This poem was found at the bottom of a ditch, behind a weeping willow, crumpled and buried in a hole. I followed a black Rabbit here (code name Richards) in the dead of night to find it. I followed her because she praised soft men with a soft tongue and she had the bloodshot night-vision of a poet, peering deeply into the darkness, into the quietest corners of the soul.

She was the kind of woman who could look down upon my life reaching for meaning the way a gardener could glare down at a plant and remark, “Thirst is good for you right now.” Even though that stare would feel as hard and dry as the noonday sun, it would translate to: “I believe you will grow.”

Rabbit reminded me of Hilda Doolittle’s Sea Rose. This rose survives beside the harsh ocean by sucking salt out of sand and turning thirst into the fragile fragrance of wisdom. Like a sea rose, the hard women in my life have always drawn me towards their aroma because it smelled real and true unlike the cloying, sweet perfume of the spice-rose. For if anything is true, it must be made of this world and I know of no world that smells so sweet – shorn of its thorns.

Show me what it takes to survive in this world, hard women. Show me the bark of your skin and the bite of your fruit.

For I know it takes a certain kind of hardness to smile at yet another bad joker begging for your eyes to lock. Will his punch line be a Trojan Horse designed to open the purse of your person? Some men dip their tongues in silver simply so they can pick the locks.

It takes a certain kind of hardness to raise a waking life into a walking nightmare and to teach that child how to dream in your stead.

It takes a certain kind of hardness to soberly see the world with punch-drunk double-vision: as you see the world and as the world of men chooses to see you.

To the hard women, I see you see me too. My eyes trace the secret scars in your smile like lipstick. I smell the acrid scent of resentment for men obsessed with the good sense of their own flatulence.

Men, I know the content of your character by the nature of your desires. But only you will know what you have sold to stoke the coals of a lustful fire.

Men, I want you to know this world bears down on women the way an ocean tide collides upon the beach. After an eon, each grain of sand is sculpted into a hardened work of art. There lies fertile soil for the rare sea rose, growing roots in this shattered shoal despite the violent undertow.

And if you were guided by your nose, you would not retreat,
for a sea rose by any other name would smell as bittersweet.