Abracadabra, an Abecedarian

by Karenne Wood

Karenne Wood

All this time I've been looking for words for certain difficult women
because they aren't able to speak for themselves, and now the
Clinton Foundation has come up with a brilliant campaign—they
decided, for International Women's Day, through digital magic to
erase women on the cover of Condé Nast, posters, billboards, those
figures replaced by empty space because women have not yet achieved
gender equity, as noted on a website, not-there.org, and they're right. We
haven't. But when I read about not-there.org and saw its flashy graphics,
I wasn't thinking about how women are not-there-yet, metaphorically, I
just thought about women who are really not there, women and girls who
keep disappearing (not from magazines, who don't make news in Manhattan)
like they've evaporated, like illusions, hundreds in Juárez, twelve hundred
missing and murdered Native women across Canada. The hands of men.

Now you see her. Not. Not-there. Not here, either,

or anywhere. Maybe only part of the problem is the predatory perpetrator-
prestidigitator who more often than not knows her, knows how to keep her
quiet, who may claim to love her, even, maybe getting even—or the serial
rapist-killer in the bushes who bushwhacks her in the dark. You're always safe,
says the forensic psychiatrist, unless a monster happens to show up, and
then you're not. Not-there. Maybe a lonely mandible, maxilla, fibula, or
ulna shows up, or a bagged body gets dragged from the river. Or not. Is this the
value we permit a woman's life to have (or not-have) throughout a wrong
world, a global idea of her as disposable parts? In the end, this is not a
xenophobic poem, not specific—it's everywhere. Not-there. Right here.
Yes, the sun rises anyway, but now the parents are staring past each other, that
zero between them like a chalked outline in their family photograph. Or not.

Last updated November 22, 2022