Andrew Kozma’s poems have appeared in Blackbird, Redactions, and Contemporary Verse 2, while his fiction has been published in Lamplight, Daily Science Fiction, and Analog. His book of poems, City of Regret (Zone 3 Press, 2007), won the Zone 3 First Book Award, and his second book, Orphanotrophia, was published in 2021 by Cobalt Press.
We Are the Gifts
Emily Dickinson had no money; she had to ask her father for stamps and for money to buy books.
– Joanna Russ, How to Suppress Women’s Writing
May I write this word? May I write another? What a cost,
every cold draft I put to the page, every death
stopped for me because my ink ran out. Our fathers
are not our friends, but our jailers. Their teeth are the keys
to the rooms of our lives. Oh God, our lives are only rooms,
one inside another, a present in reverse, and we’re the gifts
never opened. No airholes in the box. We got you a puppy.
We gut you a fish. We gotten you indebted to us. O Cotton
Mather us! O Henry Holmes us! O give us our stakes
and tell us it is our fault we burn because the light we give
is too beautiful to hide! My soul in this letter, enveloped,
unstamped. Countries I’ve never seen. I won’t beg. I will not—
I feel like our ancestors, literary and otherwise, disappear under the weight of their work, especially those writers who are taught so often in school they become just their poems. Mix that with reading Joanna Russ’ work on how women and women’s writing has been suppressed, and how much of that suppression is economic, and this poem was born.