Sue Whitmore

The Fat Lady Sings. . .


Born out of loneliness came broody thoughts
egg-shaped - soft as downy feather;
I gave birth to them - and to myself -
all born together.

But when the eggs had hatched and fledged
and the nest cleared,
why, then it seemed
half my life had disappeared;

You are quite compromised, no credibility at all;
you made your own bed, don't make a fuss,
you should have chosen children of the head, like us,
priests of paint, clay and pen
who kept ourselves for art - like men;
we avoided men who needed mothering
and other displacements not worth the bothering.

Oh yes, they avoided all that mess -
keeping a thousand things up in the air,
not for them art and infant care to juggle;
Ifantasised escape - studios, success,
sometimes perversely savouring the struggle.

Fortress or prison? The walls of fond parenting are high,
built of responsibilities, symbiotic needs -
of nappies, schools, mouths and minds to feed.
In the long grass of love this tender trap will get you;
too late to pull away, it will not let you.
Behind this compulsion's mask of beauty are teeth
barbed with guilt and duty
and so you stay -
or gnaw off your own leg to get away.

But what about those queen ant's wings?
were they bitten off - scrapped along with other things?
Oh no - at every opportunity I kept them strong.

For what - the second half - the side show of old age
with all that stuff that flesh is heir to,
shrinking, wrinkling, sagging, running down
and grey hair - to dye or not to dye? blond or brown?
the dull, coffin-lid thud of options shutting?

Accept all that graciously? I do not care to.
I still have drive, ambition, wit and rage,
now more purposeful, more urgent -
and not so prone to youthful strutting.

From inside this - what is it - chrysalis? gilded cage?
this mummy-case of mummydom, so revered,
something is emergent,
in middle age a wiser monster has appeared -
I am a third time born;
the condemned woman isn't yet hung,
the fat lady hasn't yet sung


But oh, the sceptics were right to spot the fraud.
Protest too much ? Of course I did.
I chose to satisfy the appetite of the womb
but truth would tell how often I was bored.

On this female path, (and thus despised or idolised),
I tried for compromise - a compromise that promised much,
best of both worlds and such and such -
but found I was - well - compromised.

Had I feared that madness lay
down that driven, tormented,
less biologically determined way?
Had I locked out that other creature?

Through the glass I can make out her essence,
waiting, uncomforted and stark,
stripped, alone and mortal in the dark
senses smothered in its coal black snow
by awe made mad and bad and dangerous to know.

She has no love, no others,
rejects cosy consolation as banality;
mothering as an understudy's part;
self-definition was her only reality
for she is solely predicated by her art.