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Portraits of Women

Couldn't decide where to post this note. Either here or in Discussion I. I am comfortable here.

Something I've been thinking about for a long time, wondering about. So much of my poetry, a career now spanning 40 years, is devoted to women. Like a painter devoted to nudes my portraits of women have remained a constant study. Taken a step further, they've kept as a psychological, character and personality type study. I'm not so much thinking of my love poems, even though they too have, in cases, turned into studies and sketches of many of my lovers, at least of the ones who have intrinsicly interested me as character types. But a lot of the poems are simply studies. Old women, young women, middle aged women. Lonely women, frustrated women, warrior women. Women in love and women in hate. Disappointed women. Women afraid of their own choices. At least one woman murderous in inclination. More than a few women who are users, but whose portrait in my hands is so sympathetic you have to read between the lines to understand what I actually think of them. I have women portrayed in moments of high ceremony. I have at least one prostitute, another kind of ceremony. I do not have portraits of women who do not interest me, or show me nothing new, or who are flat out evil. At least, I think the last is the case. I have wild women, so to speak, women who might belong to the Maenad class. But I do not have women who've turned wholly to the domestic arts. In brief, the women who've sat for me have excited something in me, old and young alike, and even if they have eventually settled for some sort of safe zone life, as most women do. Maybe that is it. Maybe what excites me the most is the woman portrayed in some moment of decision, and when the test is existential, pass/fail, no grading curve. I think maybe so. Men do not interest me as much, except for the exception. Reason is simple. The odds against a man are not as highly stacked.

I have been taken to task for this penchant of mine. A one time member of our board who was actually quite nice to me, especially when I was complimenting a poem of hers, sorely took me to task. She could say: don't write about something you cannot know, you're just projecting. I tried to explain to her that if I couldn't draw on women then such novelists as George Sand, George Eliot, the Bronte sisters, Jane Austen, et al should not be allowed their portraits of men. Explanation did no good. Then there was my second wife who famously said to an English professor and well known lit crit: "It is not fair a man should look to get inside a woman." His question of her had been: "What do you think of a man writing about a woman?" I chuckle over this for a bunch of reasons, and I'm left with a serious enquiry. In bed she was a fine lover who taught me the art of sexual pleasure. But the take home message is kind of sad. It is okay for a man to get inside a woman's body, almost like it is a detached commodity, but not okay for him to get inside her head or soul. Truly sad. But I have to say the woman was honest. See? I'm doing it again. Reaching for the woman portrait.

I've been going back through the internal hard drive. I cannot pull up a poet, a man poet, who has done what, for some reason, I've kept after. These nude portraits in poetry. Think on it. Dante was the first to view a woman, his Beatrice, as subject, not object. Seriously. His huge thing was to view his love object as a real live human being and with her own life. As I say, huge. Not even the Troubadors did who did the most to raise a woman to the class of being a full human being. Catullus didn't, nor did Sextus Propertius, both of whom were proto-Romantic poets. Fast forward. Name me one man poet of the last 100 years, in any language, who has gone after the woman portrait not as object but as subject.

Caveat to my generalization. I can think of 3 exceptions to my rule. Euripedes whose portraits of Medea and the Trojan women wholly empathetic. Shakespeare who essentially got a woman's sliding scale of chances. And Goethe whose woman love led him into woman space, always at his own peril.

I have so many poems plastered across our board that amount to portraits of women. Possibly no one has viewed them as a class, sui generis. But that is what they amount to. I am an artist before and after I am anything else. An example I think not posted yet:

Wooden Wishes

In the long light hour
of some sorrowful son
when glacial green water
gets tucked inside
the serrated shadow line,
and the cloisonne clouds
have raised
the fuchsia feeling in her eyes,
she would wonder where he was.

He must have been the one,
her ghostly galleon.

Such an existential poem. Tenderly delivered but kind of clinical, involving choices made.

Apr/5/2013, 10:21 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
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Re: Portraits of Women

A poem adding to my thesis:

Poem posted some 3 years ago, first draft some 23 years old. The woman who was my model was fiery beautiful, of Irish/Sicilian descent. I didn't know it at the time but my portrait caught her at a high moment in her life. A much sought after actress, she was happiest when on the stage. Actually, the only time I knew her to be settled in her skin and centered was when she was involved in some theater production. True statement. After we parted she went back to her former, nightly tavern haunts. Last time I saw her she was unrecognizable, this after living with her for 10 years. Bloated from the drink and given back over to what she herself called "junk food sex." My poem is pure reportage, not of the imagination. Chris's 3 year old comment on it still tickles me, taking both the lawyer's character and narrator's take to task. One lewd, the other idealizing his subject. True in both cases. But I see nothing wrong in the idealization. In fact, I see everything right about it. Poem sets in relief a high moment, a punctuated moment in one woman's life. She herself sets in relief many of the parts and roles, except for that of mother and worker, a woman can play.

So this is what I think. The women I draw on are less muses than they are active players playing out a kind of selfing drama. In a sense I think of them as ceremonial. And it is a high ceremony in which they selfishly find meaning. It is a dirty little truth but meaning is always a selfish thing. The role or part played doesn't matter. The motive of motherhood is as selfish as is acting on the stage. Not said judgementally. It is this selfing drama that fascinates me.

Apr/6/2013, 10:00 am Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
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Re: Portraits of Women

It's dangerous business, this business of mine, making portraits of women. I guess feminists think we painters are users. What they don't get is the boomerang thing. What poets mostly don't get is that, without the compromised moment, there is no art, since, artist not compromised, not left scrambling. Just dangerous business.

A. got so physically ill in those months she had to stay away from her restaurant, stay away from the sight of me. Not wealthy, I did not have that kind of luxury. But I was sensible to her pain, as was her family. Probably I should have left the scene sooner than I did but I did. Leave her scene. Give her peace.

I don't think my poem projects, as an idealogically driven feminist might maintain. I think my poem looks to get inside, assuage, recognize, honor another human being's pain. This stuff of heart hurt is not literary, not Romantic, not phantasmogorical. It is physical.

Apr/6/2013, 9:00 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
Katlin Profile
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Re: Portraits of Women

Hi Tere,

I'm following along but haven't gathered my thoughts enough yet to comment, but I will. For now I can say I like the haunting "Wooden Wishes", which is a new-to-me poem by you.
Apr/7/2013, 7:18 am Link to this post Send Email to Katlin   Send PM to Katlin
Terreson Profile
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Re: Portraits of Women

Read along, Kat. Comment when you have something to say. Curious about how others see this thing I do. I'll be away for a few days. Moving. But I'll come back to my thesis.

