your own edges are worn—

Who is impressed by Woodstock anymore?

You didn’t win your wars.

Vietnam, civil rights.

Even the drug war is left for this generation to fight.

Compassion is round

In your hands, but

It turns flat in theirs—and shows only one side.

That side has edges

And they are used to cut.

So be careful, stay silent, keep clear and beware.

For the round and the soft,

The worn and the frayed

Have no place in the edgy world of the young.