My friend Kathleen Holliday writes poetry that always appeals to me–witty, lean, wry, poignant. But this one, published this week in the online journal SHARK REEF, really strikes me as apropos, in this year of #metoo, #time’sup, Nasty Women, pussy hats and Nevertheless, She Persisted.
Remember Miss Havisham, the creepy old maid in Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations? Well, Kathleen has given her a much-needed makeover. Enjoy.
I, too, had great expectations. To be or not to be a wife defined my life. My dowry guaranteed a husband, and I would be a mother, helpmeet, nurse. Nothing could be worse than that damning epithet: old maid. Left at the altar – jilted. My bouquet wilting, I drew my veil down over my face and let the yards of lace fall dragging through the dust. Years later, I still hold the knife: May I cut you a slice - a corner piece perhaps, with extra frosting? Don’t mind the spiders and the mice racing in and out, tunnels crumbling behind them. Mr. Dickens, I implore you - change mine to a happy ending. No funeral pyre, no more desires gone up in smoke. Set me in some future time when I could say: never married, never needed to; earned a degree, had a job, a car, a condo in the city, a lover who never strayed. I’d celebrate my singular good fortune with a cake - not Mrs. Beeton’s recipe - no butter, no gluten, no nuts. I’d clear up after with a cordless vac. I’d sweep the ceiling free of spider webs. I’d read a novel in one sitting then I’d take a nap.
[sorry about the formatting of the first line–it resisted fixing.]
OK, you poets and short story writers–let’s hear it. Who else has a revised female archetype to share?