Apr/7/2013, 10:33 am Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
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Re: Portraits of Women

Two poems on the same subject separated by about 20 years:

The Dark Door

Persephone stolen?
More like
and I'd be willing to bet
that such an excitable lady
freely went,
that that son of the earth
had to be persuaded
or cudgeled, cajoled, and coaxed
into staging the theft.

But it may just be
how differently
things look from down inside
the dark desire,
the dark daughter's story
when the hand of her mother
leads her lover down.

Apr/13/2013, 11:57 am Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
libramoon Profile
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Re: Portraits of Women

Persephone's Worlds

I have wandered far from thoughtless girlhood,
am a woman, a Queen
in my own right
Yet I am treated with the expectations
of a mindless child
in my mother's Summer home.
The Gods are all agog with Zeus,
fickle, abrasive, free to take full stance
above the laws he so imperiously commands.
My Dark King is so much more a man,
sincere, deeply feeling, committed to his realm,
compassionate, if not always kind.
Yet, here I must obey the crowd,
displaying charm and grace
in haute couture, making small, insipid
conversation with the socialites
decorating Zeus' lawn parties.
Up here, life is meaningless,
All flash and doggerel
to amuse, O', do entertain us
So tiring to endure the ennui.
Those not privy to opulent entitlement,
relegated to the dregs of servitude, or less
endure for their time, brutal, painful, short,
for no good reason.
I hear their horrid tales,
back in my rightful place and purpose.
Shrunken souls, shriveled by life time hungers
still growling beyond the grave.
I am balm and wise mother.
At last they matter, their stories opening in me
a marvelous passageway through which they are
taken into paradise.
My life above, the petulant daughter,
the pampered goddess spawn,
I endure coldly.
Summer's trivialities, properly obedient to
rituals of the social condition,
know nothing of my true life
under Winter's glory.
Apr/13/2013, 7:07 pm Link to this post Send Email to libramoon   Send PM to libramoon Blog
Terreson Profile
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Re: Portraits of Women

Excellent, Libra. A complicated story for sure.

But I am bummed. Today's earlier post was long and involved, treating with the complex and, sometimes, dark dynamics in the mother/daughter relationship. When I hit the send button discovered board was down for maintenance. Post immediately etherized. I'll have to come back to Persephone later when I have more time.

In the mean time I've remembered another woman's portrait. Someone else I once knew. The poem is on its way to the morgue file, if not quite there yet. But it speaks to my theme.

Her Ascension

"My body was so fine then."
She says this by way of
phone talk, and suddenly
the captioning, it comes clear.

The news of a family friend's death
knocks on her door that day.
And the background surround,
the circumstance, the burdening action
of first loss, of separation;
and the smaller losings like
her owned home in foreclosure.
Just the sped up reel of divorce
when the screen story catches to where
all that is left are for
the movie credits to roll across.

"I miss my mother today."
She then says in nonsequitor.
Her best friend turned on death's dime too.

And who has ever dared
to argue with such
unspeakable logic as
what a woman in her reasoning heart
sees when the whole of the story
comes down, right then, right there
on her in the kitchen where
she instinctively stirs the soup
and marrow stock to feed
childrens' need against present loss?

It's just that she has this body
in her love larger than life.

Not sure what to make of this poem. Pretty sure that, viewed as poetry, it doesn't work. Subsequent events render my perspective of my model less than balanced. Poem and relationship a little over 10 years old. But I do remember the poem's moment. Hell, there was so much in her story I could've drawn on. As a child forced to watch older brother and sister engaged in sex. So terrorized by her father, a man taken to walking around the house with a loaded pistol and who raised, selectively bred fighting cocks, she took to hiding behind the toilet. Her then husband and only lover a body builder and trainer who I think had once trained with the former governator of California and who was, like all the body builders I've known, completely self-immersed. All she really had in her life when I knew her was a sweet memory of her mother, her children, and her passion for Jesus Christ. She was a charismatic and, I would eventually learn, a rapturist. I could have drawn on any and all of the bio I knew about. Instead I drew on the tone in her voice, its coloration, noted in a single phone conversation. Not sure what I was after or what I was thinking. Maybe just a miniature. A cameo.

Last I heard, by the way, the girl remarried, did it right. Got herself a realtor. But that was before the bust of '08. So I don't know.

Apr/13/2013, 9:25 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
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Re: Portraits of Women

Saturday night and I'm on a roll. If I go out and honky tonk I'll just get into trouble. A ridiculous proposition at my age anyway.

At the risk of repeating myself I'm bringing over a poem with commentary from my Word Hoard 4 thread. Think it worth the risk, since, speaking to my theme.

("What's the world done, poor child, to hurt you so?" Goethe)

Mignon the slender slip,
the mysterious chit
coming down twilight's road
who must be some soldier's girl,
some stationed lieutenant's woman
so far from her hibiscus home.
Or is she, instead,
really that father bothered, since,
she can't even rest her head?
Driven by icon, mask or trace
of the cold vein, the hand too suddenly
lifted from her face
when he might've seen the chasm
her young trust would've opened
in those manly, well bridged emotions.

The taut lines in her face, the restless eyes
rolling over unseen borders,
and always the whipping will
or the stormy thrill
of the long hair spiraling
when winds pick up to where
she can forget her ghostly burden.

It's just that I've seeen her likes
too many times by now
to ever again mistake the signs.

And maybe she'd been his favorite
before that day,
maybe she was left to uncomprehend,
left to wander and stray?
Her only lead being
the memory, the tilted picture,
the recollection he'd left to her.
The seed of her heart hurt
always that close to bursting,
and always choking
on dry dawns of nameless men.
Soldier, sailor, or vagrant scholar,
always only the left over
of her own lyrical father.


Got to tell a literary story. Mignon was first invented by Goethe. She figures in his Meister Wilhelm novel. And he wrote a poem about her. She's Italian and exiled to north Europe, sorely hurting from home sickness. Goethe would have understood that. His two trips to Italy opened him in a huge way. Then she figures in an opera, mid 19th C. Can't remember the librettist's name. Still the same girl in exile and I think in love with a man she cannot have due to her lower class station. Her fourth appearance comes in the 20th C. James M. Caine, known for his "hard boiled" fiction, wrote a novel about her. This time she is in New Orleans during the occupation by the Union forces in the Civil War. A Union officer falls in love with her, must choose between his love and his sense of duty. Her father is a Southerner working against the occupiers behind the lines. Mignon chooses her father and his mission out of love. As I recall she gets swept away by a flood of water caused when her father blows up a dam.
In comparison my poem is stupidly slight. But I wanted to get to her character. I've seen her so many times over the years in so many father bothered women. No other word for it. Her psychology fascinates me. Rivets me actually. She never seems to figure it out. Never gets over something lost early on, keeps driven, keeps lonely, keeps in exile no matter where she is or what she's doing. I always want to save her even knowing I cannot.
Think about it. Just a literary invention and so true of a certain type of woman who gets born again and again.
Tere ~

So here is a link to the Wiki article on the opera mentioned.

