The Sound of Their Names
for the Women of the 19th Amendment
Praise their grit and gospel, their glistening
brains, their minds on fire. Neurons, numbering the stars.
Praise their bones. Their spines and skulls,
the axis, the atlas: I will not and I shall.
Their mouths, praise. Ridged palates
and smart muscular tongues, teeth, sound or pitted,
their wit and will. Their nerve,
and founded within the body. Honor
now their wombs and hearts, biceps and blood,
deep mines of the flesh where passion is tested.
Thank all twenty-six bones of their feet,
arches, heels, bunions, sweat,
marching the streets in high buttoned boots. Praise
the march. Praise justice.
Though slow and clotted.
Their hands at the press. The grease and clatter,
the smell of ink. Feel the sound
of their names in our mouths:
Susan B. Anthony
Dr. Mabel Ping-Hua Lee
Marie Louise Bottineau Baldwin
Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Wilhelmina Kekelaokalaninui Widemann Dowsett
Praise their eyelids that close
and give rest
at the end of each long day.
Praise the work that goes on.
Copyright © 2020 Alicia Ostriker. This poem was co-commissioned by the Academy of American Poets and the New York Philharmonic as part of the Project 19 initiative.
Ellen Bass is the author of Like a Beggar (Copper Canyon Press, 2014). She currently serves on the Board of Chancellors of the Academy of American Poets.
Date Published: 2020-03-01
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/sound-their-names