Old Crane Woman is tired; it’s hard work, laying an egg. It’s hard work, creating new forms; it’s hard work, giving birth. So Old Crane Woman is preening. It’s a good thing to do while you’re sitting on your nest; it’s a good thing to do in the days of the long dark. It’s a long, slow business, preening, and it’s more than simply cleaning. Old Crane Woman is aligning her feathers. One by one, one feather at a time. Preening requires patience, and Old Crane Woman doesn’t rush it.
Old Crane Woman knows about taking care of herself — especially when there’s an egg to hatch. So Old Crane Woman is preening herself, one feather at a time. Preening away the dust and dirt; preening away the heartache. Preening away the anger; preening away the fear. The feathers on her breast, and the feathers on her back. Under her wing, and over; the long, lovely feathers at the nape of her neck. Old Crane Woman is preening herself back into life, one feather at a time. Old Crane Woman is a strong woman, but even the strong need to be replenished. Old Crane Woman is a tough old bird, but even a tough old bird needs gentle handling sometimes.
Old Crane Woman is preening, and waiting for her sisters to arrive.
FOR STRONG WOMEN
by Marge Piercy
A strong woman is a woman who is straining.
A strong woman is a woman standing
on tip toe and lifting a barbell
while trying to sing Boris Godunov.
A strong woman is a woman at work
cleaning out the cesspool of the ages,
and while she shovels, she talks about
how she doesn’t mind crying, it opens
the ducts of her eyes, and throwing up
develops the stomach muscles, and
she goes on shoveling with tears in her nose.
A strong woman is a woman in whose head
a voice is repeating, I told you so,
ugly, bad girl, bitch, nag, shrill, witch,
ballbuster, nobody will ever love you back,
why aren’t you feminine, why aren’t
you soft, why aren’t you quiet, why
aren’t you dead?
A strong woman is a woman determined
to do something others are determined
not to be done. She is pushing up on the bottom
of a lead coffin lid. She is trying to raise
a manhole cover with her head, she is trying
to butt her way through a steel wall.
Her head hurts. People waiting for the hole
to be made say, hurry, you’re so strong.
A strong woman is a woman bleeding
inside. A strong woman is a woman making
herself strong every morning while her teeth
loosen and her back throbs. Every baby,
a tooth, midwives used to say, and now
every battle a scar. A strong woman
is a mass of scar tissue that aches
when it rains and wounds that bleed
when you bump them and memories that get up
in the night and pace in boots to and fro.
A strong woman is a woman who craves love
like oxygen or she turns blue choking.
A strong woman is a woman who loves
strongly and weeps strongly and is strongly
terrified and has strong needs. A strong woman is strong
in words, in action, in connection, in feeling;
she is not strong as a stone but as a wolf
sucking her young. Strength is not in her, but she
enacts it as the wind fills a sail.
What comforts her is other’s loving
her equally for the strength and for the weakness
from which it issues, lightning from a cloud.
Lightning stuns. In rain, the clouds disperse.
Only water of connection remains,
flowing through us. Strong is what we make together,
a strong woman is a woman strongly afraid.
(Header image: Grey Heron preening, River Nith, by Edmund Fellowes (winner of the British Birds Bird Photograph of the Year 2014: http://britishbirds.co.uk/article/bird-photograph-of-the-year-2014-2/)