By chance I find this about a 1915 German film called Mignon.

Pretty wild. Including my poem, 6 treatments of a character type that I know about. So far. I say character type even though, except for mine, Mignon is a young woman disenfranchised, subject of circumstance. But I actually think I'm more right than the others. I have known so many Mignons, even Mignons who've become accomplished in one way or another and still so father bothered they've sabotaged themselves. Driven by icon, mask, or trace...

Apr/13/2013, 10:52 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
Christine98 Profile
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Re: Portraits of Women

hi tere,

Please don't send "Her Ascension" to the morgue, it's too good for that. I've been following this thread, and continue to,

Apr/14/2013, 11:52 am Link to this post Send Email to Christine98   Send PM to Christine98
Terreson Profile
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Re: Portraits of Women

Chris, you know I implicitly trust your capacity. Taking it to heart.

Apr/14/2013, 1:38 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
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Re: Portraits of Women

She is Florida

Maybe a mother song can sing
about a personal lady,
truly the tidewater. a Spanish Hammock beauty,
an excitable woman, a mother of children,
a sometime casualty of men;
even a daughter of her own black eyed mother
whose picture once seen,
a certain turn-of-the-century photograph,
shows a warmly defiant smiling girl,
and whose high mother love, mother pride,
woman fire
would filter through to the daughter child
one day to become another mother, lover
and woman on fire.

But just a mother song can sing
high in bole branches of the live oak
where woman when still a child
would escape her family's poverty
with morning's biscuits bundled in rag
and books about reappearing, disappearing
shiny savior knights in misty mid-distance;
who could still smile childishly since
life turning to love loss was not yet
a ribbed road to reckon with;
who would one day climb down that tree
motherless, father itinerant, to care for
the other, too many children;
and who would come to plumb the deep
savanna of her heart as she kept keeping
to lessons learned of the marsh, the ones
telling all little sisters 'keep on flowering,
growing berry ripe in the emotions,
keep on rooting, closing in dark humid nights,
keep turning my way in morning's hush light.'

And so she lived a lengthy love with life,
she who closely loved the lengthy fight
with anyone rash enough to tell her no.
She had her men, several by account,
her husbands and lovers,
all noted in the errants' tally;
she had her sibling circle reunion hymns,
her bridge parties and Sunday socials,
her memory talent for Cracker cuisine,
her children whose children would seek her out,
her sherry kept in the cupboard,
her Esperanza home proudly owned
and situate between gray ocean and tidal river;
she had her yard of twilight gardening and her
nights of wild eyed desires unresting with her like
a mistress of the lizard guard underworld;
and she had romance stories, her tales of true love
cajoling her through the flamingo's
flouncing wings of dawn, to urge her well into
the last years while waiting,
still waiting for that man who might be
man enough to walk the tidal time with her.

And a mother song certainly can sing
for one who is still, and restless,
out in there on a marsh moist breeze,
whispering, sometimes rising through
fronds of sable palms;
to sing of how she loved to early drive
through the old Florida, the fingerling of
porous land swept slanted by the sea, and
pushed by the sun, and pulled on by the moon
into her own volupting interior.
While this tidewater, a Spanish hammock beauty
passed down shadow sown byways, between
nighthawk groves and out in wide prairies
beneath gossamer skies fulling
the bowl of her soul.

(commentary to follow)


Apr/14/2013, 2:55 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
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Okay. About She is Florida. If the poem has done its job two features show through. First, the magnitude, the hugeness, the vastiness of my model's personality comes forward. I've said that what interests me in making portraits of women are the studies of character types. This one, in my estimation, is sui generis. Not a type but a oner. Secondly, that, through her, the poem is able to get to a caption of the Florida, Old Florida, I knew as a child. One of the woman's daughters, one of my sisters, when she read the poem commented not on the character study but on the evokation of the Old Florida she also knew as a child, older enough to have known it for longer than I did. I've said many times I look down on writers and poets who come to Florida to draw their material from there. Never once bothering to get inside her. Wallace Stevens was one such colonial. Hemingway another. The only exception of a northerner coming down, and to old Floridians anyone crossing the Saint Mary River that sets the boundary between Florida and Georgia is a Northerner, and getting inside Florida would be Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. But she worked the land, owned an orange grove, knew the heat of summer and the bite of cold snaps. She also hunted, fished, and went down Florida's silt red rivers. But my spleen here is already documented.

I've never known a woman like this one. She could be as kind as Aphrodite, as implacable and cruel as Hera. Except that she was more a force of nature, a Titan, than an Olympian. She wasn't entirely human. When pushed into a corner she drew on the reptilian portion of her brain. By now I have a bunch of character studies of her. Not, I think, because there is something I need to understand. But because her case has fascinated me, maybe the way a pair of snake eyes can hypnotize its prey. I've pictured her in all the moon phases a woman knows, the new, the full, and the old. Have gone a step further and pictured her in the scariest of all moon sides, the fourth side or order, the dark side that never sees the sun. No man can stay there for long.

If my treatment here seems sympathetic it is because I cannot help but respond to a woman whose passions, while regularly getting the best of her, never leave her. I remember a comment she made in her last days between the brain seizures when death was beating the hell out of her. "Anyone who says death is preferable to life is full of !@#$." But reading between the lines and I also think an observer's stance comes through.

There is a singular mistake most writers and poets make when drawing on the Oedipal stuff of family. Lean one way and the treatment is a gloss, just another form of the cliche. Lean the other, critical, judgemental, revengeful way pointing to unmixed emotion(s) and there is no art. Just the revenge. Not my observation, but the true artist has the supreme capacity for "detached involvement." Intense participation in the moment set in relief by the detachment of a painter's eye.

Apr/14/2013, 3:47 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
Terreson Profile
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Re: Portraits of Women

The two links take you to two vignettes I've posted here. They speak to my theme, except less to character type, more to a stage, a phase in a young woman's life just before she makes an all determining choice, what tends to vector her life for a good 20 years or so, when again it tends to be time for her to make the clear choice again.


Last edited by Terreson, Apr/15/2013, 7:18 pm
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In the collection, Bottom City Blues, there are three poems that answer to my theme. The first two are character studies. Caravaggio's Dark Haired Girl strikes me as a portrait as tender as one should be when it comes to prostitutes and whores. Caravaggio got it. All of his models, for the Holy Family and the Saints especially, were prostitutes, thieves, and pick pockets. I've read he was a pimp. Only, in his day a pimp earned his money as a protector of his women. The man was not at all bashful about wielding a knife. More than once protected and even avenged slights and outrages his girls had suffered. In his world, no slight was too slight to be brooked. As said upthread, I've never understood a woman who can let a man inside her body she does not love while angered at the prospect he might want inside her head. Got to be the ultimate body/mind split. But I don't need to understand, not as an artist. I need to listen, respond, attend on such a woman's quiet moment(s).

