Anne Champion

For Qiu Jin

“Don’t tell me women are not the stuff of heroes.”
-Qiu Jin

Don’t tell me that mountains don’t form under our tongues and plunder air,

our voices can’t clatter ears and force blindness into sight.

I’ll take the dagger into me before I’ll take a man.

In my sleep, the gauze turns my bound feet to concrete

and every step bashes the ground to wreckage, the cracked earth

folds into valleys and craters, hidden paths for my sisters to follow.

My flesh gathers scars like flowers plucked from a garden,

the dirt writes and rewrites, and I welcome the collisions of fists

and knees and elbows, the dented metal, bruising a body

that never wanted shelter. When men speak of women, they forget

how our bodies are the first map in which they became lost.

I lift the swords of the dead and drag them in my wake,

carving a bladed future in the dust, so lucid that I know—

they’ll aim the blade at my voice. The sword is the last thing I’ll see.


The wildness of women can’t be plucked like papery moth wings.
Your police batons are a firebrand, and only our bones will obey

by breaking. One after another, each of us gulps the Afghanistan air
and butterflies the desert with our sanded voices. This is not rage:

this is a recitation of an ancient prayer. Come closer and listen—
I want to tell you a story of blood and men and castles

resting on human skeletons. It is centuries old with the usual lures:
shadows of women lurking in bare margins, sleeping lions erupting

after prodded by sticks in the ribs. It’s a heavy tome that steadies
like an anchor. Every woman knows it by heart.

For my country, I’ll give my open throat, and from it, I’ll strip
the begging from their mouths, dowse them in the sweat of tulips,

their bodies rewritten through blossom,
their pollen grained faces turned toward the sun.

Anne Champion is the author of Reluctant Mistress (Gold Wake Press, 2013) and The Dark Length Home (Noctuary Press, 2017).  Her poems have appeared in Verse Daily, Prairie Schooner, Epiphany Magazine, descant, The Pinch, Pank Magazine, Thrush Poetry Journal, New South, and elsewhere.  She was a 2009 Academy of American Poet’s Prize recipient, a Barbara Deming Memorial grant recipient, a 2015 Best of the Net winner, and a Pushcart Prize nominee. She holds degrees in Behavioral Psychology and Creative Writing from Western Michigan University and an MFA in Poetry from Emerson College.  She currently teaches writing and literature at Wheelock College in Boston, MA.

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