Thin-skinned

fleur fill border
This poem speaks to those of us who are entering or living the years of the crone, who are hoping with our own lives to change the modern perception of the crone (the Cailleach) from mean and sinister old hag to…crone as wise woman…crone as keeper of the mysteries…crone as the final flowering of wisdom, freedom, and personal potential…and finally, crone as a gateway to the infinite.

A time, perhaps, when our souls can finally shine through the thin skin of our physical being.


Weathering, by Fleur Adcock

My face catches the wind
from the snow line
and flushes with a flush
that will never wholly settle.
Well, that was a metropolitan vanity,
wanting to look young forever, to pass.
I was never a pre-Raphaelite beauty
and only pretty enough to be seen
with a man who wanted to be seen
with a passable woman.

But now that I am in love
with a place that doesn’t care
how I look and if I am happy,
happy is how I look and that’s all.
My hair will grow grey in any case,
my nails chip and flake,
my waist thicken, and the years
work all their usual changes.

If my face is to be weather beaten as well,
it’s little enough lost
for a year among the lakes and vales
where simply to look out my window
at the high pass makes me indifferent to mirrors
and to what my soul may wear
over its new complexion.

Namaste,
Susannah

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12 Comments

    1. You know, I’m not a huge reader of poetry, but there are some female poets whose writing touches a place in me that prose doesn’t come close to hitting. This is one of those poets, and one of those poems. Marge Piercy’s book of poetry, “The Moon is Always Female” has a few that do it too. Marge Piercy is a far more “raw” writer than Fleur Adcock, but I enjoy both styles equally. Thanks for writing, and I’m glad you like my posts. I really like doing them!

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    1. Thank you; I love it too. Women authors and poets have moved into my line of sight in the past year, and I’m overwhelmed at the depth and wisdom of their writing. I’m a big fan of my gender. I think we’re amazing!

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  1. Not our gender, but this poem reminded me of this:

    Sonnet 77

    Thy glass will show thee how thy beauties wear,
    Thy dial how thy precious minutes waste;
    The vacant leaves thy mind’s impr’nt will bear,
    And of this book this learning mayst thou taste:
    The wrinkles which thy glass will truly show
    Of mouthèd graves will give thee memory;
    Thou by thy dial’s shady stealth mayst know
    Time’s thievish progress to eternity.
    Look what thy memory cannot contain,
    Commit to these waste blanks, and thou shalt find
    Those children nursed, delivered from thy brain,
    To take a new acquaintance of thy mind.
      These offices, so oft as thou wilt look,
      Shall profit thee and much enrich thy book.

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    1. It’s pretty hard to argue with The Bard. However, I’m one of those people whose glass is half full rather than half empty a good deal of the time, and I like the flavour of Adcock’s poetry, the way she tosses off the physical reminders of aging as she moves into and embraces her age and loss of beauty in her joy of something beyond herself, rather than looking at it as “Time’s thievish progress to eternity.”

      But then, given the rather short lives of folks in Shakespeare’s time (I read somewhere that the average life expectancy in the Elizabethan age was about 35 years!!), I guess I’d be pessimistic too. 🙂

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      1. That “average life expectancy” is very messed up. It’s that low because so many people died at birth and in childhood. If a person survived all that, his/her life expectancy was the same as ours.

        Most people with whom I share that poem read it as you have. The way I see it is that yeah, when we look in the mirror we see ourselves aging and our beauty diminishing (some would say changing but I’ve watched a lot of flowers in my life and after a certain point, the bees don’t come around) the answer is the open book beside us (our book) and the stories and rich depth of perception that we buy with our beauty. And that book is far more enduring than our momentary beauty — or life, like your memoir! I read it as an argument for valuing and cherishing the experiences of life and writing about them.

        I don’t even see “Time’s thievish progress to eternity” as a negative statement — it is doing that. It makes me think of Whitman’s line in “O Me! O Life” where he says, “The powerful play goes on, and you can contribute a verse.” Whitman is right; a verse is all our we have time for before our “brief candle” has burned out.

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      2. I wondered about that life expectancy thing when I read it way back when, but I didn’t bother to think it through. Of course, there would be huge numbers of childbirth and childhood deaths due to the complete lack of awareness at that time about what caused infections and illness. Thanks for reminding me.

        Thanks too, for the interesting viewpoint on Sonnet 77; especially the way you describe “…the stories and rich depth of perception THAT WE BUY WITH OUR BEAUTY.” What a stark–and truly elegant–way of looking at it. It’s a bit closer to the bone than the way in which I normally perceive the world, but oh my, how perfectly succinct it is.

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      3. We have good conversations, Susannah! There was a guy I was interested in (it was mutual) when I was in my late 40s. He was in his late 30s. He said, “Do you have a picture of yourself in your 20s? I bet you were beautiful.” At that moment (and forever after) I despised him. I thought, “This PERSON and this FACE have cost me all my life, you f(*&er.”

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      4. Hah! Ignorant sod!

        Personally, I think you’re beautiful now (and yes, you were beautiful when you were younger too, from the pics I’ve seen). That long white hair is simply glorious!!!! But it’s always the person inside who catches my interest. After all, our faces and bodies are just what we happen to be wearing in this lifetime–although a visitor to our planet today could be forgiven for glancing at our magazines and t.v. ads and thinking that physical beauty and narcissism are the only thing we humans value. It’s reached the point where I’ve completely had it with advertising of any kind, so reading is my go-to amusement these days (along with knitting, drawing, writing, etc. etc…..who needs t.v.)

        And yes, our conversations are always interesting. I look forward to them.

        🙂

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