All women speak two languages: the language of men and the language of silent suffering. Some women speak a third, the language of queens. They are marvelous and they are my friends.
My friends give me poetry. If it were not for them I’d be a seamstress out of work. They send me their dresses and I sew together poems, enormous sails for ocean journeys.
My marvelous friends, these women who are elegant and fix engines, who teach gynecology and literacy, and work in jails and sing and sculpt and paint the ninety-nine names, who keep each other’s secrets and pass on each other’s spirits like small packets of leavening,
it is from you I fashion poetry. I scoop up, in handfuls, glittering sequins that fall from your bodies as you fall in love, marry, divorce, get custody, get cats, enter supreme courts of justice, argue with God.
You rescuers on galloping steeds of the weak and the wounded– Creatures of beauty and passion, powerful workers in love– you are the poems. I am only your stenographer. I am the hungry transcriber of the conjuring recipes you hoard in the chests of your great-grandmothers.
My marvelous friends—the women of brilliance in my life, who levitate my daughters, you are a coat of many colors in silk tie-dye so gossamer it can be crumpled in one hand. You houris, you mermaids, swimmers in dangerous waters, defiers of sharks–
My marvelous friends, thirsty Hagars and laughing Sarahs, you eloquent radio Aishas, Marys drinking the secret milkshakes of heaven, slinky Zuleikas of desire, gay Walladas, Harriets parting the sea, Esthers in the palace, Penelopes of patient scheming,
you are the last hope of the shrinking women. You are the last hand to the fallen knights You are the only epics left in the world
Come with me, come with poetry Jump on this wild chariot, hurry–
Quite simply, how could I not share this marvelous tribute to women?
Evoking myth and magic, ancestors and ancient, wild and wise ones throughout time…yes, women are the only epics left in a world still hell bent on trying to silence and destroy us.
“When death is near, or when time forces us into binaries that are dangerous and ungenerous, we wish for such spaciousness, so that we continue the difficult work of preserving life in this world.”
Pádraig Ó Tuama, “The Pause,” On Being Newsletter, Saturday, May 22, 2021
Reading these words from my current, favourite poet I felt a deep thud land in my heart. I won’t say “languishing,” though it’s a word I’ve heard friends use to self-describe since the recent article named it as another quality of pandemic living. For me, it’s more the ebb and flow, waxing and waning, ups and downs that make some days heavier than others. “Corrosive,” my husband calls it.
Still, the buoyancy from my last post announcing that sweet writing gig and having a short piece published. And since then, I’ve submitted a six-poem collection and five-chapter poem to contests. Admittedly a very, very long shot to even be long listed, but the way I see it, it’s practice in taking myself seriously as a writer, and in learning the art of rolling with rejections.
So maybe it’s the recent resurgence of fighting in Israel, the bombing and killing of so many innocents, including children. I’m staggered by the fact that no sooner had Israel so quickly achieved the world’s most significant vaccination rate, when the fighting resumed. I know I’m adding 2 + 2 and coming up with 35, but is this what post covid “getting back to normal” looks like? And I wonder, “WTF, if anything, have we learned this past year?” Admittedly I’m feeling a holy outrage and holy grief.
Maybe it’s the snowstorm that came suddenly last week after a much needed day of straight ‘n steady rain – the day after a full-out gorgeous, sunny and warm spring day. Those thick wet flakes weighed heavy on the just greening trees, so much so, that when I went to bed that night, the wind blowing white all around, the leaning tree limbs and laden branches looked as if I could touch them from the upper deck. An optical illusion but enough to fall asleep praying all would be well, that we’d not have the kind of breakage our trees had suffered several years ago during an similar, late spring snowstorm. Upon waking, except for a few tender broken bits scattered on the snow’s surface, all appeared OK until Sunday, when we noticed a cracked, newly risen mound of soil around the base of my beloved laurel leaf willow. The heft of this near fifty-year old beauty, together with the leaning of its mass and the weight of snow have begun to lift the tree by its roots, making it just a matter of time before it lets go, meaning its removal is urgent and imminent.
That tree, with its large and languid presence, has been a source of inspiration and healing. As I’ve noted here and in my other blogs, most mornings find me sitting in our living room before dawn, watching that tree and the day begin. Recovering from Bells Palsy, too shocked and vulnerable to see anyone, and a few years later when recovering from a complete thyroidectomy and waiting for the “verdict,” I’d spent hours sitting outside basking in its healing green. I’ve written to it, about it, and in the last month, even submitted for consideration, a piece to an anthology on trees. Titled “A Laud to A Laurel Leaf Willow,” it now feels like an eulogy. First thing tomorrow we’ll search for an arborist skilled in tree climbing to carefully “dismember” it. Right now, as I type, I feel such deep sadness for its loss when it is still so vibrant and alive. I’ve thought about how to stabilize it, but the paradox is we have carefully tended to it for these many years, willingly investing in its regular trimming, and now it’s so massive, its girth so wide, that cable lines would need to stretch through and past our home to secure it. There must be a metaphor in all of this, but right now it escapes me. I simply feel sad.
Maybe it’s that dear friends have moved to start new life chapters with new life partners in other provinces. Pragmatically, the pandemic has oddly prepared me for their absence, as this past year seeing each of them has been very episodic, if at all. But I feel that familiar pandemic-induced “missing them in my bones and by my body.” I know the changed reality of relationships signified by such relocations, as forty plus years ago, we did the same thing and friendships were never the same.
And maybe it’s that rather suddenly – both to us and to them – our next-door neighbors moved, too. Yesterday! He’d been working out of province, unable to find work here since the pandemic. For months, she tended the home fires, including all their DIY renovations. Finally, the home of her dreams and then the decision to move and sell – in that order. I came home Friday to see people sorting through stuff in the garage, assuming it was a version of spring cleaning. Then a moving van and a quick, across the fence conversation confirming the obvious to everyone but me! Several months earlier I’d acknowledged my lack of sociability towards her. Nothing personal, I assured, I had been cordial but regretted it was not what it might have been. Now I wonder if the Universe might be giving me a second chance.
No maybe’s about it, I was so disappointed not be to with my father yesterday to celebrate his 90th birthday. Last year, he – my “glass half full” parent – optimistically announced we’d have a big party for him this year. Our German “sister” had promised to fly over to celebrate with us, as she had for his 80th. Thankfully, he and my mother worked through the decision to abandon the party idea a few months ago, as currently, their region of Ontario is in very restrictive lockdowns. Flowers and a cupcake with candles over a video call would have to do. And once again, with his signature optimism, he asked for a rain check and said he’s dealing in for another five healthy years, at least. That made me smile. I have a lot to learn from him, still.
The wish for spaciousness to hold it all. The knowing that it’s all true and that this, too, will pass, until the next time. Choosing the half full glass of generosity while acknowledging the grief. And signing off as I started:
“Friends, in all your circumstances this week, we pray that love, and a generous reading of time can guide you and center you towards justice and life.”
Pádraig Ó Tuama, “The Pause,” On Being Newsletter, Saturday, May 15, 2021