The Long Road from Closed Doors to Here

I come from closed doors.
doors locking me in,
doors locking me out,
doors closed by my mother,
her voice saying “Close that door!”
I come from doors I learned to close on myself,
and doors I was too frightened to open,
“Don’t go out” and “Don’t go in” and “Don’t Move”
never turning a doorknob, rapping knuckles in air.

I come from my mother’s voice saying
“No, you don’t need college”
declaring
“Learn typing and stenography.
That’s a real education.”
I come from fearing what might strike me
if I turned that doorknob.
I come from my father saying nothing.

I come from doors then closed to most women,
a society singing “No! No!” in chorus
Mother’s voice loudest of all,
her piercing descant of
“Typing, Stenography! Typing, Stenography!”
was all I could hear.

Yet, I come from books, newspapers, sermons,
from voices as shrill as my mother’s.
I come from the day when I finally noticed
how many women wait behind closed doors.
Closed doors were not just my personal secret,
Not my singular fate in my singular life.
I come from screaming
“All women are blocked by closed doors.”
I come from joining the banshees
wailing for all women.

I’ve made it my life’s work to fling those doors open,
to find those doors hidden in hallways and alleys,
to turn rusty keys and to oil creaking hinges.
I’ve pounded gates open from inside the fortress
and rattled them wide from without.

Many doors are now open,
but voices still caution…
some doors seem newly closed to me.
When I hear the voice of my aging calling,
she sounds like my mother,
though she wears a young face.

 

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About inkpaintwords

A feminist writer and artist with a penchant for all things French, living in Washington DC. My love of language led me, indirectly, to my pleasure in gardening, drawing and watercolor. It began with a book, a collection of New Yorker garden columns by Katherine White, wife of its founding editor E.B.White. Her enthusiastic appraisal of the literary merit of various garden catalogs led me to collect and keep her favorites as well as to hoard with them some more recently-emerged seed, bulb and seed catalogs. The beautiful catalogs inspired me to little by little turn our entire front lawn (our home had a wooded ravine close behind) into a garden. That grew into a lovely site with two simple arches, a gliding bench on a little sitting patio and modest slate paths winding through beds of shade lovers and whatever plants supposedly in need of full sun that I could manage to coax into colorful healthy bloom. A curiosity about color and color theory emerged as I became keenly interested in impressionist painters; that interest merged in some way with my urge to garden. I acquired more than one book about Monet’s garden and gardens of other impressionist painters, both French and American. One day I picked up a magazine for painters, and found inside an article about a painter I’d known. Among examples of her splendid watercolor paintings was her watercolor of her garden at that time. Suddenly I could think of nothing more exciting than painting my garden. I enrolled in her watercolor class in The Art League in Alexandria, VA. The influence that the collection of Katherine White’s columns about the literary merits of certain garden catalogs has had on my life has come full now. Ink, Paint & Words combines what has become an obsession with drawing and watercolor with my passion for language. Yes, I still garden. A table full of blooming potted plants sits on my apartment patio, backed by an ivy covered fence with park trees behind. My patio, and my larger environment of Washington DC, together provides wonderful vistas for drawing and painting. For a number of years annual trips to France gave me and my companions extravagantly colorful panoramas and charming tableaux for brush and pen. And yes, now I’ve painted in Monet’s gardens several times. But that, as they say, is another story.
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