The Women Before Me Hobbled & bound, pressed bodies into shapes inhuman, muffled. Lived life sentences. Some said no. Some said no more. Stood & shouted & suffered—a sisterhood scorned, abused, shackled, spat upon. More said no. More said no more. Some said me too. Then more. Now, not to doubt or dream but live—uncaged & mighty. We spread a thousand wings of joy—dissolve great granites of despair, hold possibility in our palms. We were hobbled & bound, pressed our bodies into shapes inhuman, muffled & silenced, lived life sentences. More say no. More say no more. Each of us a cloud—always moving, yet always knowing exactly where we are. "The Women Before Me" was StoriArts Grand Prize Maya Angelo contest winner, 2018. I Am A Nasty Woman I got it from my mother who never said never who tucked five kids into hard seats at our local public library while she went off to Mount Vernon’s Co-op College where free education was provided to the city’s young “Afro-Americans” My mother marched into the dean’s office convinced him that as a woman and Italian-American she too was a minority and he couldn’t turn her away because of her color or age My mother marched into city hall with her degree and became the Human Rights Commissioner My mother marched wherever she was told she couldn’t go even if it took three buses to get there our father would drop her off at the station and we’d wave goodbye. We stayed home with our TV dinners while she went to Denmark as one of Carter’s cultural ambassadors, Florence to remember her Italian. We had no money but we had my mother. "I Am A Nasty Woman" was part of an art gallery exhibition in the Arts MidHudson Artists Respond to Poetry Show 2018. Dream (Nov 19. 2017) We were dancing, the music and the rhythm all there and I remember his hair: long, dark, wavy against my face, and soft, this man I knew slightly. He reached down, pressed his hand hard between my legs. The shock of it shuddered through me, a spasm, a doubt. Did he really? I paused still my mind a thousand questions and he did it again. In a public place, in this private space. This time I grabbed his hand. No. Pulled his wrist and with a strength from I don’t know where flipped him, stomped on him, hard, stood on his wrists. No. Someone asked, “What did he do?” “Get a manager,” I cried. “He groped me.” The whole room paused, then turned back to dancing. I dragged him through the crowd. No one helped. No one cheered. I dragged him down a long dark hall toward a door marked, “Manager.” Another man I knew slightly asked, “What happened?” Smiled when I told him. He knew the guy. It was expected. “But not okay,” I said. He shrugged, walked away. The manager’s door never opened.
Linda McCauley Freeman has been widely published in international literary journals and anthologies, including a Chinese translation of her work. Most recently she appeared in Chronogram, Amsterdam Quarterly, won Grand Prize in StoriArts poetry contest honoring Maya Angelou, and was selected by the Arts MidHudson for their Poets Respond to Art 2020 show. She was a three-time winner in the Talespinners Short Story contest judged by Michael Korda. She has an MFA in Writing and Literature from Bennington College and is the former poet-in-residence of the Putnam Arts Council. She and her husband are professional swing dance instructors in the Hudson Valley, NY (www.got2lindy.com). You can like and follow her work on her author page facebook.com/
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