The second character study, Riff on a Theme, not sure how to approach it. The model was diagnosed as psychologically liminal. She operated at the threshold between conscious and subconscious thought. She could go catatonic. And she showed violence to the only man she ever loved. My poem tries to get to the equation from her side of the story line.

The third poem, Salome, is not a character study. It goes for something universal, elemental in women. The dancing girl whose performance, even in private, is a ritual enactment. She is a maenad. She is a wild woman. And she is preternatural in the sense all women self-enact through dance step, in itself a religious ritual. Grandmother, mother, daughter, they all know this woman.

Will say it again. No poet, not even Dante, has gone for the full gallery of women portraits the way I have.

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At the expense of preempting the pleasure of discovery, this piece, guess I'll call it a vignette, is strikingly brutal in its portrait. N's voice and delivery may be tender, but that is a deceptive stance. Just brutal. Piece's subject, Marie, so sad a type of woman. Over the years I've encountered her type many times. She is easy to spot. Her deliberate choice turning her to diminishment at every critical juncture of her life.

My feminist friends will take me to task for the assessment. I'll accept the admonishment. Time and time again I find that the exigencies of an unfriendly, man dominated scene is by far the lesser impediment to a woman's psychical development than is the existential fear of herself, of having to face herself alone, without the protective colorations of children, station, religion, friends, family.

When you think on it, Flaubert was at least as brutal, and deceptively tender, in his portrait of Madame Bovary. What did the girl in was her self-dishonesty. Her love masking her social pretensions.

Apr/20/2013, 1:36 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
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Cannot tell if this thread is generating any interest. Not much feed back. I see it has been viewed 75 times. Discounting my visits maybe the actual count is closer to 50. But it interests me. I've said before that, so far as I can tell, Dante was the first poet to look to get inside a woman. Beatrice's attendents took him to task for the cruelty of his poems to her. At first surprised how his love poems could be called cruel, he finally got it. He had been treating her as an object of his love, not as a whole, discrete human being with her own feelings, thoughts, prerogatives, desires. Herein lies his greatness of humanity. My women studies reach to something similar. And they have for long before I got what Dante was after.

Upthread I posted an old poem on the Persephone story. It hints at a dynamic between mother and daughter. Poem written in '87. Almost 20 years later I returned to the theme, pointed further inside same dynamic.

Involuntary Moments

There is a mystery told to fertility, and
long since untold except in secret fashion.
It involves a mother, her bare feet blackened with soil,
a mother’s daughter, her self-begotten child,
and a man whose eyes are those of a crow’s.
That man was once known too well, first to
mother, then to daughter; and, yes, the storm and the stress.

My sense of him is his surrender to them.

Mysteries keep as mysteries only while
they stay in practice between the living and the dead;
even as mysteries can move in mystery just as
black orchid can open, without call, in midnight moonlight.
And so I wonder, these many years later,
what was she thinking, your mother above that
beach, overlooking the wine dark sea,
in her patio precinct where no man enters unintended?
What did she require of your firmness and your green flesh
like a madam whose house is in underground surround?
And why did she choose for you a man with
the eyes of a crow, body of Lebanese cedar, with the
brains of a coxcomb? Tell me please what she meant?

Or it might have been she met her sorrow when
he left her station, left scented mother for
scented daughter, for the solitary girl whose life is
less a lease, more the sweet-root strife
when she says what her body means with finger tips
pressing pomegranate’s flesh and fruit to her tongue;
and she too who will have the dark door man for herself.

Aegina’s seascape viewed from a certain portico,
both entrance and exit, is a memory picture kind of unsettling.
Yours and your mother’s under-earth souls
moistening yours and your mother’s dark chamber through him.

I do so love drawing on the old stuff. So much there. So many suggestive leads. Freud rightly got the significance of the Oedipus story when it comes to family dynamics, what almost always involves a kind of psychological incest of one shape or another. The Agamemnon story pretty rich too. Mother killing father for having sacrificed her daughter. Son killing mother to avenge his father's death. But what about the mother/daughter relationship? I submit it is damn rich in its many entanglements.

In the Demeter/Persephone/Hades story I'm inclined to think Hades is little more than a stand in, a deux et machina. I'm convinced because the Eleusinian Mysteries predate the relatively late arrival of the Greek story tellers by as many as 500 years. What about the mother/daughter relationship? Said again, damn entangled.

Over the years I've known many, many women whose relationship to their mothers is simply frought. Frought and almost always unresolved even past death of one or the other. Camus pointed me to an incredible story illustrating a thing he called the "impossible love." It involves the 17th C Madame de Sevigne whose love for her daughter one editor has called obsessive. Daughter would even marry a baron from Provence, far away from her mother in Paris and who was a familiar at the court of the Sun King. Mother/daughter dynamic frought. My own, older sisters tried all of our mother's life to win her love. Never actually happened, she being too distrustful of women in general and expecting her daughters to be what she had always been even in childhood. A caregiver. One sister still resents me for that our mother preferred her sons to her daughters. It has done no good telling her that the woman's expectations of her 4 sons were also unreasoanble, looking to us to save her from herself.

I've known a woman who has kept critical and damn near unforgiving of her mother even after the woman was, first, declared schizophrenic and then died. I've known a mother who has expected her daughter to sleep with a favorite brother, daughter's uncle, because it would give him comfort. So the notion that Demeter was a kind of pimp to Persephone is not so far fetched. There is the famous case involving Sexton and her daughter, Linda, where mother expected daughter to parent her, be her caretaker and stable emotional support. I've also known a mother willing to accept sexual predation of her daughter by the girl's step-father for the sake of keeping the family together. Daughter for whom the mother had been her best friend would become so angry she would do violence to her. All damn frought.

Jealousy, intrigue, hatred, impossible love, guilt, the unrequited need to be loved. It is all there and not a man on the stage except as maybe the coxcomb getting used to satisfactorily fill out the drama.

How can I help but be fascinated by my portraits of women?

Apr/21/2013, 2:36 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
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This is what I mean by a portrait of a woman.

Apr/21/2013, 9:35 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
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I am a bit flummoxed by the lack of interest in this thread. Said again, few, if any, poets of any time or era have as thoroughly committed to such portraitures, character, even type studies of women as I have. Not sure what to make of the lack of interest. Much of what I'm collating here has been posted elsewhere on the board and read. But I'm after something larger with the thread. I'm after creating a gallery of women, sure. But I'm also after suggesting something else: that poets portrait paint, character study their subjects. The trick is a painter's trick. Poets could learn a trick or two from painters.

