You tell me I am a little off these days.
Truth be told, I am broken
in places I didn’t know had such cracks,
such seismic vulnerability.
I remember the Japanese tradition
of repairing a cracked piece of pottery with gold.
I want to inject that glue into my own veins,
mixed with the sap from the Chinese lacquer tree.
I cannot escape my rage.
That election night, by 2 am,
I felt violently sucker punched.
I’d anticipated, with so many others, watching
an accomplished, resilient woman take the world stage
with her daughter by her side.
Instead, the bully won.
Like the time my boss at Denny’s
called me into the back dining room,
and then punched me in the gut
to give me a taste of what it would be like for me
to exit the restaurant after the graveyard shift
and encounter a lurker, a stalker,
in the back unlighted lot where I was ordered to park my car.
Like the time a man in a Corvair and a leather jacket
pulled his vehicle to a stop as I stepped off the curb,
demanding that I enter his car,
pointing a gun and a naked erection at me through the window.
I was walking home from 6am mass on a Sunday morning, twelve years old,
with bobby pins stabbing into my scalp
from the Kleenex my mother had affixed to my head
so that I would enter the church in a respectful, humble fashion.
Like the time a professor
asked me to wear pigtails
so that he could pretend I was his daughter
and act out his fantasy of having an incestuous affair with his daughter.
Like the time a teacher
admonished me for wearing overalls and a flannel shirt,
telling me I had no business hiding my feminine curves
from the male gaze.
Like the time my then husband pinned me down
over a washing machine
and attempted to choke the life out of me
because I had the audacity to want to leave him.
Like the time that same husband
commanded I get his gun
and put him out of his PTSD Vietnam misery
when he couldn’t fix the leak in the kitchen sink.
Like the time I slept for six years
with that loaded gun on the headboard,
watching him grab and clutch the weapon
even when a racoon scampered across the roof,
trigger finger itching, ready.
Gun at his head. And mine.
Like the time I had a third of my hard-earned pension
legally stolen from me
by a man who didn’t bring home a paycheck
for over five years of the marriage.
I don’t know what fighting I have left in me.
I have never felt so defeated by a machine
that seems so much bigger and more powerful
than my one lone voice.
And so I join the Pantsuit Nation,
feeling like our private group is walking into a speakeasy with every post
in a town that was quite recently dry of alcohol.
We are women who want to find a safe sanctuary among a sea of map red blood.
I remember eavesdropping on a conversation of women
at a local gym.
Have you seen the new towel boy they hired?
one woman asked the group.
He has a beard. A terrorist beard.
And the motto of this small Kentucky town
is Best Town on Earth.
I question whether every person I encounter
voted for their own interests, rather than the greater good.
I knew there was a lunatic fringe,
but the massive numbers who voted for a man
blatantly sexist, homophobic, Islamaphobic, and racist
is beyond my comprehension or acceptance.
I keep reminding myself that we’ve come a long way.
I remember refusing to fetch a cup of coffee for my boss
at a furniture store when I was 14 years old.
I don’t remember reading about that duty in my job description,
I told him. And I remember thinking I might lose this job,
that he might simply show me the door out.
Instead, he shook his head, walked away,
and never asked me to refill his cup again.
My first act of assertion in the working world,
my baptism into the world of feminism at age fourteen.
As I see swastikas spray painted on playground equipment in Brooklyn,
as I see fags written on apartment doors of women who are married lesbians,
as I hear of a woman in Ann Arbor threated to be set on fire if she does not remove her hijab,
as I see middle school students build a wall in the hallways of Dewitt,
as I read reports of a noose hanging in the bathroom at a high school,
as I see my ex husband rapidly texting my daughters on election day,
reminding them that the Democrats want thousands of Syrian refugees
welcomed in this country in order to make up for all the babies they killed
through Roe vs Wade and millions of abortions,
as I see the KKK celebrating their candidate’s win with parade plans…
I seek my tribe.
I have been fighting my whole life.
This is personal.
I remember when Obama was elected,
and much commentary was made of the fact that
he speaks in full and complete sentences.
That he didn’t use sound bites
to reduce complicated ideas down to pablum
digestible for an attention span challenged audience.
And now I watch a man who has the vocabulary of a third grader,
who speaks in slogans that can be chanted at rallies,
thrown out to a crowd like pulsing red meat,
step into the Oval Office.
Believe me, he says.
And they did.
I thought we were all, mostly,
hungry for the same things.
Civility, provocative discourse,
an examination of issues, inclusion,
embracing our beautifully diverse country.
I was wrong.
This country has elected a man
who spit “wrong” and “such a nasty woman”
into the debate stage microphone
when his opponent was speaking in full sentences.
Many were appalled.
But not enough.
And so I will create my own Kintsugi repair.
I hear the results of this kind of artistry
are so lovely
that some deliberately smashed valuable pottery
so it could be repaired with gold seams of kintsugi.
I will glue my broken pieces back together
with Chinese urushi lacquer
and bathe my body with fine gold powder.
I know that the process is difficult, toxic even.
But once it dries,
the toxic effects are nullified,
creating new patterns of jagged beauty
Dulcinea Pauzus taught English at middle and high school for 32 years. She is now retired, doing Field Instructor work at Michigan State University. She recently won 1st prize for poetry in the Spring 2016 Edition of the Gadfly Literary Magazine. She also won the Pete Edmonds Poetry Prize. In addition, Dulcinea has been published in Muddy River Review; Silver Birch Press; Persephone’s Daughters; Encodings: A Feminist Literary Journal; Write to Heal; Writing for Our Lives: Our Bodies—Hurts, Hungers, Healing; Mother Voices; Metropolitan Woman Magazine; Ophelia's Mom; Jellyfish Whispers; Remembered Arts Journal. Dulcinea also received Fulbright-Hays Awards to Nepal and Turkey. She is a flute playing vocalist, learning to play ukulele, who is raising four daughters.