"Women Don't Riot"
from I ASK THE IMPOSSIBLE
Women Don't Riot
Women don't riot,
not in maquilas in Malaysia, Mexico, or Korea,
not in sweatshops in New York or El Paso.
They don't revolt
in kitchens, laundries, or nurseries.
Not by the hundreds or thousands, changing
sheets in hotels or in laundries
when scalded by hot water,
not in restaurants where they clean and clean
and clean their hands raw.
Women don't riot, not sober and earnest,
or high and strung out, not of any color,
any race, not the rich, poor,
or those in between. And mothers of all kinds
especially don't run rampant through the streets.
In college those who've thought it out
join hands in crucial times, carry signs,
are dragged away in protest.
We pass out petitions, organize a civilized vigil,
return to work the next day.
We women are sterilized, have more children
than they can feed,
don't speak the official language,
want things they see on TV,
would like to own a TV--
women who were molested as children
harassed, which means
every last one sooner or later;
women who've defended themselves
and women who can't or don't know how
we don't--won't ever rise up in arms.
We don't storm through cities,
take over the press, make a unified statement,
once and for all: A third-millennium call--
from this day on no more, not me, not my daughter,
not her daughter either.
Women don't form a battalion, march arm in arm
across continents bound
by the same tongue, same food or lack thereof,
same God, same abandonment,
same broken heart,
raising children on our own, have
so much endless misery in common
that must stop
not for one woman or every woman,
but for the sake of us all.
Quietly, instead, one and each takes the offense,
rejection, bureaucratic dismissal, disease
that should not have been, insult,
shove, blow to the head,
a knife at her throat.
She won't fight, she won't even scream--
taught as she's been
to be brought down as if by surprise.
She'll die like an ant beneath a passing heel.
Today it was her. Next time who.
Excerpted from I Ask the Impossible by Ana Castillo. Copyrightę 2001 by Ana Castillo. Excerpted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. and Anchor Books, divisions of
Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this poem may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Photo credit: Thomas Victor.