old heroines - julia alvarez
Where do old heroines go when their novels are over?
If she's not married off, she gets on a train
and rides to the city to see her old lover -
though it's clear from the ending he has broken things off.
And she is racing through Russia or Iowa
she looks out the window, the dark fields rolling by,
or maybe the night sky grainy with stars. . . .
She sees her reflection, a face still dramatic,
pale and young in that afterward light.
She wonders, how long must I still play this part?

Outside in those farmhouses bathed in pale porchlight,
the unstoried women who formed the mere backdrop
to her beauty, betrayals, drift off to sleep
in the arms of their husbands, dreaming themselves
in elegant furs racing towards Moscow, Chicago,
some heady excitement! They wake with a start,
turning on lights to make sure of their status -
brief lights she beholds from her jailhouse train
as she rides on forever in the haze of brights dreams
which her sorrows inspire in these happier women.

i forgot how stephanie and i started talking, only it was 3:30 a.m. and aileen was there. the vincent and louis house had just finished a successful fundraising party: $58.75 in just four hours of somewhat stop and go music. one song skipped so much that sheila, bill and i played freezedance. "what kinna download?" we joked.

stephanie herself volunteered she was an english major, but just this semester decided to double major in catholic studies as well. i'm suprised by about the city i knew i could tell her - how she'd like to write fiction, but she need some thing for support, so i mentioned magazines, because "books" let you write longer stories, but that most books around here are trade industry that can be snorecity but quirky when you come to think that people take center, run the industry. i'm suprised she didn't interrupt me.

when i refocus and tell her poetry magazine is based in chicago, she grabbed my knee and went, i want to do poetry as well, and i nodded and grinned. and then she said no one around school could tell her what to do, where to go, and i told her - and aileen, coz she was listening - that she should give her teachers a chance. choose one you consider engrossing, because they are, all of them, nice and eager to share knowledge they've devoted their lives learning, and trust me, they have time, if only a couple hours a month, to set aside for you.

but i think i should have told her that when faced with choices, no one should ever tell you what to do. then again, i think i shouldn't. often i wish someone would just tell me what to do.

stephanie said she needed to write her single page analysis of a poem and it was 5 a.m., i don't think i was sleepy, so i said let's see. aileen stayed quiet. i forgot what happened in that half minute in between. stephanie came back with her book and she borrowed aileen's computer, and aileen said of course. the two moved the piano bench aside and stephanie cradled aileen's computer on her lap.

why of all writers, alvarez? i mewed, read it twice, and sonia joined us. she liked to link the poem to alvarez's real life, but i liked to look at the poem as is. it was easy because i haven't read much of alvarez, just one book. we zoomed into that both women in the poem broke conventional roles - one somehow got disengaged and free, the other stayed locked but dreaming. i failed to mention whether either of them had choices other than lament.

we looked for metaphors and analogies and agreed there were no similies. we ended wondering if all people are equal why were women given rules especially - it didn't occur to me, at 7 a.m., whether we'd miss those rules in case they were taken from us suddenly.
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