Poetry Wednesday: Don’t Let Me Call You Sweetheart, Honey (A Guest Post by Cha Cha)


My friend Cha Cha not only wrote me a fabulous guest post, but she did it with
poetry—because lyrics are poetry set to audible music. 

Thanks, Cha!
____________________
My friend Sarah has been nagging me (kindly) to write a guest blog for a while now, but I’ve been stumped on a topic. With a few language degrees under my belt I am capable of talking about anything with a fair amount of ability, but that doesn’t mean I would say anything of interest, to a reader or to myself.

Then I drove home today.

I recently moved to Iowa from a state that wasn’t Iowa. Needless to say, my home state did not celebrate country music in the same way that Iowa does. Normally I avoid listening to country music with energy I usually reserve for things like suddenly having to run cross country to avoid flesh-eating zombies (although the flaw in this plan is that zombies are slow moving, and at most I would have to keep up a steady ramble). However, there are days when I feel compelled to listen to country.

As a music form it does have a lot going for it. It certainly, in its repetitive stanza formula, creates a listening experience that sucks one in. On some level I feel compelled to listen to country out of a feeling of when-in-Rome. This is, according to air time, the music of Iowans. To live among them I should acquaint myself with their music. Basic cultural integration.

Then I hear lyrics that yank me forcefully out, things like (and I’m paraphrasing) “I can’t wait to see you grow with child” or “Won’t you look lovely with a kid on each hip.”

Aside from the feminist issues that these lyrics raise (I’ve never heard a woman say she can’t wait to see a man with a child on each hip), there is a part of me that screams about the destruction done to the music of MY people, the British and the Irish. So much work has been done proving that country music in America rose out of the Appalachian interpretations of British and Irish music, particularly ballads, that came over with the immigrants.

When I listen to classic British and Irish ballads, sung by, perhaps, a luminary voice like Kate Rusby and then realize it has “evolved” into a form of music that includes the real lyric “I’d like to check you for ticks,” more than a little bit of me dies.

Now we have a form of music that celebrates women as child bearers and nothing more, or in the last lyric’s case, a possible victim of Lyme disease. But before I ride off into the sunset on my high horse of righteous indignation, I look back at the original ballads and realize that they too, were songs sung, many by men, talking about the pale skin of the beautiful woman waiting for them back home. Perhaps my indignation should not be at the butchering modern country music has done to my beloved ballads of the past, but rather about a lack of evolution over the many decades. Women can now wear pants, but the change hasn’t quite made it to the music.

Yes, we have strong songs by strong women, but many are songs of rage about men who did them wrong, which to me, is not much more than a gender reversal of the songs about men who lost their women, their dog, and their trucks.

Instead of simply complaining, I would like to propose an alternative song, a love song from a man’s point of view (yes, yes, I’m a woman) about how he is looking for more than gingham and child-rearing hips. In a test of my ability to do simple math, I kept it to the ABCB format of most traditional British ballads with a 9898 count:

Don’t Let Me Call You Sweetheart, Honey
(Cha Cha ©2012*)

Don’t let me call you “sweetheart,” honey,
Diminutives ill-suit your fire.
Instead, I’ll call you what you wish, ma’am:
“Miss,” “dame,” “madam,” it’s your desire.

I shan’t talk treacle of your beauty
Through lens of procreation sole,
Ovarian traits aren’t all there are
There’s brains, inventions, arts, and goals.

Pale-skinned rapture can go to Hades.
Thy beauty’s in thy frontal lobe,
Thy preference for equal rights
Ignites my soul, ignites my soul.
Take thy shoes of sensibility
March past the rednecks as you stroll,
They can keep their surface beauties.
I like my women real and whole.

My woman Pulitzer stands up for
Nobel prizes shall line her walls.
Her logic is cooler than polar ice.
Were Einstein here, he’d take her calls.

Efficiently her bus’nesses run,
Her armies march a well-planned path.
Her chess skills leave me without breath,
(She truly liked The Grapes of Wrath.)

Pale-skinned rapture can go to Hades.
Thy beauty’s in thy frontal lobe,
Thy preference for equal rights
Ignites my soul, ignites my soul.
Take thy shoes of sensibility
March past the rednecks as you stroll,
They can keep their surface beauties.
I like my women real and whole.

She needn’t do all I have mentioned.
It’s not at all what I require.
But, ladies, hear this simple ballad,
And know what works to light my fire.

Stuff the blond hair and your sundresses.
We don’t all wish for this tableau.
I want a partner with hopes of strength,
A plan, a dream, a row to hoe.

When morning comes, don proud thy armor:
Your trusty bra of eighteen hours.
Go forth and conquer what you battle,
With your smarts and with your powers.

Pale-skinned rapture can go to Hades.
Thy beauty’s in thy frontal lobe,
Thy preference for equal rights
Ignites my soul, ignites my soul.
Take thy shoes of sensibility
March past the rednecks as you stroll,
They can keep their surface beauties.
I like my women real and whole.

I actually stole the structure straight from “Scarborough Fair” which was NOT going through my head as I wrote this. Going back, it’s rather trippy to match the rhythm with the tune.

Hope this qualifies as a guest post for Sarah. If not, well, perhaps it will be a while before she nags me (kindly) again.

Thanks for reading.