Judy Grahn’s poem, “VI. Margaret, seen through a picture window” is from her series “The Common Woman” which describes multiple different women and their lives. Using the phrase “common Woman” in each poem emphasizes the fact that they are all similar based on the fact that they are all women and all have their own struggles. However, each woman is uniquely different in their struggles. By using a simile at the end of most of the poems to compare the common woman to something else shows the diversity that exists within every woman. Margaret, the woman from this specific poem, experiences life as a woman in a patriarchal society; being shamed for an abortion, fired for speaking up, and criticized and mocked by her husband. Grahn conveys the inner and outer pressures of her life that have worn her down so that now she is “a little blue around the edges” (line 16), a little numb and burnt out. The reader can feel the numbness from the description of Margaret “staring at the empty magazine pages” (lines 17-18) and “wander(ing) from room to room” (line 22). These actions enforce the desensitized role Margaret now plays. She seems to have succumbed to the overbearing pressures and “lusts for changes” (line 21) she no longer has the willpower to make.
Grahn compares a common woman in this poem to a new moon. A new moon cannot be seen from earth during its orbit, although just because it cannot be seen physically does not diminish its power and representation. Similarly, just because one does not necessarily see issues of the mind does not mean they are not there. Margaret’s behavior and thoughts reflect an eating disorder and/or depression, yet no one may notice them at a glance. After repeatedly being beat down as a woman she is forced to yield and her mind and body physically feel the affects of the harassment of daily life.
Another way of reading the new moon could be read as the woman being as common as a new moon, therefore not very common at all. Additionally, the comparison of “as solemn as a monkey” (line 23) is satirical and ironic as one does not think of a monkey as a serious animal thanks to cartoon stereotypes, however, monkeys do not typically look happy in real life. The conflicting attributes leave the reader questioning what the definition of a common woman truly is, similarly to the other poems.
Grahn uses these poems to express the individuality of women and how life has shaped them to be who they are rather than conforming to the expectations of their gender stereotypes. These woman hold power in who they are and the reader has to accept them for the good and the bad.