Professor J's Place

04 April, 2012

Invisible Woman

“She is survived by her three sons and her partner of thirty years,” the papers said.
Sometimes the braver periodicals even named her, this partner.
Did they own a bakery together?             A curio shop?
Partner is too small a word          pedestrian          business-like.

I used to like the word.
And what shall we call ourselves?
Lover at best is dated
Girlfriend dismissive, trivial
We are life partners, I would whisper in her ear,

For this lesbian poet who risked life and art and all to name her love
This warrior who did not fear the wrath of publishers or critics or scholars or college administrators
To hear it now, and often without a name or gender, evokes     
the closet

Undrape! You are not guilty to me, nor stale, nor discarded*
Nor invisible.

For  Adrienne Rich and Michelle Cliff
*Walt Whitman, "Song of Myself"

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Anonymous Kelly said...

I've never had to experience this, but your words about it brought tears to my eyes. Thanks for taking the risk, it means something even for those of us who have been lucky enough to always have a word within easy reach for their other. I'm so happy to be bringing my children up into a world that is finally relearning to undrape. I want them to love and love and love and never to be shamed for it, regardless.

April 4, 2012 at 12:35 PM  
Blogger The Other Laura said...

This is wonderful! Powerful. Fierce.

April 4, 2012 at 2:04 PM  
Blogger Karen Jensen said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

April 4, 2012 at 2:08 PM  
Blogger Karen Jensen said...

Thank you, Kelly. I was a little nervous about posting because I know not everyone has to worry about naming the other. And I didn't want to sound like I felt sorry for myself. I DID, however, feel fierce! Thank you so much Laura! That compliment means so much coming from a poet I respect.

April 4, 2012 at 2:11 PM  
Blogger Cheri @ Blog This Mom!® said...

Karen (responding to your comment): Not everyone, but some. Everyone has worries about acceptance, no matter how self-assured they may seem. No matter even what they say or write everyone worries. Sucks ass that some people have to worry about naming who they love. Love. We are talking about love. Naming love. You didn't sound sorry. You sounded fierce, because you are fierce in this, in this love.

Did I just make any sense at all?

Anyway, I love this post. I'm glad you were courageous and fierce and posted it. Love.

April 4, 2012 at 3:17 PM  
Blogger Karen Jensen said...

Oh, Cheri. You are one of my favorite imaginary wives.

April 4, 2012 at 4:10 PM  
Anonymous She Curmudgeon said...

What Cheri said. Plus, I just love the structure/unstructure of it, the flow, the word choice, all of it. As a poem, and as emotion.

April 4, 2012 at 8:44 PM  
Blogger Karen Jensen said...

Thank you, She Curmudgeon. I had a long break from writing poetry--quite rusty I am. So you make me feel wonderful--like writing another!

April 5, 2012 at 8:56 AM  
Blogger Bluebirdblvd said...

My pixie wishes did come true! You DID write another poem! (How did I come late to this party?)

In L.A., everyone referred to their long-term partners as partners— everyone. I spent two years thinking about the restrictions of this language and the inclusiveness of it.

And the strangeness. I felt as though I was should get ready to ride a horse or start a business with my own partner.

But, today, I'm thinking about the word partner— and spouse and wife and lover— in a new way because of your poem. Your beautiful poem. Love this so much!

April 12, 2012 at 11:27 AM  
Blogger Karen Jensen said...

Oh, thank you, my avian friend. You are kind to encourage my poems.

And I'm with you. In a way, there is no term that is not weird in some way. It would feel bizarre to say "wife." As if I were in drag and playing a role. And so, if I ever get so lucky as to have a person in my life to love in that manner again, I think I will just introduce her as my (insertnamehere).

April 12, 2012 at 6:32 PM  
Anonymous ShimonZ said...

partner can be a very strong word... and there are partners in life... I don't know if the tag matters that much, or the degree.

May 8, 2012 at 11:51 AM  
Blogger Karen Jensen said...

Thank you for commenting, ShimonZ. I agree--the label isn't that important. It was just the reaction of the moment.

May 13, 2012 at 7:49 PM  

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