A Room of Her Own

A Room of Her Own
by Theodora Goss

Every woman must have a room
where she can be completely herself.

Where there are flowers on the table,
roses and lilies in a vase
inherited from her grandmother.
Where there are patches of sunlight and shadow
on the old wooden floor,
and birdsong comes in through the window,
morning and evening. Where the furniture
embraces her at the end of each day, after
she had been everything to everyone,
except to herself.
Where she is at home.

Every woman must have a place
where she can retreat and rest,
like a bird to its nest, or a bear
to its cave in the dark forest.
With lace curtains, and pillows
on the comfortable chair
so she can curl up and dream,
like a snail in its shell, snugly
tucked into herself.

With a shelf of the books
she read as a child,
their covers soft from the repeated touch
of small fingers,
and in the air, the lingering
scent of her mother’s perfume.

Every woman should have
such a room.

(The image is A Favorite Author by Poul Friis Nybo)

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Madeleine in the Bois d’Amour

Madeleine in the Bois d’Amour
(Émile Bernard, 1892)
by Theodora Goss

The girl is picking a flower
from the pink tree.
Her hat is lying on the grass
because it is springtime —
the sun is shining, the forest behind her
is golden with promise.
And her friend in the foreground,
named no doubt something like Isabelle
or Yvette, is wearing a crown
of delicate white flowers. She is already
a queen of the spring, as Madeleine
will be. In her pink dress, with her hair
falling in a golden stream.
This is a dream of love and timelessness,
the two girls existing in an eternity
of afternoon. Someday, perhaps,
they will be married and have children,
responsibilities, dishes to wash.
But not now, or now, or now.
Here, now, it is always spring in Brittany.
The river in the background is flowing
between green hills,
and the white blossoms are floating
above the branches of the pink tree
like clouds.

(The image is Madeleine au Bois d’Amour by Émile Bernard.)

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The Hellebore

The Hellebore
by Theodora Goss

It was January, and yet
the green leaves of the hellebore still stuck
out of last year’s leaf mold, mostly oak
and maple, edged with frost
(there was frost all over the garden),
rising leathery green against the brown,
and underneath I could see the pale cream buds
of what, eventually, would become flowers like bowls
of milk, the color of a wedding gown,
as soft as the cheek of a newborn,
as elegant as one of those engravings
from the Edo period, stylized
and meaning something other than itself:
resiliency, rebirth. The promise
of Spring. But they did not have to mean
anything in particular, as I stood there admiring
their tenacity: I simply wanted them
to continue being themselves, and for myself to learn
a little, just a little, of their endurance.

(The image is a nineteenth-century botanical print.)

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by Theodora Goss

The leaves are falling and falling,
and you are gone.
I lie alone while the sky fills up with darkness
like a cup. Moonlight spills on the white pillow
where you used to lie.
An owl calls from the forest
in which we walked together until the path
was printed with our footsteps, faded now,
and leaves are falling like pieces
of the night.

(The image is Owl on Maple Branch with Full Moon by Utagawa Hiroshige.)

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Furnishing My Grave

Furnishing My Grave
by Theodora Goss

Here are the things I want in my tomb:
a cornstraw broom
so my soul can fly to the moon and back,
a small black stone
polished until it shines like a mirror
to ward away nightmares as I sleep
in my cotton shroud,
dried poppies with seeds rattling in their pods
to wake me when it is time,
a red string braided into one strand
for luck, and a gold ring
that I will wear to meet my new bridegroom,
who will greet me when I have grown
delicate, lean, and white,
with delight, saying my dear,
I have waited for you so long. How beautiful
you are in your wedding gown
of cotton and lace, fit
for a celebration.

These are all I will need,
I believe, in my final bedroom.
Maybe a pillow filled with sage and lavender
to freshen the air,
although I will no longer care
to breathe — there will be so many other
things to do there.

(The image is Distant Thoughts by Janet C. Fisher.)

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A Cold Morning

A Cold Morning
by Theodora Goss

It was the sort of morning
when cold got into my bones.

Outside, the snow would not melt
until March, probably. It lay
on the porch like a thin layer of frosting
topped with powdered sugar
along the arms of the blue chair
and matching bench, dusting
the roof of the bird feeder.
It outlined every branch
of the hawthorn that had once
hidden the parking lot
of the neighboring house,
but was bare now.

As I felt bare, like a landscape
of whites and grays and browns
with streams running through me,
covered with panes of ice
through which you could see water
moving, if you looked closely.

I would not melt either,
I thought, until
the days grew longer,
the sun shone with some warmth
(this pale, cold disk in the sky
must be her widowed sister)
or until, somehow, you returned
to thaw me
with your hands, your breath.
Not until then.

(The image is The Magpie by Claude Monet.)

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Your House

Your House
by Theodora Goss

One day, it may be time
to dismantle your house.

Yes, the one you built so carefully
of brick, remembering the third pig
in the fairy tale, to be storm-proof
and wolf-proof, to stand
for a hundred years. The house
you thought you would retire in,
perhaps die in.

But maybe you found rain
falling from the ceilings, wind
whistling around the rooms,
making the fire gutter. Maybe a hunger
you don’t understand began
gnawing at your belly. Maybe
the house became a coffin out of which
you are desperate to awaken,
like Snow White out of her glass casket.
Maybe the fairy tale ended wrong,
maybe you were, all along,
in the wrong story.
Maybe the house you thought was yours
was not, after all, the one you
could live in.

So you take it apart, brick by brick.
Take down the chimney, take up
the floorboards. Hopefully
someone else will recycle them.
And you set out on your journey,
the one you did not want to make,
the one that is inevitable,
although over the mountains
a storm is brewing,
and the forest, you know,
is filled with wolves.

(The image is Houses at Auvers by Vincent van Gogh.)

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