May 17, 2008

The Peculiar Deaths of Women Writers

From the executions of classically trained pornographers
to the acts of god (lightning, earthquakes, floods) that target
their homes, women writers die

before reaching forty, in childbirth or in bathrooms
while wringing out laundry, sorting out socks and shirts or….

They take it well though, these ladies.
Their few lines in the recovery anthologies.
The patronizing critics who imagine
each a famous bard’s sister in an alternate universe. Their bios
like thank-you notes for the invitation to the party.

I wake up with DT’s when I think of all those women, winning
contests and giving up the prize, trying on
several pseudonyms for size, squatting
like dead ducks for gentleman callers
to make a strategic choice.

‘Circumstances surrounding death unknown’, ‘birth date an educated guess’,
details derived from diaries and letters from men which have survived:
a debt uncollected, friendship ended, a falling
out of favour with the court, destitute, prostitute,
hands tied behind backs and the barrels of shotguns.

At the National Exhibition we kill them four, five at a time.
That’s me behind the decoys, between the plates. That’s my grand prize
up for grabs. Time to take dictation:
I’m going down without a fight
no matter how many fraternity boys come out tonight.

—Priscila Uppal
from Ontological Necessities (Exile Editions, 2006)

Posted by dwaber at May 17, 2008 03:13 PM