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’.
23 thoughts on “About Supportive Spouses”
Sigh. And, yes, I’ll call my spouse the one who stood alongside and pushed and encouraged and waved the flag. And, no, he’s never a doormat, nor ever really depressed — but then, neither am I (for very long, that is). Perhaps we, the women looking in, can write to the trapped, for them, and so help each other to follow our dream.
Exactly: it’s about dreaming and growing together, and not flourishing at the expense of others’ sacrifices. Sadly, there are so many examples of the opposite in art and literature (and not just of wives, either: Dorothy Wordsworth?)
This is so beautiful–and not the the real life role the wife plays here–but how you have captured, so well, what goes on behind the “genius-man.” You are so right, the “supportive wife” has her own things to contend with, and while the genius-man is celebrated, she “would freeze into a lump
huddled in safety of naughty corner.”
I have never mentioned this is my own blog, but I wanted to tell you, since you have written this poem. I was once married to a man, a “genius-man” who wanted people to revolve around him, and very much this happened, and very much I was taken for granted. I played the role of the supportive wife, but inside I was not. Hence, the divorce. There’s more to that story than just that, of course, but just wanted to say, I can really relate to this. Thanks for sharing.
I am very touched that you are sharing this with me. There are some giant oaks who won’t let anything grow in their shadow. And I am glad that you seem to have found someone more willing to let you blossom as well.
Wow. First of all … a powerful poem penned by you, Marina, and an important topic. And to the projectwhitespace lady I take my hat off to you. I understand so much about what you are saying here. I also have issues with being married to man who has a high-profile career, and since not two people in a marriage should be high flyers (when you have many children), mine is simply marginalized (out of necessity). Having said that though, my husband is very supportive of the household and the children and he is always willing to hear me read all the stuff I write: poems, stories, articles, whatever, and his critique I value the most, because it is so very honest in an unusual way (I can’t describe it), but then again he gets my devoted support for his work. Oh dear … Marina, your blog always makes me feel so at home … that I am rambling my own personal stuff here.
Just want to finish on the note that Stephen King values his wife highly in his work. He calls her his primary reader. He writes to make her happy. When he has completed a manuscript, he watches her read it, to see her face and how she reacts to what he writes. Isn’t that amazing?
Oh Marina, he totally lets me blossom! 🙂
Oooo, this is good. The slit of smile, “all weather-beaten smooth
crashed against the deserted, rambling beaches of her mind.” Ouch, ouch. I feel it for sure. Well done!
I come from a long line of farming stock whose motto could have been: ‘We just keep on carrying on, never grumble.’ So I sometimes feel I have to grumble for them! Thank you for your comment.
And do they suggest that if they were single they would not have been able to write a book? Cripes! I’ll need to find a man or I’ll NEVER be successful then… 😉
Seriously, great poem. I love the contained teeth-gritting of:
” Sit still in self-embrace
and breathe and swallow
breathe some more”
No, you’re a woman, you are able to multitask, right? Write a book and do the laundry, things like that… 😉
Hmmmm… I dunno, my excuse for not doing the chores is always “but I was writing…” 😉
So true and so well written. Thanks.
I have a ‘thank you to my wonderful husband’ in the acknowledgements page of my own (first) novel, so I read this with a wry smile and much enjoyment. In my case (or should that be in his case), it is very well earned. My husband does so much I get embarrased talking about him to friends: he cooks all the dinners, writes the list, shops, shares as much of the housework as I’ll let him, takes more than his fair share of childcare considering he has two jobs outside the home and I have a part time one from home (and my writing, of course). Aside from all that (and I do firmly believe that all men should take on such a partnership role), he is truly supportive, always interested, never diminishing or too busy to listen. He’s just happy when I’m happy. What more could you wish for?
But, hey – I’m a fantastic wife, so I deserve it!
Oooh, Jo, keep him secret or everyone will want one like him! What a treasure! And of course you deserve it…
I’m semi-dating a singer/songwriter, and even though she’s not famous, I still find it difficult. I go with her to her gigs, and after she plays (and I’ll admit, she’s damn good), I watch people crowd around her, just desperate to be in her presence. Forget that I’m a little envious of her actual talent; the toughest part of it is when I can tell that people only talk to me because they know I’m dating someone important.
If I hear one more person tell me, “Your friend is really talented!”, I might lose it.
Let me tell you, it gets worse: when they don’t even ask you what you do anymore, because you are so obviously incapable of doing anything remotely interesting…
Thanks for sharing: this seems to be striking a chord with many of us!
Yeah, it’s pretty flippin’ awful. Although we’ve been having a bit of fun with it – my girlfriend has started telling some of those people that I can totally shred on the guitar (I can’t… at all), and they eat it up and start talking to me. That’s my little bit of revenge, I suppose. 🙂
That smiley face appeared in a strange spot…
Powerful poem — in subject matter and as written! The support my husband and I have for each other is born of love, yes, but also of having seen each other go through many trials — depression/anxiety, etc. I’m lucky/grateful in this way. If I do a reading, he comes and films it. I see pride on his face when I succeed. And, for him, I feel the same. We’ve got our issues, but support, thankfully, isn’t one.
That sounds like a lovely mutually supportive relationship, Terri. It just struck me (when I read biographies) how many relationships between equally talented writers/artists end badly, or how the women just get forgotten. Thank you, I really do appreciate you taking the time to comment!
That is powerful MarinaSofia. And packs a very precise series of punches