24 May 2014
I am hurrying to get things done because it looks like I’m going to stay at the hospital overnight to take care of my sister. Already I could feel the heavy weight upon my chest. I remember a lot of things, but mostly the sight of my grandfather in his bed, and the horrible, sinking feeling of nothing, as he finally closed his eyes for the last time.
I don’t know how much longer I can keep doing this, forcing myself to go to hospitals, I mean. The amount of self-control I must summon to keep myself from hyperventilating is dwindling as I grow older.
I suppose some wounds hurt forever.
The other day my friends from ModPo started the discussion for A Shawl. It’s a subpoem from the first section of Tender Buttons by Gertrude Stein (“Objects”). A partial phrase went on and on in my mind: A shawl is a hat and hurt and a red balloon.
I said, the imagery of the red balloon has a special significance to me, because one of my favourite short films is Le Ballon Rouge by French filmmaker Albert Lamorisse. It was released sometime in 1956. It’s melancholy, it’s cathartic, it’s a lot of things that gets under my skin. Mostly I am enamoured of the idea that the red balloon has a mind of its own. For a child it is a tale of magic, as an adult I feel it is also about how a personal, private joy is fleeting as it is lasting.
A shawl is a hat and hurt and a red balloon–
I have a particular fondness for shawls despite living where I am. I always think of it as an added layer to myself, a protection from the elements, no matter how flimsy the fabric is. A shawl perhaps is a hat, in the sense that it’s an accessory as well as protection from the sun, the wind, the rain. It adds attitude. The shawl is to me, a feminine article of clothing, while the first image that comes to mind when I think of a hat is a man’s hat. By equating the shawl to the hat, perhaps Stein is implying the equality of genders, from the literal (a woman can wear a hat, and a man can wear a shawl) to the metaphorical (the woman can be strong/hard and a man can be weak/soft) to the philosophical (Does one’s gender dictate what one can do or be? Are our roles dictated by society’s norms? Are we classified according to the things we use or the nouns/pronouns we use for ourselves?)
Hurt as a noun makes me think of a wound. Perhaps a person, a body, can be a wound personified, and it is a shawl wrapped around itself. The wound stays, needs time to heal, is a state of suffering. It is here. And after it fades–well, some wounds last forever.