The Tenants of Feminism

By Denise Duhamel

Featured Image: The Valley of the Seine, from the Hills of Giverny by Theodore Robinson, 1892

When the interviewer mishears “tenets”
I know my gals are not in a villa,
never mind the United States Senate.

My heroines crowd in drab tenements,
their image scaring even Attila
the Hun. The interviewer hears “tenants”—

bad asses, public housing. Bob Bennett
wakes sweaty from a nightmare, Guerrilla
Girls rushing the United States Senate;

Gloria Steinem, bell hooks, and Joan Jett
stuffing manifestos in manila
mailers. The interviewer hears “tenants,”

sees kitchens where women cook venomous
dishes. His lady smells of vanilla,
minding their house, not the U.S. Senate.

My principles are not set in cement,
nor are they adrift on a flotilla.
I call upon all feminist “tenants”—
Steer your U-Hauls to the U.S. Senate.

Denise Duhamel’s most recent book of poetry is Second Story (Pittsburgh, 2021). Her other titles include Scald; Blowout; Ka-Ching!; Two and Two; Queen for a Day: Selected and New Poems; The Star-Spangled Banner; and Kinky. She is a Distinguished University Professor in the MFA program at Florida International University in Miami.

Originally appeared in NOR 17

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