Corazon Aquino

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They came in their millions
to Epifanio de los Santos,
and in their hearts was a woman.

They came with an angry prayer,
from the slums,
the neighbourhoods sunk at
the foot of horrific mountains of wretchedness.

Or they came from
the peaceful, palm-bedazzled barrios,
where anger simmered
for the shackles of the people’s song.

Rich or poor, in their hearts
there was a woman.

Twenty years under the dictator,
long pillaged years,
during which slums grew up
in the hearts of the people,

when the furtive promise
of the young nation
became the rot of the dead martyrs
exhaled from the murderer’s white palace.

And when her husband fell
at the door of the city,
a bloodied envoy of that almost forgotten thing,
freedom,

the housewife rose
and put away her gentle years,
because she understood, at last, his fatal love,

because she grasped now
how her grief seethed with an immaculate justice,
and the rage of a burning archipelago.

In the people’s hearts was a woman,
who they dressed with their songs,
the chants they hurled against a crumbling regime.

Against her, the tyrant had no weapons.
American tanks, American jets, American guns
could not wound this woman
clothed by the people.

He fell, beleaguered and afraid,
while the two million on Epifanio de los Santos
were crying, Corazon, Corazon,

for in their hearts was a woman,
and they surged around her
and lifted her up on their joyous shoulders
and carried her like an unchained dawn.

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A Woman Guerrilla in Vietnam

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You did not make this war,
but it came to you anyway
and it has cleaved you into a woman of fury.
It was the steel men
disgorged from the bellies of their steel beasts,

who knew nothing of
the abundant tenderness of your terraced paradise,
they were the ones
who spread these black scars across the bright jungle,
and tore the villagers from their earth,
scattered their bones in the ruined dykes.
They inflicted the black scar in your youthful heart.

Once, you were the strong peasant child,
girl of the rice husk,
arms browned by the ancient years of a limpid sun,
those smooth pillars of Vietnam,
which held up the beautiful cities of Hue and Hanoi,
the poet scholars, the plaintive music of the gulf,
the ancient palaces cupped by an indulgent flower.

Now, you have the steeled body of the warrior,
and your strong arms have learned to
wield their own iron righteousness.
The jungle is your skin and the enemy cannot see you,

nor does he reckon with the violence of
your threatened womb.
You will avenge the child, the child not yet born,
the hope of your Vietnam.

Grace O’Malley

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From the beginning mutinous,
headstrong,
the earliest tale we know
is that she cut her hair short

and slept among the rough men,
a stowaway on her father’s ships
plying their Irish trade on the bright tables of Spain.

In Spain, the juice of the wild pomegranate
entered the blood of Grace O’Malley
and released its scent of grandeur.

Her father’s vast fleet became hers at eighteen,
and these ships the arteries of her
unquenchable soul,

raised waves and fears all along the Western coast,
and sunk barbs into foreign ambitions
over her savage and verdant realm.

When her husband died,
all the men swore fealty to her,
and the ferocious cliffs of Connacht
knelt on bended knees

and promised to die on her one Intractable wave.
It was just now that English power
fell like a dead horse on the free princes of Ireland,
and the Gaelic song was buried in the peat.

But for a while, still a little longer,
she thwarted them all,
kings and generals, men and horses,
sailed out, standing like an arbalest at her swift prow
to plunder the honeyed empire of hungers.

And she was a myth of the grey wave,
of the rebellion of the pale salt
and the ungovernable Irish heart.