I am always bemused by the acknowledgements pages in any great works published by men*, with that little throwaway remark: ‘Thank you to my wonderful/beautiful/lovely/take your pick wife, without whose support this would not have been possible.’ And perhaps some of them mean it, perhaps in some cases it’s just lip service, but how many are really aware of all it entails, being supportive to a genius? I wonder how many of these wives struggled with their own monsters, black dogs and depressions. Vivien Eliot, this one’s for you!
Thank You to My Wife for All Her Wonderful Support
The slit of her smile
split the face in dozens of jagged shards
each piercing each striking
at simulacrum of heart.
The effort of small talk
all weather-beaten smooth
crashed against the deserted, rambling beaches of her mind.
In the morning she could will the robot limbs to stretch
the hands to prepare, the voice to chide,
even goodbye kiss when called upon.
But bland pop on the radio did not drive
enemies away and back at the house
she would freeze into a lump
huddled in safety of naughty corner.
Calls postponed, duties not done till urgency bites
and school runs once more.
Sit still in self-embrace
and breathe and swallow
breathe some more
Take tiny step after baby step –
Don’t glance below! Don’t look ahead! –
soap sud slippery her grip
she braces, she faces, interlaces
then that sharp fell swing
where all she can do is hate.
But not one word passes the slit
which passes for a smile
on what passes for the face of the supportive wife.
* Increasingly, women too will thank their supportive spouses, but there is a difference in the level of ‘taking for granted-ness’.