The Quiet Woman
by Theodora Goss
They did not notice her: they never do.
She lived there many years and never said
a single thing to shock them. Pleasant, kind,
and inconspicuous as the small gray mouse
whose progeny the house cat sometimes caught,
she gave less to complain about than the creaking
stair, the shutter that always hung awry.
A quiet woman. Yet all those years, her mind
was filled with turbulent seas and the wild cries
of seabirds. From it, stars were visible,
arranged in constellations never seen
elsewhere. While she sat knitting silently,
savage wars were being fought between
soldiers with an orange sun on their breastplates,
tribesmen whose pennants bore a silver moon.
While she drank her evening cup of tea,
she walked on distant hills we never saw
beneath the slopes of mountains peaked with snow,
by waterfalls that roared and foamed, or cliffs
from which one could look down into abysses.
And while she sat and stared into the fire,
she dressed herself in darkness for strange balls
with dancers masked to resemble bears or foxes,
musicians playing invisible instruments,
the ballroom long ago fallen into ruin.
Her partner had no face, but waltzed impeccably.
She lived for years alone in a single room,
and nothing ever happened. Each day passed
until the final day: a respectable life.
Now, I think, dressed in darkness and the armor
of the moon-tribe, she is leading desperate charges,
or sailing a ship with a dragon’s head on its prow,
creating an empire. She will pluck the stars
for her crown, and rule the shores of an inner country
we were never allowed to enter.
(The image is Vilma Reading a Book by T.F. Simon.)