Where thorns, where roses
PC – pexels
Growing up, I saw the glossy magazine ideal of womanhood. I felt like a lost soul, with a lemon on her tongue, staring at an unknown universe. Hidden behind thick glasses, bad haircut, missing front teeth, one patch over one eye, as it wandered in its lazy orbit, I knew I never wanted to be like that. Later on, when those things were thought to be forgotten, I modelled and went for a time, trying again to fit some label of what a woman was. Engaged to a man, I broke it off and went to a feminist book store and purchased Patricia Highsmith’s novel, The Price of Salt. To me the embodiment of myself as a woman was my hopeful love of another woman. Not just any woman, not all women, but one woman’s ability to love another, truly and unendingly. At first in the queer world, all I met were women trying not to be women or so much like men as to be unrecognizable. I respected their journey but it wasn’t mine. I wanted to meet one woman who loved me as much as I loved her, who was in all things, a woman. People thought lesbianism was dirty, twisted, sick, wrong, cheap and desperate. They saw lesbians as less than and rejects and often made jokes about how; ‘only ugly women become lesbians because no man would want them.’ Other women assumed a lesbian would pounce on them, lasciviously. I was told never to have children in case it was genetic, or I sexually abused them. For a long while I carried those voices with me like stones in my pockets, weighing me down. Their glares of approbation, pity and outright disgust. Eventually I was old enough and tired enough to shrug it off and be myself without fear. It took a long time, years lost never to be reclaimed. It is easy I think, to judge others and tell them how to live, without knowing what it is to live in another’s body. I see myself now, middle-aged with many regrets and missed years, family who doesn’t talk to me because I’m a lesbian, childless, having lived illegally in a country that didn’t recognize same-sex relationships. But I wouldn’t change who I am, because it has always felt right inside to be who I am. I don’t need others to understand or approve, I just need them to let me be. Where thorns, where roses Let me be —that which I am marble in my mouth, embodiment, glass against porcelain — bite down and you’ll break; yet you let it roll, hoping the harmony of color—captured within glass, a world within a world, somewhere you can go when people condemn, climb high into the Faraway Tree, twigs, roses nobodies looking—it doesn’t matter; birds let you ascend, permission to fly soaring then, pearls dotting seascape, once you collected them, strung on hemp wound them around her thin wrist, a token through time, does she possess it still? Now older, heavy breasts from witnessing years infernal drag— no more lithe arabesque-springs, able to somersault backward into waves, you hear as if it were— yesterday, rounding conch shells deprived of saline, containing rainbows the click of your nervous heels on city pavement, walking to assignations quill— she’s bending over you to reach for the phone; powdery perspiration, miniature creases behind ear lobes, silver hung, arches one eyebrow, chewing a pencil, small hands, pursed in concentration, dogeared book what did she read? Ah she read. Madame Bovary*. Glasses. Slightly askew— nervous in gesticulation, things no man would care about, you breathe in gladly —bitten nails, painted purple, tight-shoes, swallow-like shoulders—reddened with admiration, surging from sea; words drowned before spoken— let it out, let it out—be mine. She’s turning away; talking to a tall man, swish, how can you tell her she’s everything? Remember the song playing; Unfinished Symphony,* does anyone sing of your love? Write of your world? Lend you language? Remember the clammy temperature — lemon presse poured evenly, sugar added last, sweet on her lips, laughing, blush, lights lowered— candles placed on tables darkened, a thousand scars of silver fingers entwined through woodland, shy, discovery, magic. Rude catcalls from men getting out of work, luminous shape of her ankles sweat behind her knees when she rubs unconsciously, fountains, ink, moon peal birds in unison overhead, mirror image in water, long necks keening, red foxes crying like murder at midnight — trains slowing in suburbs, her arms reach for you; enclosing, beholding, lips softer than any fruit, words useless, useless. Morning wakens shadow into shape, arabesque, absolution, the prayer of union — her sleep is a well of loneliness*, filigree light plays motion the fall of moments — tightening like murder… She no longer recognizes you when you come in; windows steamed up from unseasonable weather, shaking umbrella, a run in your hose, the honey smell of her perfume, a knife in the slim curve of your heart, where thorns once wound, wild, unstructured. Remember the furl of time lain against her thighs stained violet in dusk, apricots and frankincense? Fragile magnolias captured behind glass, bending toward sun — she shakes her hair — catching years, a slick record played on tired needle, sounds like cream, poured over hope, deafening acuity. Her throat is reddened in your embrace, ships sail without warning — until so far out to sea they lose direction and succumb to her music, her fatalism, boxes of pressed flowers and torn glimpses, she turns away, you see her clearly then, hours lying on her in kaleidoscope as carpets in Morocco, to be haggled over, mint clinging the air, a prayer for us wound around emptied fingers, days, earth, shifting, dug by men with downcast eyes — we stand, almost circular, almost straight, stillness, no birdsong, only rain throw violets, they hit the casket, she is lowered, softly, like a child’s footsteps on lacquer, spilt drink on raw silk, the indelible stain, the price of salt* I rub and rub and rub it doesn’t come out, it stays, permanent and unforgiven like a locket of wild flowers around my neck gifted me once. (*The Well of Loneliness, considered ‘the lesbian bible’ by some, written in the 1800’s by Radcliffe Hall. / The Price of Salt, Patricia Highsmith. / Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert. / Unfinished Symphony, The Righteous Brothers).
Candice Louisa Daquin is a Psychotherapist living in America. She grew up in Europe to an Egyptian mother and French father, as an only child who wanted to be a dragon. Daquin is also Senior Editor for Indie Blu(e) Publishing and Consultant Editor for BlackBird Press and Raw Earth Ink. She is Poetry Editor with The Pine Cone Review and Parcham Literary Magazine and Writer-in-Residence with Borderless Journal. Daquin co-edited two award winning anthologies; SMITTEN (lesbian poetry) and The Kali Project (Indian women’s poetry) alongside many others. Daquin’s own poetry collection Tainted by the Same Counterfeit describes her survival through a serious illness. She remains a fervent campaigner for equality and compassion and loves helping others and drinking chai.