There was a women’s poetry reading to support the local women’s shelter. The poems celebrated strength and voice against shame and silence. My friend, the poet, who read last year, was not invited back to read this year. (An oversight, maybe?) She still wanted to attend to hear her friends read, but it was an embarrassing situation. I went with her. In this past year, I’ve had friends who “got my back” when awkwardly going out in public. For once, I got someone else’s back. I was quietly chuffed when audience members approached her, wondering why she wasn’t on stage, and sharing that her poems were the most memorable from last year. She needed to hear that.
One of the poets read about her husband’s suicide. She was, funny and quirky and smart, and she just read those poems out loud in front of the town. I had no idea there were fellow travelers here. I got to see a woman explain that her husband committed suicide, and I pretty much just felt bad for her. Now I know how it comes across. I needed to hear someone say that.
I brought my daughter, and she heard it, too. With the subject broached, I talked about it on the way home. I inelegantly said it felt good to hear there was someone else out there, and the poet just talked about it, as a matter of fact, and with honesty. “Well, I can’t say I feel good about that,”she countered, “it’s not a good thing that it happens to anybody.” So precise with language, my children are. So right these children are. I conceded that none of this is good, but I was….heartened to know that we’re not the only ones.
Daughter contributed to the cause by buying a bookmark that had an image of a hawk’s claw. Since finding that hawk under our car, she (a) peeks under the car every time it snows and (b) searches for the hawk in the yard and the neighborhood. The hawk is her animal of this spring. She laughed, “and yours is a rat,” implying that her spirit animal ate my spirit animal. Let’s hope so.
Silence and shame are produced in all sorts of ways. We can shame one another without meaning to. Sometimes we help each other break the silence without realizing how much we have given.