If Great Women From History Had Emails

Two poems on the silencing of women by Lindsay Adkins

hand putting red paper into fire

If Great Women From History Had Emails

If you enjoy reading Electric Literature, join our mailing list! We’ll send you the best of EL each week, and you’ll be the first to know about upcoming submissions periods and virtual events.
 But Her Emails: A Ghazal

 My mother needed to sleep—but her emails,
 those prayers for anything but her emails.
 Marie Curie, with her husband’s electrometer, 
 the x-ray machines that showed what? Her emails.
 And the pastor in Detroit, who shot Keanna 
 just because she wanted to strut her emails. 
 I know why the sky ate Amelia’s plane—
 before take-off, she neglected to jut her emails.
 When Broadway applause came for Lorraine,
 the FBI started to watch her, tried to smut her emails.
 Monica, those bangs and red matte pout, collared
 shirts pouring over with baby fat. Slut! HER emails!
 In Puerto Rico, Luisa was first to go out in pants,
 but was jailed cuz a lady should shut her emails.
 She had to go to the stake, you see. I mean Joan. Nuts.
 Raided her computer and they were nuts, her emails.
 Sojourner is a woman without my saying it, but after
 her speech a white lady still wanted to gut her emails.
 A new Genesis: after she’s slashed from Adam’s rib, 
 Eve takes God’s scissors to cut her emails.
 That Lindsay, can’t she write some happy shit?
 Read this and you’ll want to tut-tut her emails.
 Precious Blood Fire
 On the Feast of Corpus Christi, May 27th, 1875, Precious Blood church in Holyoke, Massachusetts 
 burned down. Seventy-eight people died, 55 of them women and girls.
 Those logs we carved and stacked into worship became 
 fire and smoke as they birthed their bark backwards. 
 We know this now: woman is not the flame
 that breathed deeper than our corseted lungs could. 
 And if you drift like ash over your shoulder—
 past the hose spray, the scorch of skin, the human 
 pile near the door we couldn’t shoulder—
 you’ll hear us sing of wheat among the ruins. 
 You’ll see us turn to the Blessed Virgin bust
 and gasp when a breeze lifts through the window, 
 kicks up the lace around her head. One gust
 will flit the veil into a candle’s billow.
 You’ll see us grasp for prayers to recite.
 You’ll see how fast a woman’s prayer ignites.

More Like This

The Politics of Sally Rooney’s Relatability

"Beautiful World, Where Are You" wants the contemporary novel to be more relevant. Does it rise to challenge?

Sep 9 - Emer O’Hanlon

9 of the Worst Jobs in Literature

Work sucks, I know: books to put your job in perspective

Aug 31 - Sophie Stein

How Has Intersectional Feminism Changed in the Past 18 Years?

Daisy Hernández and Bushra Rehman, editors of "Colonize This!," on updating a landmark anthology for the next generation of activists

Aug 16 - Pooja Makhijani
Thank You!