If you want to build resilience into your character, visit a bar. Put on your favourite clothes, wear your best scent. Promise yourself to be exactly who you are in every moment, because there are things that sometimes happen in a bar that can make you strong. They won’t feel good but they will stretch you, assure you, reaffirm you. You will feel your heart swell and your spine grow tall like an oak tree. Visit a bar and listen, learn the difference between what people say and what they mean. Hold nothing tightly but yourself and remember always to rise.
This story has happened more than once so I have had to learn to let it empower me but it sits in memory. Last night, two phenomenal women in their 50’s sat alongside me and asked if I was fine drinking alone. It was joy to tell them yes, I am happy to sit alone and listen, or not alone and still listen. Then I thought of a night with two other phenomenal friends, women of great beauty and I remembered why sometimes it is not so easy.
‘Hello,’ and you swagger into the midst
of a conversation you were not invited to,
but discretion is powerful and so
I am not rude. I give you leave to
make a case or entertain and then you say it –
‘You two are amazing girls.’
So then I had to look you in the eye and
consider what happens sometimes in a bar
and what a woman does.
I’m certain your mother loves you
but I am equally certain she did not raise you
to be defined by the weight of your purse
or the length of your stride.
Nor did mine raise me to be defined or dictated
by the weight of where your gaze rests
Or how the word beautiful drops off your tongue
I taught myself to raise my head and
keep my words inside my lips; fool, jerk, dick.
Tonight, you looked at the woman to my left
and the woman on my right and said
‘You two are amazing girls.’
Your pronunciation pointed
in any direction but mine.
So I raised my head
and brought up my pride
looked you right in the eye.
I watched you until I saw you,
and you saw me but didn’t see a thing.
You are right, these are amazing women.
Talented, compassionate and smart
You would have come to know that eventually
but it’s not what you meant when you said
You meant beautiful in such a way you
wanted to touch them, possess them
as you looked left and right
and over me, through me
around me as if I were nothing
and thought instead of having
power over beauty.
Did you have a mother who loved you
but couldn’t or maybe wouldn’t
teach you that where two women are amazing
the third is most likely a Queen
so that is why you didn’t know, when you met me
how you were in the presence of royalty?
I raised my head and brought up my pride
from within me; looked you right in the eye.
I watched you until I saw you, and you saw me.
And still you did not bow to me.
So let me tell you again, because it should be known,
where there are three women
sitting at a bar or on a step or anywhere
it is statistical impossibility, a scientific anomaly
if only two of three women could be called amazing
because amazing women stick together
out of necessity because there are some who
caress our skin uninvited
or interrupt with awkward conversation
when we were just now solving significant problems
and we didn’t care what you had for dinner
or to tell you of ours when
We had other amazing things to talk about
and no desire to give you power over our beauty.
But this is just a bar and
you didn’t come for serious talk
you came for a drink and a laugh
and to drink in the sights
possessing us for a moment
despite being momentarily blind
seeing two not three
women in your company; sigh
it’s not likely you will ever see,
not enough for Woman One, Two
but I’ll give you this; perhaps
with my head raised I can
offer you a new definition of amazing
(though I am certain you were raised
from the warm womb of kindness
by a woman who was also thus)
if you could somehow
raise yourself up and learn to see
then Three is the prize you seek
Three knows more than the world
and has the colour and power of a Queen
knows how grit can polish and
rolls her hips because it pleases her
and takes pleasure gladly in it
the feeding, clothing and making of love
gives out grace because she knows
she can afford the price and pays it
from a deep, old treasure chest
meets you mark for mark
in the heat of an argument
in the depth of her heart.
Your blindness is heavier than your hands
which do not, will not and can not touch me,
but I rise
shake it off and walk unburdened
by the weight of all that is amazing in me
what you could not see between my breasts
or in the sway of my warm, wide hips.
I was glad of the beauty either side of me
beauty of mind and glow of skin
I was gladly not beholden to profanity
the offence of blasphemy that you
could ignore the wonder of me.
the presence of amazing me,
so I rise
I feel delicately the absence
of perfection under your eyes
but I rise
and decide your eyes are not the seeing kind
I entertain the words I might use in response and sigh,
instead onto the higher ground,
seen or unseen,
beauty to the left and right
but mostly in the midst of me.