A tribute to some women of Wallingford observed during lunch at the Essential Bakery:
Pretty but faded
Late middle-age settles in
Blonde, blue-eyed beauty
Substantial as stone
But sweet inside, stout and sweet
As your big sister
Mom with little boy
Thin, tired, doing too much
Sit, put your feet up
Calm, leisurely lunch
Sit alone with newspaper
Life’s work done, relax
Small, anxious, scribbling
What’s in the notebook, missy?
Blush – it’s about you.
A “tribute” to women that involves commenting on their appearances? Because women, as always, are there to be looked at and judged…
Although I take your point that people focus too much on the appearance of women, I honestly don’t think if I had found a different subject that I would be less descriptive of its appearance (men, dogs, flowers, etc.). I’m a visual person. 🙂 And the descriptions of the women’s appearances is more reflective of their characters and life experiences rather than simply rating their looks.
Are we getting so PC as a culture that using such beautiful, descriptive words in a creative work to paint a picture of someone’s appearance is now anamatha? How then would you paint a picture in words of a person without using descriptive words such as these? Or is it only PC to describe a person who is perfectly fit, trim, beautiful and clone-like? All other people are not to be described or to be painted in camoflauge lies, never mentioning what they actually look like! What sad novels we would have if we could not describe any person who was not a perfect 10 at a perfect age in perfect clothing. What boring art we would have if only perfect people were painted and sculpted. What lame poetry we would hear if no one was ever anything but golden tan, blonde, blue-eyed and had supermodel bodies. All of the women in this poem to me sound unique, beautiful and lovely in their own individual ways. That they may not be “perfect 10s” makes them even more gorgeous in my opinion. Besides the fact that the poem is not even about how they look, it is about the impression and emotion they evoke – the physical descriptive words being only a secondary contribution to paint the scene.
If you were writing about flowers instead of women, I would expect you to focus on how they look. But that’s the point – these are people not objects, and their substance is based on much more than how they look. And I suspect that if you were writing about men, you would focus more on what they’re doing or what they project, not their hair color or their body shape. But I may be wrong.
I would be much more interested in reading about what the women were doing than how blonde or thin they are. Why not write about their actions? Or even deign to speak to them and write about your interaction with them?
What irked me was calling it a “tribute” to these women but focusing on how they look instead of who they are.
They were all having lunch, as was I. 🙂 I had to eat and run so didn’t have time to go around interviewing everyone (this would have become an article, not poetry). 17 syllables is only enough for a brief sketch, and appearance becomes a shorthand way of conveying more. I believe I would have done the same if my subject had been men, although I didn’t feel as drawn to write about the men in the room.
I love this, Helen! Lovely piece. We all take the world in through our eyes, and make assessments accordingly. Your words always paint vivid pictures of that visual assessment (and your camera!)
I’d enjoy explaining why the brief impressions I got of these 4 women felt worthy of a tribute. Although the quality of my poetry may be questionable, the sentiments are sincere. In my mind, they represent “4 stages of life”:
You could see the blonde had been strikingly beautiful when younger, and, for good or ill, that kind of beauty is a great asset (arguably, being as good-looking is also one for a man). The beauty was fading but the loss was being handled with maturity and grace. What it was being replaced with was an even more valuable wealth of life experience and wisdom.
The “substantial” woman was young, early-, mid-20’s. She was large, almost intimidating looking. But then she flashed her work colleague the sweetest smile, revealing a tender heart. At the height of her physical powers, she was still vulnerable and child-like inside.
The young mother looked worn to the bone. She was literally wearing running clothes and looked like she spent her whole day running from one thing to the next, taking care of her family and all her other commitments. That kind of effort and dedication doesn’t often get recognized. I wanted to tell her to just put her feet up for a minute.
Finally, the older woman clearly looked retired and was eating by herself reading a newspaper, enjoying herself and all her free time. She looked like she had wrapped up a long and satisfying lifetime of service and earned the reward of a relaxing lunch.
Thank you, Helen. Beautiful!
Helen – I thought this was perfect! This from a care worn mom who would be happy that someone even gave a rip to notice I was tired and exhausted with three kids hopping around my feet as I grabbed a scone..
What “irked” me is that Erica totally missed the point.. speaking of judging…