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The Women in Literature and Life Assembly
of
The National Council of Teachers of English
Editor:  Patricia Kelly kellyp@vt.edu
Volume 3
Fall 1994


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Balsa Women

These are the Balsa women . . . you know them
Balsa wood is fine-grained land light.
Men like it because it is easy to carve.

She is thirty;
Small and delicate,
With the kind of voice
That is easy to talk over.
Her brothers smothered her dates,
Until she married and
Settled into perfection.
When her second child was born
With difficulty, everybody prayed.
She quit her job and stayed home.
The second child was autistic.
Everyone was sorry.
However many days it takes to make a saint,
She didn't have enough.
Her husband refused to let her get a job.
She was needed by the second child,
Until she cracked, of course,
And spent some time "on vacation" at a hospital.
Nobody knew about it -- nothing changed.
When she came back she said, "I never knew it was okay to be angry."
No one hear her.
Her husband filed for divorce
And took her children away.
Her brothers helped him,
Claiming she was abusive.
Nobody prayed,
They just left her alone.

They shape it as they want, cutting away
Unwanted parts until the figure is complete.

She is forty and lives alone.
She married young and worked,
While he drank and nearly died.
She nursed him until he was whole,
And started working a decent job.
She catered to his every whim.
He received a promotion, and
They transferred to Iowa where
He divorced her and kept everything.
He moved in with another woman
And her children, saying . . .
" My other wife was empty."
She struggles on her own
Trying not to let the bitterness eat her mind
She has no children to comfort her.
Hisparents were first cousins
and his brother drooled.

Each carving is a personal work of art,

She is fifty and teaches piano.
Her husband never wanted children.
When she had their son,
He wasn't there.
He dabbled in stocks,
While she paid for her life and
Her son's with the piano money.
He required the son to be perfect . . .
To do without emotions.
The perfect son moved to California,
And took a lover who beat him up.
His father brought him home.
She is surrounded by gaiety --
She listens to them crying in the night.
Her son she prayed to have;
Her husband who never touches her.

Much better than the living tree.

She is seventy-five and short.
Her family is raised,
Her husband retired.
He worked in a factory.
She stayed home with the kids.
She waits for him -- she waits on him.
She never learned to drive.
The state gave her a card, and
Now she has an official identity.
They live in a two-story house,
With an upstairs bathroom.
She wants to add one off the kitchen,
But he says, "Exercise is good for you."
Her arthritis defines her days.
Often sleep eludes her.
Nights are walked away.
She keeps her crying to a minimum,
Until she wets herself,
Before she gets upstairs.

Balsa wood is fine-grained and light.
Men like it because it is easy to carve.
They shape it as they want,
Cutting away the unwanted parts,
Until the figure is complete.
Every carving is a personal work of art,
Much better than the living tree.
Each man names it,
And claims ownership . . .
And changes the wood forever.

by Kathleen S. Rohr



Copyright 1994, The Women in Literature and Life Assembly of the National Council of Teachers of English (ISSN #1065-9080). Permission is given to copy any article provided credit is given and the copies are not intended for resale.


Reference Citation: Rohr, Kathleen. (1994). "Balsa Women."WILLA, Volume III, 11.

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