Somewhere on our board this poem is posted. Search function says it is, but I can't find it.

Mother's Day Dinner

She was old by then.
And she always had been
the auburn, olive skinned beauty
whose element of passion like
the full Florida year
could compass the range of
storm and serenity, of
sun love, moon moods, and
the urgent, sudden squall.

She would end up a life wise woman
who would devour her way through
layered page of romance novels.
She had become an expert.
In the den of her room, and
sitting on the edgeside of her bed,
smoking Dutch Masters,
through the coral of sunset,
into the soft shell of dawn,
precisely there she read.

There is a final complaint she made
over a late supper with
her first born, her darling son, her
favored, sacred one who
she thought should have saved her, she said:

"Tommy, why look down on me
because I keep my glass
half-filled with sweet port, my
'southern ice tea,' you say?
Why refuse a girl a drink?
All of my young girl dreams
never, not once, or ever
kept around, came up, came true."

For the record, he replied,
"When you put it that way, Mama,
you are right."

Somewhere, can't remember where, some reader of the poem, a boy, said he should have liked to spend time with her.

Apr/24/2013, 7:04 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
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hi Tere,

I've been reading essays by one of my favorite novelists, Michael Chabon. These thoughts on the difficulty of depicting women reminded me of your thread:

"Over the years I have worked very hard to create in my fiction living, fiery female characters to match the life and fire of various real women I have known. I have endowed them as carefully and thoughtfully as I could with fragments of the histories and memories, with physical mannerisms, with traits of hair and complexion and even, occasionally, the recollected breasts of those living women. With each story, I have convinced myself as I told it that I was managing to portray a woman as strong and as fragile, as complicated and simple, as real, as the women who have part of the story of my own life. It has not always been easy. I have struggled and written myself into corners and chiches, and resolutely shuffled paragraphs and memories. I have rewritten entire sections of a novel from a female character's point of view, just to see if I could do it, and in writing The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, I spent months and months turning out some four hundred of close third-person narration about the sister of Sammy Clay, only to realize at some fatal point that...she would never possess the marvelous, improbable power of getting up and walking around.

I had no idea why it should be so hard form me to depict women, whether with a pencil or a word processor, I find that I resent the difficulty on feminist grounds, for accepting it would seem to endorse the view that there is some mystic membrane separating male and female consciousness, some nebulous difference between men's and women's minds, when people are people and minds are minds and, if you want to get down to it, I don't really know or understand what goes on inside anybody's head apart from (in moments of grace) my own. I can't stand...the retrograde pseudo-sensitive air of balderdash that seems to underlie the idea of a woman's heart being inaccessible to a man by virtue of their respective genders."

Don't know if Chabon's thoughts are at all relevant to this thread; just another male writer's struggle with the subject of women,

Apr/27/2013, 9:26 am Link to this post Send Email to Christine98   Send PM to Christine98
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Hi Tere,

I think your Portraits of Women would make an strong chapbook. It could also make for a fine collection if you included In Deep Song's Register and the Green Girl series as part of the mix. Or perhaps you have enough portraits of women without those two groupings to make up a book length collection? It seems most poets don't do themed collections these days, but I'm not sure why as I think that kind of cohesiveness would be attractive to many readers.
Apr/27/2013, 10:45 am Link to this post Send Email to Katlin   Send PM to Katlin
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Thanks, Chris. Interesting thoughts. Not familiar with Chabon, so I appreciate the intro. Guess I've never found it particularly difficult to, so to speak, get inside any of my women characters. Which may or may not mean anything, may or may not indicate I succeed or fail in these portraits. When a child, there were no 'stand-up' men in my life. No man to immulate. And maybe no man model to interest me enough to want to get to know. Growing up was a time directed, governed, entirely controlled by women. Strong women I will add. Self-sufficient older sisters, an independently minded mother, equally as colorful aunts. Conversation was always easy with these women, even when it was not, if that makes sense. And, by stint of circumstance, I spent much time waiting on these women. A fond memory, for example, was of watching my mother make up her face and hair before going to church. In retrospect I suppose I could have been impatient having to wait for her while she prepared herself. But I wasn't. Possibly I understood without understanding that her's was a ritualized moment. Can't know. Years later, when a grown man visiting my mother's home, I asked her why, of all of her six children, by 3 different fathers, and four of which children were boys, I asked her why she was so much harder on me than on my siblings. She didn't even pause or think on her answer. She said it was because I hadn't had a father figure and she felt she had to be both towards me, father and mother. In her world she had to be both disciplinarian and nurturer, is what she meant. What I'm trying to say is that I had to grow up and go out into the world before coming into contact with a man's set of circumstances. Childhood being a woman's world actually meant those women were the human beings that formed me, and with whom I had most conversation, to whom I looked for advise and direction. That was the world I knew.

Certainly there are biological, even chromosomal, differences between men and women. As such life must be experienced differently by each, since, you can't get around certain biological imperatives. I think it is the difference that interests me the most. Actually rivets my attention. But there is also that interstice between the genders in which equally as imperative commonalities can be found. The desires, for example, may not always be the same between a man and a woman. For that matter, the desires are not always the same between two women or two men. Same is true of fears. What is the same, however, is desire itself, and fear itself, viewed sui generis. That is the interstice. Anyway, a man's Y chromosome only makes him half-different, not entirely different, from a woman. Plus he has that X chromosome to ground him in a woman's world. If he lets it, that is.

So I don't find a woman's world that difficult to enter into. Even when I'm being a typical man if I stop and pause long enough, cock my head at a different angle maybe, I can find entrance. On the other hand, and to contradict myself, I do thoroughly enjoy such differences as exist between the genders. One I think I've noticed is that few men, with the exception of thinkers and poets, actually experience themselves. Most women, on the other hand, even stupid women, do. Viewed existentially, that may be the huge, the one determining difference.

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An excellent idea, Kat. I've thought about the chap book possibility too. It would be fun to pull together. I've staid clear of the two suites you mention because they are both made up of love poems. And as such with too much of me, the poet's personality, interjecting. But I get what you mean. Sometimes I think the Green Girl poems could not have been made without all of the other portraits of women I've done. I also think it one of my most fully realized, fleshed out series of poems.

Apr/27/2013, 1:41 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
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Upthread, second post dated 6 Apr, I link to a poem posted elsewhere on the board. I call the poem's model A. Back in the 80s I drew on her case 4 different times. The upthread poem; in a novel, also posted on the board, in which she became the character, Morning Star, the manager of the novel's R and B bar; in a short story in which her devoted husband is trying to deal with the fact she has fallen in love with someone else; and here. What to say? I hope my treatment of her case, here, is tender, even as I know it is clinically sound.


