Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Lopsided (11)

There is a photograph of her, tiny against the mass of happy relatives: Whitsuntide 1957, my mother's and father's engagement, the whole family photographed standing in the park. Everybody smiles, my mother's face lit up like I have never seen it. E. is about five years old.
She stands there, one hand clutching the other one as if she had to keep them from moving, from gesturing uncontrollably; stands there, her little body so tense, like a jack knife about to flick shut; stands there, clutching her hands to her stomach as if it was aching; stands there, pressing her hands to her middle as if about to fold in onto herself. She stands there, as if all she could do was try to contain her pain, as if all she could do was try to hold her aching body in this transfixed form for the eternal moment it took to take the photograph. She stands there with an old face on a child's body.
While some of the women in the photograph wear sleeveless dresses she is dressed as if for winter. The coat with its little round collar is cut like a dress, only that the material is heavier. She wears a sweater or blouse underneath, its edges just visible under the coat sleeves, and a pair of dark trousers, which in the photograph have congealed into a heavy black pedestal for a legless girl. I read pain into the hands clutched over her stomach and into her little serious face that is the only one in the photograph that doesn't show at least the trace of a smile.
She looks straight into the camera.

6 comments:

redredday said...

heartbreaking, Marjojo...
it's like her pain forever captured here, a part of her never to be set free...

'...old face on a child's body', like her name to me. wasn't there a poem you wrote titled Old Edith, and then you changed it? i tried looking for it throughout the blog but couldn't find it. i wondered if that piece was related?

Marjojo said...

Mien, I took the poem out, it's filed under 'needs reworking'. And it wasn't related.
I'm wondering what people mean when they say what I write is heartbreaking or heartfelt - is that good? interesting? on the verge to sentimental or right there? manipulative? is it enough to get the emotion 'right' if the writing/the work is still uninteresting or worse? I'm not just asking you, I'm asking myself and everybody who reads here.

kate fern said...

Hi Marjojo, it's so fascinating to follow you through your thought process over the last month or so. the object that inspired you and the link to your own life/memories from childhood. The pink boots seem so fragile and feminine compared to the found boots and your description of how she was dressed in the photo. As if you are trying to redress the balance. In your writing, the poem and the piece here you seem to be trying to unearth how she must have felt.
best wishes
Kate

Roxana said...

Marjojo, I think your writing is so good that you manage to convey feelings which can be heartbreaking (I agree with Mien) without ever becoming sentimental or manipulative. you create a tension between the intense emotionality of the topic and the subdued, precise quality of the style, like in this description which is objective and as if from a distance: "She wears a sweater or blouse underneath, its edges just visible under the coat sleeves, and a pair of dark trousers, which in the photograph have congealed into a heavy black pedestal for a legless girl". in this way the heartbreaking never turns into melodramatic, on the contrary, it is uplifted to something like grace. and you do the same in your shoe works, you take the heaviness out of them and make them light and transparent as if belonging to spirits - but suppression of heaviness doesn't mean that the pain is lost, it is transmuted into a new way of symbolizing.

Marjojo said...

Well thank you all for bearing with me and my insecurities. In this particular case I think they stem from this project being so personal - I worry that what I do does not resonate beyond itself and my own interest and implications in the subject. Roxana - as ever you are incredibly generous with your praise - thank you so very much.

redredday said...

so much i've been missing! i shall continue with where i left off even though you guys are probably onto something else by now. :).

i think if someone says your work is heartfelt or heartbreaking, it is a genuine feeling/response and definitely not that your work is manipulative. if it is, then the person wouldn't really feel it. it would just be - she's trying to tell us a sad story. yeah? i think so.

i guess something 'heartbreaking' could be on the verge to sentimental. but with your Lopsided series, you being sentimental never even crossed my mind. you have delved way beyond the surface and given us so many layers to explore, how could it just be about some romantic sentiments?

i think sometimes it is enough to get the emotion right even if the writing isn't that great. one can write well but if you don't have a good story, no matter how well you write, it's not going to do anything. but i do believe that if the story/emotion is there, it will guide you to the telling of it. if you don't have that, you just have empty fancy words.