Grass Writing

By Sue Cowing

To know is to write in elegant black Chinese,
those square exotic puzzles that will never fit
the rustling-pebble cadence of our islands.
Fortunately it is a thing so difficult
only men can do it.
But women want a written language too
and have our reasons.  We’re allowed 
to represent our sounds in quicker strokes
that tumble down the page.  Grass writing.
 

Grass is common in Japan. Floor mats
are grass, and rice is.
While scholars don their stiff black hats
and force our many syllables into one,
we women lie awake with grass
under our pillows, listening: footfalls
in the corridors, frog-song.
When morning comes we write
to one another, everything
that men in their characters couldn’t say.
 

 

 

 

from Korone, 1987

back to Poems for General Audience