Vanishing Perspective

Every time she crossed the bridge taking her out of the yachting complex in which she lived, she would look out over the water surrounding her. To the one side were the two rivers that met before getting caught in the inlet’s channel that handled them so roughly. Behind her was the lesser river drawing around the bend of her island community, and having come out of the spawning marshland to the north. And in front of her was the causeway connecting the bridge to firmer ground that would take her over more marsh on the way into town. At high tide the saw grass cut into flood water’s reflections like so many razor blades scratching a mirror. And at low tide it was the exposed marsh bottom with its crenulated beds of oysters jutting out from hammocks of black mud.

Sunset was her favorite time to glide between these molten elements of the marsh. It was when the flamingo pink of late tropical light stretched out in tendrils going to violet. and when all of her senses were satisfied in a way she had never really known before. She knew then she had made it, and that, after all of these rearing years of care, she had finally arrived at a place she could quietly call her own. Without feeling guilty for thinking so, for maybe the first time in her life, she could agree with herself that she was happy. And she would drive her car onto the mainland without reaching for a nervous cigarette. Which was all the more reason why, this evening, as she entered beneath the live oaks, the bays, and the sycamores, she couldn’t understand the sense of the implosive thing welling up inside her. Or of the flooding in her veins. For the first time in the three years here she was feeling at odds with herself.

She entered the premature darkness of the trees, and she saw how the light trickled through in thin and liquid streams. But it was a transformational light play that only served to increase her uneasiness a little more. So what was there in this night to disturb her? The old frame houses were mostly the same as they always were. Maybe they looked a little older, but that must be all. Their tin roofs were turning from a silver-gray shade to an evening’s blue, and the fading white fronts were gradually fading on schedule. But still there was something reaching out for her, she began to realize, while passing inside the wooded neighborhood. She almost had a feeling of something pushing up between the palms of her hands on the steering wheel, like a red seed pushing up between the layers of dark loam. And she suddenly had half a notion, to turn her car around and drive back to her island townhouse in the middle of her safe and soothing river. Only, she didn’t know how to respond to a thought she couldn’t name. And so she hunched her shoulders a little further over the steering wheel, and she drove on. Besides, she knew she would soon be emerging from inside these deeper shadows. She would come to the stop light, turn left, and she would be on her way to meet her husband at the restaurant where they were entertaining friends tonight. And it would leave her, this queasy feeling mounting inside her. With a few glasses of wine, she would force the feeling back down, or diffuse it in haziness. But now she was beginning to hear voices, and she really could feel the sprouting seed she had been imagining. Or was it something in the breeze that spoke through the open window of her car? And not voices exactly, but a voice. It’s just that it was echoing a little, making itself larger than she hoped it actually was. It somehow kept in her path as she drove.

It was a voice she recognized as belonging to a woman she met some weeks ago while working on the sailboat she and her husband had just purchased. The woman who belonged to the voice had stopped by their new boat to ask about some particulars concerning the yacht club. She was one of the leisure class sailors that always come in this time of the year as they weave their way through the spring time circuit of harbors and coastal waters leading south. She more or less invited herself aboard, saying her sailing companion had hitched a ride into town for some necessities. And over a mid-day’s gin and tonic, the two women entered into one of those careless conversations, jetsam-like in the way they will bob around, that are met with down on the docks. Where they each had been, and where the itinerant was heading, fairly well met the apparent horizons that described these meetings between boat people. But the woman didn’t have the same salt cured quality she usually found in these people coming into port. It was always something in their complexion, and in the way they bent themselves into an imaginary wind while walking on dry land, that made them look like driftwood some magician had coaxed into taking up the strides of life.

The woman closely resembled her, the driver remembered now. Enough, it seemed to her, so that the two of them could have been sisters. They both had hair that was blonde and almost lemon touched by the sun, and their skin glowed with the warmth of amber light. She noticed, too, the other woman had the same high cheek bones. The risen points that a poet she once read, but whose name she could no longer remember, likened to the twin stars of Venus, evening and morning. It also seemed to her that her new found friend was the same age. Neither young or old, she liked to tell herself, just rounding to full. And the only difference she could see between the two of them was in their eyes. While hers were an earth brown shade flecked green, the other woman’s eyes were the palest color of Mediterranean blue. A blue that had always been impenetrable, for her, in spite of its clear looking. And the voice she first heard then, was hearing again, was maybe what brought her to her present uneasiness. just as it was the same words running now inside her towering grove.

The woman had left off in her floating chatter to look down the vanishing perspective of the dock. She was looking at a young man slowly approaching them. She then said she could never understand why people didn’t do what they want to do. Realizing what the woman was really saying, while following the line of her gaze, her hostess then asked what would happen if what you wanted no longer wanted you? And without looking at her, without even noting the doubting, safe-place judgment in the question, the woman replied that, for herself, it was preferable to have what she wanted once than to keep what she didn’t want forever. She then thanked her hostess for the drink, and she stepped onto the dock to meet the younger man, her companion, in mid-distance.

But how sad, she could remember thinking while she watched the two sea wanderers stepping onto their boat. To live only for what you want, and to be chasing after an uncharted scheme. But if it was so sad, she was thinking again, why was her sister’s voice still chasing after her? And why wasn’t she hearing the other voices that had taught her to accept what she had been given, and to stay with the things that had always admitted her into protected harbors? It must be the interfering influence of these old trees keeping out her more level headed views on how to proceed. But soon she would be out of here too, she assured herself, and away from this whispering voice like an off-shore wind. Do what you want, that railing voice kept insinuating. And she shuddered just a little in the way the whole world shudders when the wind falls off at night. But she has always done what she wanted, she needed to remind herself, when she could finally see the red traffic light, and the other, earth slanted beams of light from the crossing cars in front of her.

She came to the stop light, and she waited to make her turn. Seeing how the city lights pushed up their walls around her, she sighed in relief and straightened her shoulders. She started thinking of her husband, and she was looking forward to his reassuring company. But as the light turned green, and she crossed over into the lane that would lead her into town, she knew she would find no safety from her own tree lined darkness at his side either. Except for maybe the habit of steadily increasing wealth they made of their lives together, and for the devotion in his eyes. And even as a young girl of eighteen she had understood the logic of her choice, and that, with him, she would be able to lead her life unimpeded. And she realized now that her longstanding love for him had always been less a passion than it was a conviction, and that she had done what she had wanted.

