we knew they lived
those faceless voiceless women
up in that small room
In the book, Write Like Issa: A Haiku How-To, writer David G Lanoue says, “Write with compassion yet understatement. Leave space for your readers’ minds to wander and wonder.” In the verse above there should be ample room for you to wonder and surmise — just as I have over the years.
Putting together my collection of haiku verses now, I often wonder if I should stick with Mr Lanoue’s advice, or share a few lines of back-story that led to my writing this verse? What do you think? Do you like to read the story behind the story or verse?
Here’s the story behind the verse above:
Back in the fall of 1981 we bought a small 1½-storey house and moved into a small hamlet in SW Ontario. The neighbours were friendly and different ones dropped by to visit after we were settled; through their accounts we learned quite a few details about our home’s history. One elderly couple, Jim & Jean, enjoyed visiting and had lived in the village for years. Since they’d known a number our home’s past owners, we found out some interesting details from them.
For example, Jean talked about the school teacher and his wife who lived in our place years back (I’m thinking late 1950s) and how they’d visit this couple from time to time. I’m guessing the teacher & wife were middle-aged and had no children still at home, but his aged mother and sister lived with them.
Jean told me, “We never saw them. His mother and sister stayed upstairs in their room whenever we were there. They never came down when the teacher had company — we never knew why.”
I sometimes think of those two women and wonder, why did they live as recluses in that tiny bedroom? Did they have embarrassing health issues; did the mother have dementia and couldn’t be left alone? Did they refuse to visit with the locals; were they snobby, shy, or did they think “it isn’t our place”? Were they not allowed to join the company, ordered to stay upstairs and not “interfere”? How free were they otherwise? My mind is very free to wander and wonder about that situation.
I’ll never know the answer, but since today is International Women’s Day, this is the perfect opportunity to appreciate and express my thanks for the many options women have now.