Re-invention and the Everyday
after Mark Halliday's Couples
All the old lesbians in their old import cars.
She's brunette and she's a blond.
The car's a teal wagon unwashed
but as long as it takes them
to the movie they don't care. Most nights
it's dark anyway and their neighbours
have lives of their own. Most of them.
They get their hair dyed in other towns.
To get to the movie on time,
they leave the house too fast,
injuring the brunette's right hip.
Or maybe it's her back.
Her sister's a red-head. Also lesbian.
A couple of nights ago she called to say
she'd grown old overnight.
That happens. Mostly in Sci-Fi.
Woke up with runnels from nostrils to her chins.
Marionette lines. The brunette worries
about looking too much like their mother, who is dead.
That would worry anyone. The blond worries about acting
too much like her father, if you know what I mean.
They leave the house in a light rain
to watch The Reader at nine,
but remember when they get there
that the movie starts at nine-thirty. Parking lot full, first show still on.
The Reader a four-star romance:
adolescent boy, older woman, blond (not that much older).
They get of lot of that, these old lesbians: boy/girl/blond.
Even so, they haven't given up on the world.
But it's not so simple now. For some reason.
She volunteers at the Aids lunchroom.
She's working on her Ph.D.
If only they could reinvent the pronominal. But it's not that simple.
Today the cooking spray wouldn't spray,
the nozzle jammed up, all skittery.
They took it back. They still call themselves lesbians.
She subscribes to Lesbian Connection.
She was a separatist in her twenties.
Pronouns have always been a problem.
So they sat in the parking lot in the rain.
They're not married. But they could be. That's the law.
They used to be afraid of each other.
Other people, like the neighbours, call them lesbians too.
If they call them anything.
After awhile the rain picks up. The narrative too.
Twenty-nine years. The blond had forgotten
her Tilley hat. Or maybe they got married last week.
Maybe they're more afraid of each other than ever.
Maybe her sister is turning into a marionette,
someone else at the controls.
They have their principles. They take it day by day.
They're old women always in danger of disappearing.
Maybe they never got kicked out of paradise,
maybe it was just paved over.
You'd have to speak to them in private.
They don't stay. Or if they do,
they don't see the movie.
There's still a lot to do. Who has time for that?
I've been thinking a lot about what it means to get old, especially as a woman, and more especially as a lesbian, and also why so few poems are written about getting old. So when I read Mark Halliday's poem, Couples, about a straight youth, I thought I would explore his approach as it might pertain to older lesbians. Halliday's poem is written in a self-conscious, ironic style that disrupts the idea of the personal narrative. It's different, of course, for old lesbians, whose personal narratives are less ubiqitous.
About the Author
Chris Fox and Arleen Paré
Arleen Paré lives and writes in Victoria, BC. She is a retired social worker. Her first book, Paper Trail (NeWest, 2007), was nominated for the 2008 Dorothy Livesay Poetry Award and won the 2008 Victoria Butler Book Prize. Her writing has appeared in various journals including The Malahat Review, CVII, and Geist magazine.
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