That simple desire so long ago pronounced, that desire to be left alone in the only way available to a poor mechanic’s daughter, had brought her to this seaside town in the ripest moment of her life. It also brought her to a chance meeting with a twin sister at whose existence she would never have guessed, and who has probably spent her life wanting all she herself avoided. And tonight she knew that what, some weeks ago, seemed so sad to her, was really the most frightening way to go. The very possibility of entering into any sort of sea swirl, emotional or otherwise, whose sides she couldn’t easily reach, made her quiver and sent a tingling fear up her spine. Better, she thought, to reach the crowded tide pool of a restaurant busy with familiar faces, or meet with the appointments of a day that could keep her even busier, than to follow the lead of her sister. Better also, she was thinking as the restaurant came into view, to root the forest out, and to find a way around its deeper, darker places, if it meant she would have to meet with herself so queerly every time she left home.

And so driving into the parking lot, she saw that her husband’s new sporty convertible was already there. Parking her own car, and turning off the ignition, she stopped for a moment to empty her head of its disquiet. She had always been good at composing herself, at wearing a face that would keep her untouched forever. And she was counting on her automatic self now to do what she needed it to do. Not that anyone would notice, she thought sourly, or see much more than an outline of her. But if it had always been important for her to stay in practice, tonight it was especially important to keep these things hidden. By bending the rear-view mirror to face her, she saw she could easily do this composition thing of hers. By relaxing the muscles in her forehead, she could let her brows arch naturally again. And by releasing the tension around her mouth, she could make of her cheeks their blush tipped peaks. She could safely do all she needed to do except allow her eyes the reflections of their green flecks. What she was feeling there, she knew, would have to stay there. She couldn’t even begin to tamper with the well springs they covered. Which was easy enough to do, given, she still didn’t know what the feeling was they covered. Sadness? But why should she feel sad for being where she wanted to be? And anger? But why should she be angry, since, no one had ever really bothered to complicate her choices? So maybe it was just an uncertainty moving her, an uncertainty she had never known before. Or maybe it was this seed-thing sprouting up inside her, and that she seemed to be conceiving all alone. She would leave it buried where it was hidden, she decided as she opened the car door. If only she could leave it on the car seat where, in due time, it would shrivel and wilt on its own. She didn’t know if she wanted to nourish it in her season, or what she would do with herself if she did.

Apr/27/2013, 4:34 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
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I could have treated with my subject differently. She was abusive and violent. Instead I cut her slack, wanting to get to what made her what she was.

Apr/28/2013, 10:28 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
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I started this thread playfully, really just messing around, at most with a degree of curiousity about what I might find. As I come up with the many portraits curiousity becomes something more.

Yesterday's thread links to a story posted elsewhere on the board and called Cyclical Affections I. It has a companion piece, a poem, that draws on the same model, and also posted elsewhere on the board, called Penny Alhambra. Same woman who also incited the more recent poem, Riff on a Theme. On first read Penny Alhambra is a love poem. Emphatically it is not. Poem takes that stance for the insinuating affect. At its base it is a clinical observation on how some, many, most women have in their interior life a picture perfect caption of the knight, savior, perfect lover whose perfection will fullfill her, saving her from dreariness, even from growing old. And when the man who is suppossed to be her picture perfect lover fails her, proves human, she does a funny thing. Too dangerous to question her internalized image. Best to reject the human being standing in front of her. Poem's penultimate strophe the sting.

Penny Alhambra

"Girl it looks so pretty to me
like it always did;
like a Spanish city to me
when we were kids."
           Dire Straights

It's an old song made new.
And the rain is falling
in Spain this morning
like rain beading down
from off my roof.
Rain coming down to
curtain, falling in place.
And the old Moor's castle
has split its heart, just like
the first time you
stole his heart for a tune.

(And I never saw the sign
of what the words I heard
could say to you.)

Shiny beads and ruby dreams
hidden in a cave.
Flamingo wings and oval face
tucked inside the sky.
I'ld swear he's lost his heart again
beneath ruins and rubble
of an ancient pang.
Like rain falling in this place,
like the shower of your hair
brushing on his legs,
like silver bells you wear
to see him shiver when you're close,
or like the wine red dress
sliding down your sides
when there is no place to go.
Just like that it rains here too,
and there is no place to go.

I've tried my best to forget
how easy came the beginning.
The first night's fire,
the first day's lean to love,
or the gypsy vow drawn
from dark mountain thigh.
And I really have forgotten
except for when it rains;
and then I recall
how supple came the kiss
from off your lips,
how it looked as if
I could walk with you, talk,
believe in the stories
and penny alhambras
we said were still ahead.
Like the treasure chest
of some old Moor
locked inside a cave,
waiting for us in trust.

If I could just dig a hole
and pull the earth over,
I would not need to see
it wasn't me you wanted after all.
But some old Moor
waiting in his cave,
some silky toned knight
to take you out of here.
I wouldn't have to see
your eyes' lost look
when the rain falls and
the wind fingers the door.

('Cause I never once knew
what you heard in those words;
or how the far off castle
could keep you so captive.)

Apr/29/2013, 7:57 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
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dear tere

i've been reading this with a lot of interest - & i'm amazed at the varied portraits - the collection is quite mind boggling - goes to show what fascinating creatures we can be! & perhaps we'd do well to understand more about ourselves through the eyes & brains of men!

your portraits of women also got me thinking
about D.H. Lawrence & his portraits of women in his various very women centric novels - be it Sons & Lovers, Women in Love, Lady Chartteley's Lover etc. etc. his love empathy & understanding of women was such that he could get under their skin - inside their brains - think & feel like them - it was uncanny - among the few men who actually unravelled the mystique of women & kept it intact! i think a man who can do that or be like that is a complete man!

gender not withstanding the brain itself is a fascinating, eternal mystery, an adventure, an experience, exploration - the most fascinating thing about men & women because no one can quite get to the bottom of it & that's so great!

personally i've stopped making judgements & assertations - the exploration is an endless adventure - & that can be seen in your various portraits - thanks so much for posting - it widens the horizon & gets us thinking!

so many people make judgements on surface behaviour or what appears to be - it might be quite far from the truth!

once we had a confrence on Women - gender issues specifically - by women - about 30 of them from all over the world - Dutch women, German , British, Indian women from the cities as well as small towns - all gathered together in Goa for this very important conf. i was merely organizing it - but allowed to sit in their seminars - they had the pshyche of women all wrong! & these were highly educated women with doctrate degrees -just because the women in india largely kept to their defined roles as wives / mothers / sisters etc - they all underestimated the woman's role in the cities as well as villages - without understanding how really powerful they were! their meek & mild exterior belies a very strong almost iron-like interior! i tried to tell them about the various levels / layers that have to be peeled before understanding what the core stuff is made of.

