bold-tender-shy

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Before the Sun Goes Down
Astrid Hjertenæs Andersen

Before the sun goes down

I’ll lay my wildflower hand
in your hand’s white wicker basket

and bold-tender-shy I’ll encircle you
as day and night would encircle
the trees of day and night

and my kisses will live like birds on your shoulder.

Original

Før solen går ned
Før solen går ned
vil jeg legge min markblomsterhånd
i din hånds hvite flettkurv

og freidigblygømt vil jeg omslynge deg
slik som dag og natt omslynger
dag- og natts trær

og mine kyss vil bo som fugler på din skulder.

 

The woman: Smile, nod, stay watertight

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It’s easy to dismiss it all with a casual, if pensive and somewhat distant, “It just never happened for me” when answering people’s intrusive questions about why you’ve never married or had children. I, for one, often flash to multiple interviews with former US Attorney General under President Clinton, Janet Reno, who died in 2016, and all the times she was forced to answer the question about whether or not she had wanted to marry and have a family; not one to be forced into answers on even the toughest of subjects, she seemed always to reply with some version of “it just never happened for me” (referring to herself as an “awkward old maid”). I don’t know if there’s any more to her story – and it doesn’t matter. She was – and is – entitled to that privacy. Aren’t we all? But that constant, awkward, pesky question about what we want, but didn’t get, persists… and always invites Janet Reno into my brain.

But it’s so much more complex than that. People want easy answers, if they are really looking for answers at all. They are not truly curious; they just want to pry a little bit and see if some horror story will come bursting out. If your inner dam of tears doesn’t burst upon their initial inquiry, they move on and start boasting about their progeny and their accomplishments. Possibly even their progeny’s progeny. Because, yes, like it or not, you’re at that age: near the very end of the possibility of fertility, while many contemporaries and peers have moved into happy, if quite early, grandparenthood.

And you, skin shriveling and pruning with age and passage of time, smile calmly, nodding along, feeling the rush of all the suppressed grief hit the buttress again and again. Smile, nod, stay watertight.