& we are arguing loudly about something different than
what it is really & I say so & after a long time of this
I am screaming & you are not screaming & one of the things
you are not screaming is that I am crazy screaming the
things I am screaming & so I see how men & women despair of
teaching each other anything about the other. & my anger
is harsh & very personal & you tell me that is my problem
on the subject of women & my being one. & I stop screaming
the things I am screaming out of the anger that is my life
with you because I do not think I am crazy & because I do
not want you to think I am crazy & we both light cigarettes
& you say you are glad I am being reasonable & not taking
everything personally which is your way of telling me my
anger does not matter & now I know for sure what it is to
be a woman. & I pick square & squat words that belong to
no one to tell you & you like them & I do not like them &
being a coward & with them I begin to indifferently describe
the anger I have in my life because of you being a man & my
being a woman as if the anger belonged to someone else, &
I am getting tired of this always arguing & talking about
History & seeing history make my words bigger than my life &
seeing history make my words smaller than my anger & essentially
I am getting tired of this always arguing. & you tell me you
have read the books & you think that worthy of recognition &
that is enough & I am talking oh so reasonably & the square &
squat words of my reason climb into the ashtrays & disappear
into the forest of the rug where they are busily looking for
an anger to own them because they are words about my history
& I have always been like this. & I am screaming again & you light
a cigarette & tell me you don’t understand me & I believe you
& at the end of the corridor I am walking down is a desk &
pens & my life without contempt. & it is 4 a.m. & raining.
& I want to leave the window open & you say it is too cold
& behind us on the table are two ashtrays full of cigarette
butts one of us will discreetly clean up in the morning. &

– Southern Poetry Review, Vol. XIII, Special Issue, 1973


Note: This poem began as a short story that wasn’t working. I kept looking for the essence of what the story was about, and this was the kernel that finally emerged after many rewrites. It captures the upheaval, confusion and frustration of changing gender roles and women’s struggle to redefine their status and role in society.