Where Women Go in Middle Age – by Barbara Black

I will be ringed / At ankle, am a corvid thing.
—from “And Wylde for to Hold,” Lucie Brock-Broido, The Master Letters

This is my bed: sticks and old man’s beard.
What I dared to do as want was wild,
what I willed was wanton quelled.

Here, we drink salt water with no harm,
sustenance in our cells, in our raven nests.
Heart enters in the gaps that cast dissected light
and then—husha, husha—we are still alive.
Whether your heart is here is immaterial.
I left you in the salt flats licking your wounds,
where the slow undercurrent eddies the weaker fish
and fisted tufts of eel grass cut when grasped.

There is the question of food.
We are sustained by small things which catch
between our fingers in the blue above.
Come some time. Come up into the peculiar air.
There’s a milk moon some nights
when we sing open-mouthed—
Don’t recoil. It has its womanly cure.

And if fog draws in we face north
to take a compass point
and south if the sea is calm
or east for a silver dawn.
What is it like?
Like a debt paid with fever
and then waking with wet brow
wind breathes on your face.

And sometimes a whale passes by.

Barbara Black recently won first prize in the 2018 Federation of BC Writers Literary Writes competition. She was also awarded first prize in the 2017 Writers’ Union of Canada Short Prose Competition and was a fiction finalist in The Malahat Review 2017 Open Season Awards and the Don’t Talk To Me About Love 2018 Prose Contest. Other publications include Freefall, The New Quarterly, and Kaaterskill Basin Literary Journal. A recipient of the $1000 first prize in the 2017 Don’t Talk To Me About Love Poetry Contest, her poems have also appeared in Contemporary Verse 2, FreeFall, Forage Poetry, The Dying Dahlia Review, and Poems from Planet Earth. She lives in Victoria, BC, where she enjoys riding the twisties on her new motorcycle. www.barbarablack.ca @barbarablackwriter

Photographer’s Note: I found this poem to be very difficult to sum up in a single image. With its many layers of thoughts, I chose to also layer the photo with various images compiled as one to convey my interpretation. When I read this poem, I visualize a middle-aged woman reflecting on a wilder, carefree youth, complete with past hurt, and finding strength and healing. I see one who has learned how to forge through the mental and physical changes over time and is now sustained by the contentment of a simple, ordinary life. The window represents self-reflection, an introspective window to your soul, so to speak. The black bird silhouette in a full moon represents the logged journey of a mature, intelligent, adaptable woman – traits much like a corvid. The soft layered vignette suggests a mindful reflection on her path in life and the many changes she’s endured. She hears her inner voice and finds the beauty that lies within…and is content.