This work grew out of a residency at Herekeke last summer. Cover art by Isabel Winson-Sagan. Red Bird is a beautiful press in Minnesota–I so enjoyed working with them.
a black skirt bright
with red cherries
or soft chiffon
silkscreened with Paris
or New York
on a summer’s day
we made ourselves
To order: https://www.redbirdchapbooks.com/content/lama-mountain
Jane The Widow
I prefer my widows cheery, although God knows I was beyond morose. When I was newly widowed I wept constantly, blowing my nose, rubbing my eyes. When asked how I was, I responded “I’m fucked,” over and over. However, even at the start, I craved some role models of widows who hadn’t completely collapsed, who had some kickback to life. I did find them—and found one inside myself—but it took a while. I wish that all those decades ago I’d been able to watch “Jane The Virgin.”
Usually television doesn’t have a profound effect on me, and “Jane” was no exception. Funny, cute, full of great Latina actresses, and some meta riffs on telenovelas and narrative—yes. But not much more. Until, to my shock, Jane’s new husband Michael DIES. Leaving Jane a widow. And in a very clever move, three years passes in the middle of a season. So we don’t have to watch Jane grieve. We get to see her recover.
“You’re in a long term relationship with grief—but it has to evolve.” That’s what Jane’s abuela tells her. Abuela herself is a widow—something we know but don’t focus on. I felt like Abuela was talking to me. I wrote it down.
Grief, despite our investigations, our systems, seems to have a life of its own. It’s like love or hate—it doesn’t yield to the purely rational. Sometimes I feel a door open and find myself prostrate sobbing on the floor—for my first husband, for those I lost to AIDS, for a high school suicide. These griefs have not gone…anywhere. Not away, not under. They are here, as fresh as they were when I preserved them like rose petals. They are part of me.
The one thing I still can’t stand is other people having opinions on what a widow can and can’t do. Remember Scarlet O’Hara, widowed, dancing with Rhett Butler beneath disapproving eyes? Even today there is some kind of allowable social opinion on when widows can date, or love again. Jane The Virgin nicely sidesteps this with a decorous passage of time. But, shocking as this may seem in our buttinsky world, what a widow does is no one’s business but her own. Smoke cigarettes, lie in bed eating ice cream, marry again, sell your house, join the Peace Corps—the truth is, you get to do what you want as a widow. And that is because—get this—grief does not make us stupid.
It may make other’s uncomfortable. But so what. For those of us who grieve…in our own ways, it makes us wise.
August 4, 5, 6 2017
10:30 AM to 7:00 PM
Show continues by appointment only
August 7 to 31
416 Alta Vista
Santa Fe, New Mexico 87505
It is not the world’s job to see us. It is our job to see the world.
On a pleasantly rainy day this July I had two disparate experiences. I read about how older women don’t feel seen and I got “hey babied” in my neighborhood.
Not feeling seen is of course a sad state. It can derive from—and lead to—depression. So what do we mean when we say we don’t feel seen?
On the most superficial level, it might mean that for women being young and conventionally attractive was once a source of esteem that has now faded. You can deconstruct this however you want, but for me the bottom line is I’ve never felt safe entrusting my sense of self to the passing glances of strangers. I was amused to get “hey babied” although let me confess—the dudes in question were pretty antique. However, if this never happens again, I’m not going to care.
And that’s because being old is not making me more insecure. And also, although many men are very important to me as spouse, family members, and friends—I don’t care about what “men” in general think of me.
OK, I’ll admit it. I don’t hate being old. And don’t tell me—you’re not old. Because I patently am. I’m old enough for social security. I’m only seven years younger than my maternal grandmother was when she died at what was then considered a ripe old age. I’ve been widowed. I can remember dial telephones. Trust me on this, when I feel the amazingly rich weight of my own life experience I do not feel young.
Probably in part I feel seen because I’m loud and noisy, I wear bright patterns and colors, and I often laugh hysterically in public…I’m sure people look at me and think “I wish that woman in polka dots would keep it down!”
On a deeper note, I think one reason I feel seen is that I’m connected to my community. I run into people I know all day in my smallish city. Does this mean everyone know me for who I really am? No, that is reserved for an intimate few. And that’s what I prefer.
Another thing—maybe the most important—I see myself. I take off all my clothes and dance around to loud music. (Anyone watching might think—I wish that naked woman would keep it DOWN). I drape myself with scarves and look deeply into my own eyes. I try on different outfits and shake (aspiring to be like Tina Turner in her sixties) in the mirror. I do not ask myself to enumerate my physical flaws, my many ailments. Instead, I say—looking good, Mir. I’m not in denial. I don’t think I’m young. I’m just happy to be alive and able to dance and I want to share that with someone special. Myself.