The laughter of women


Here, the women I know laugh often. It’s partly the space I think.
At home, the women I know laugh too. Like music their laughter.
I hope all the women I don’t know laugh. All that music, all that freedom.

Beyond any Year of the Woman, or any International Women’s Day—which are important as commemoration and right as celebration of hard won incremental steps toward gender parity, and yet by their designation reveal, still, our poverty as a society—there is the laughter of women.

I have brought Lisel Mueller’s book Alive Together to this tropical island. And on every page I’m reminded how well the heart enfolds the mind and how assuredly the chalice trumps the blade and how merciful the stitches are that pull together our vertical and horizontal worlds, and how redemptive are weeping and laughter.

To the many courageous women I know, and the countless courageous women I don’t, may this be good year.

The Laughter Of Women – Lisel Mueller

The laughter of women sets fire
to the Halls of Injustice
and the false evidence burns
to a beautiful white lightness

It rattles the Chambers of Congress
and forces the windows wide open
so the fatuous speeches can fly out

The laughter of women wipes the mist
from the spectacles of the old;
it infects them with a happy flu
and they laugh as if they were young again

Prisoners held in underground cells
imagine that they see daylight
when they remember the laughter of women

It runs across water that divides,
and reconciles two unfriendly shores
like flares that signal the news to each other

What a language it is, the laughter of women,
high-flying and subversive.
Long before law and scripture
we heard the laughter, we understood freedom.



  1. I must remember to laugh more. Sometimes I wonder what happen to my “voice of happiness” with age. This is lovely, Stephen.

    As the new Congress is sworn in today in the U.S., the Senate will have a record number of women (still far from equitable). But the 1st two stanzas of the Mueller poem seem particularly appropriate.

    We had an interesting thread on Facebook yesterday about how far women have come. There are days, however, when I wonder.

    A major theme at the U.N. climate conference this year was “women and gender” – a plea to more carefully listen to the plight of women around the world, and to develop gender-smart policies that don’t cause disparate impacts on any group. The effort was led by Mary Robinson (former president of Ireland), Christiana Figueres (UNFCCC Executive Secretary), and Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, South African International Relations and Cooperation Minister and President of COP17 (last year). Amazing women, all of them – each trying to reconcile unfriendly shores.

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