of course crime against women / exploitation / beating / violence etc. does go on everywhere. but i've deviated too far away from the topic - please excuse me! o yes one more thing - after the conference was over - we had a party for them with a live band etc. on the beach - the women had such a blast - irrespective of country / color / size! they got royally drunk! i've never seen even men behave like that! they were rolling on the floor - singing loudly - they dismissed the poor young boys of the band & completely took over - what a blast! i was quite scandalized! first of all i'd never been with so many women at the same time & then to see to what degree they could misbehave & get away with it! if it was men doing all this the hotel would have had to take some action! of course it was all in very good fun!

but appearance you see - they all looked serious / studious etc etc! o yes - one more thing - some other tourists watched with awe - all these strong looking women of substance - & among them was a Belgiun butcher - come all the way for a holiday in goa - he got talking to us about life's philosophy! & how he was a student of life & not any college! but then later i had to ward off his too intent intentions! men!

i have deviated too far away from what i was trying to say in the first place. o yes - in d h lawrence's novel - women in love - there's a mind blowing concept of love - which i have converted into poetry - adding my own drama & lines but the concept is his - & even though this is more about a man than a woman - it's quite fascinating - as love is the common issue & both the genders are motivated by the love factor.

so i will hunt it out & post it
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Death Warrant

(Inspired by D.H.Lawrence - Women in Love)

I’ll see you outside the realm,
in a cold hard place that’s impersonal.
Where no harvest of understanding
is reaped, no terms of endearment
spoken. Where no standard for
measurement exists, no calling
of accounts, no obligation:
where no rules apply.

Where there’s no taking or asking,
no outpouring of the heart, no anguish.
Where nothing melts, nothing mingles,
nothing matters. No clang of mistrust
is heard, nor painful contractions
 of the heart, felt.

Where you don’t know your own self –
stripped naked of reserve & defense.
I’m weary of looking at pretty women,
I want a woman I do not see.
I want to turn blind,
deaf, dumb.

I do not seek an emotional
plane but something quite insane:
swept clean of love. Love gives out
in the last instance, love dissipates,
love fizzles, love is a flat drink –

I want nothing
to do with the senses.
Two isolated stars, balancing
each other in mystical integrity,
beyond the scope of the known:
I’ll see you there…

It is not love I offer,
nor love I want - what I want
is stark & rare – a hard gem
stone, irrevocable
& final.

Best you read the terms
of the contract before signing it –
he handed her a pen, she chewed
on it, smiled: no keeping
of accounts…no calling
to book…?

With one swift move,
she bent her head, wiped out
her existence with a bold flourish,
sealed her death warrant with a kiss,
handed the paper back to him:
‘I’ll see you then’, she turned to leave:
‘where nothing exists’.

Waving the contract like a flag
of peace, he smirked, smug, satisfied,
superior: but everything is…

Last edited by queenfisher, May/3/2013, 3:42 am
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Re: Portraits of Women

What a treat, Queen. Read your two posts last night, home from a long work week, decided to savour what you say before responding. Thank you.

Your comments on Lawrence are apt. I thought about him upthread when I said no man poet has done the kind of portraits I've been after for all these years. I knew he was the partial exception. As you say, he did look to get inside the several key women in his life, starting with his mother who must have been a force in her own right. Kind of like my mother. As for his lovers, probably you've read his collection of poetry to his wife, Frieda, called: Look! We've Come Through. Theirs was indeed a stormy relationship. And I remember something he said about love. "There can only be love between two equals." I don't know of any poet who has looked as closely as he did into the kind of love between a man and a woman that is possible, if barely. A poem from his collection, a favorite of mine:

New Year's Eve

There are only two things now,
The great black night scooped out
And this fireglow.

This fireglow, the core,
And we the two ripe pips
That are held in store.

Listen, the darkness rings
As it circulates around our fire.
Take off your things.

Your shoulders, your bruised throat!
Your breasts, your nakedness!
This fiery coat!

As the darkness flickers and dips,
As the firelight falls and leaps
From you feet to your lips!

What a gorgeous love poem, huh? About your Lawrence inspired poem, what a delightful treat. It is Lawrence's character all right, through and through. Only, the table gets turned on him. It is true what you say about that flag, the peace, the contract held up like a trophy of smugness. That is some fine, insightful writing!

About your conference of women. Queen, I know that scene. It can become like a convocation of Maenads. Years ago I was a bartender, mostly in higher class establishments. But for the few times when a woman customer maybe had a little too much to drink, and decided the man behind the bar would be pleasing to her for the night, I could watch, observe, while remaining damn near invisible. I've seen those women when left to themselves, not answerable to some man or child, or some other boss. I loved watching them while, at the same time, mighty glad I had the barrier bar to keep me safe from the proceedings.

So here is a poem in response to your depiction. It actually was written, first draft, while on duty one night in a cocktail lounge. It was incited by three young women, three of my cocktail servers and waitresses, who were not working that Sunday night, who had been out on the town and had stopped by for last call. They were my friends.


From the pure white fire light
three sisters spring,
somehow clean like newts
whose hides, they say,
never feel the flame.
So ageless, careless,
so self-contained.

Dare I tell them what I've seen?

Seeing the first of the three,
the youngest sister,
seeing how she quarters
the corners of a life
twisting them and turning
until they'll never be the same.
Or the second sister,
the cinnamon colored girl,
who can slice at the skin
with the fish knife,
the blade so filet thin,
to make the invisible incision.
Then the third one,
the last of the lunar
the medial way,
the dark spiral of energy
catching up everything
in earth shadow's swing.

Well, no matter, since,
it's what they sew together
that's actually hardest to hold.
The synergy, the life weave,
the omphalic, ungainly thing.

Had all but forgotten about this small poem.


Last edited by Terreson, May/4/2013, 3:41 pm
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Re: Portraits of Women

Upthread on 16 April I link to a poem posted elsewhere on our board about Salome. She has to be the quintessential dancing girl. I think I've mentioned how it is that what fascinates me about women is the penchant for what I call the selfing drama, a drama that can become ritualized both on the stage and in dance.

Years before writing my Salome poem I wrote a small poem. It may have been when I first got this ritual of dance in which a woman can play-act out herself.

Dancing Girl

Dancing is for the earth,
for white wolves too
nearer the moon,
for the sun,
and for the lucid stars.
But always for the earth.

She is no dumb weight, you see,
nothing inert,
always just this slender side
and waiting, anxious.

And when she's dancing near to,
leaping clear through
her own looping love-tide
through the nimbus of paradise,
through the violet skylight,
while smelling of wet leaves,
body warm like quaking trees
and tucked away secretly
in the thousand tales her
fluid fingers tell:

when she's there, my girl,
just there my girl,
when she's there you'll feel it too.


Last edited by Terreson, May/4/2013, 4:46 pm
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