Editor's Note Section
൪uartet - Winter Issue 2023 Volume 3 Issue 1
Mary Ruefle is Right: Menopause is Adolescence All Over Again
and now that I don’t fucking care I will bang on about poetry and my dog and the poor visibility of stars in the smallest city how I long for desert darkness or a trip to anywhere with less light pollution or is it childhood have I forgotten how to breathe? flush with blood rushing at the hour when birds aren’t singing and I can’t sleep I stumble after my dog into a field to seek stars as if I were puberty’s runaway astronaut or a child pining for her lost mother’s love and once again I remember to love how beautifully my dog balances on three legs splashes pink hibiscus with his stream of piss how he swaggers across summer-dry lawn digs a hole all the way to China or is it Venus where old age grows wild like a flamboyant dancer on bare beckoning feet? and Ma is just three months gone it wasn’t a peaceful death even though that’s what we said I sang her to a heaven she didn’t believe in on Facetime in the fist of a hotel room behind shatterproof glass the stars and moon my quarantine guards and after she went they had to sedate me I was that wound up on the eighteenth floor remembering how she lay still like a body in a field remembering when there were more fields remembering 12-year-old Aphrodite turning cartwheels on the grass hands-free only in my dreams am I that weightless.
NOTE: The title of this poem is taken from Mary Ruefle’s “Pause.” The lines “old age grows wild like a flamboyant dancer / on bare beckoning feet” are a reconfiguration of Ruefle’s line “Happy old age is coming on bare feet.”
I had long thought about the connection between menopause and adolescence but didn’t know how to write about it. “Pause,” Mary Ruefle’s meditation on menopause from her collection My Private Property, gave me permission to try. Ruefle’s writing is unsettling and surprising: the way she juxtaposes sadness, fear and humour, combines the small and the large, imbues the ephemera of daily life with universal meaning, splices the familiar with the strange. The young New Zealand poet Hera Lindsay Bird does the same. And I’ve realised this is also what I strive to do in my writing.
I began this poem in 2021 as a meditation on menopause and adolescence. But it wasn’t working. Then, in January 2022, I flew across Australia to be with my dying mother. As soon as I arrived the state authorities ordered me into hotel quarantine. My mother died over the next 12 hours. I watched her death on FaceTime while my brother and sister-in-law were in the room with her. It was hard, humbling and surreal; incredibly sad but there were also moments of laughter and dancing. That experience became the missing piece in the poem. Death, menopause, and adolescence are all states of transformation that we can’t control. The process of writing this poem showed me how they are always there, sitting alongside, echoes of each other; and how much is beyond our control.
Lately I’m reading Tishani Doshi, Victoria Chang, Ocean Vuong, Tracy K. Smith, who show me new ways of relating to grief, loss, memory and letting go; and Australian poets Caitlin Maling, Jill Jones, Rachael Mead, who all write place so well.
൪uartet is an online poetry journal that features the work of women 50 and over.
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