She's gone. She was my love, my moon or more. She chased the chickens out and swept the floor, Emptied the bones and nut-shells after feasts, And smacked the kids for leaping up like beasts. Now morbid boys have grown past awkwardness; The girls let stitches out, dress after dress, To free some swinging body's riding space And form the new child's unimagined face. Yet, while vague nephews, spitting on their curls, Amble to pester winds and blowsy girls, What arm will sweep the room, what hand will hold New snow against the milk to keep it cold? And who will dump the garbage, feed the hogs, And pitch the chickens' heads to hungry dogs? Not my lost hag who dumbly bore such pain: Childbirth at midnight sassafras and rain. New snow against her face and hands she bore, And now lies down, who was my moon or more.
More on this later...
I got this poem in my inbox from Garrison Keilor's "The Writer's Almanac." I read it and immediately thought of The Seal Wife. The entire poem has a feel of loss, but the loss of the relationship seems only to be subtext. The greater part of the complaint is over who will care for him. Who will do all of the work she did that now lies undone? He even goes so far as to blunt refer to her as his "lost hag." Not the most endearing term.
I've been puzzling over the heroine's journey, lately. It seems so different than the hero's journey, and yet there doesn't seem to be any sort of consensus on the fate of women. In many stories they end up old crones, wicked witches, or jealous queens, and in others they destroy their relationship with their husband and flee to a kind of solitude. What does a fully realized heroine look like? I'm not sure I can find that answer in fairy tales or mythology. We see so many men in stories able to reach self-actualization. They come full circle and become whole as men, but women seem to have a different cycle or cycles to fulfill.
The question I am asking isn't simply a story question. As a woman I want to be able to understand the phases of my life, and how I am called to change through each one. While I don't believe that story can offer us complete understanding, it can offer us a direction to look into- a path that we may explore. Stories evolve through the collective wisdom of their tellers, as they are passed on gaining bits of truth and wisdom like some cosmic oyster of human truth.
And yet, stories seem to leave women only the option of becoming undesirable and used up- missed mostly for the work they leave undone. Perhaps I need a different perspective.