Bookcase Poetry


(c) Arike van de Water 2007-2009


A man leaning against a counter, his arms crossed, brow scrunched up. The shouders huddled to get away from the pacing woman before him. Spiderweb hair flew the banner of her wisdom. He did not speak, but she hoped he listened. She talked long. It is the only time she could. He did not often admit her anymore. She'd already told him what women he should not have. "Product of my womb, creature of my marriage, don't relate to women that will leave you in the gutter."

He was fifteen, barely grown up. He had stormed out on her without saying goodbye, only coming back after learning from a heartbreak.

He knew what not to do. She imprinted that on him when he was too young for a beard. "Don't get going on those drugs, Lemuel. Healthy people shouldn't desire it. If you give in, you make yourself blind and dumb. You won't do right by those that depend upon you. Let it be a sedative for victims of tragedy, minds destroyed beyond hope. Leave pil, drink, injection for administering oblivion and stilling the memory of the troubled." He protested, but she forbade. Sometimes he understood, sometimes not.

She'd taught him what was good, she hoped, "Speak for the silenced and mute. Defend justice for the oppressed. Raise your voice for the poor and the helpless. ensure they have their human rights." With this he agreed, wholeheartedly. She rejoiced in the times he acted so.

He was grown, it was time to tell him if a woman he wanted, what kind to seek. "She's very hard to find, I'll tell you honestly," she began with some hesitation. "A woman of valour, with guts and talent." What words could serve to describe her? "She's a gem hidden in a mountain, as dependable as a rock. If you find her, you can trust her with your life." She stuck a finger in his chest. He went back far enough for his head to hit the kitchen cabinets. "She'll save it, she's ten times the worth of your life now." Her eyes shot over his face, seeking out any sign of scoffing. "She's a treasure, not a ball-and-chain." Like her husband had made her out to be. The memory was in both their eyes, before he turned his gaze away. She grabbed his chin to get it back. He shoved her hand away. "She's good, not the weak, dependent evil she's made out to be, always has been, always will be." His eyebrows went up, like he wanted to say "duh." but he held his peace. She took the hint, however, and retreated a little. His cooperation would be more easily gained if she was not so physical.

Perhaps a list of tasks and activities would catch his imagination. "She takes the leading role in giving, receiving, the informal economy of which no model tells." He was an economist, that should get him. Yes, his undivided attention was on her. Describe it, his eyes asked. "Cherries from the backyard she picks. She...makes breakfast jam for the whole street." Her hands went wide. "Like a country importing, she bringing in all the foodstuffs from afar." Not just from the local supermarket, like that snotty neighbour next door.

What else? "She, ah, is up with the construction workers, so her household eats well in the morning" That should catch him. He loved his waffles. "She manages the family schedule." At which he was hopeless. A slight blush fled up his cheeks. He shouldn't have his wife sacrificing her life for him. What kind of initiative did he admire that would prevent him form asking that? Inspiration struck. "She registers a new company, with her own money she starts a business. She bursts with energy and charisma, almost a workaholic." She knew she was getting carried away, but couldn't stop herself. "She searches for the profitable stocks. The light in the study is on deep into the night. Pen is never out of her hands, fingers pushing out the letters."

Now for some liberality. Cold career fish wasn't good either. "Whenever she can she gives to the poor. She welcomes the needy with open arms." Practical qualities. "She has no fear of bad weather, because all her family has a good wardrobe." So buy enough clothes for your family, mister. No neglecting them.

What else would today's woman be, a yes, creative. "That quilted bedspread is her own." No, that didn't seem to land so well with him. His nose wrinkled up and he was starting to stand. Quick recovery, then. She put her hands on his arms and quickly added, "She dresses well down to her toes." He stilled. "Her good reputation reflects on her husband when he tries out for a leadership position." That made sense to him. Good private life was directly related to performance at work, after all.

"She even has adorned belts, knitted scarfs ready to sell in a crafts fair." The artistic side in a wife simply didn't seem to do it for him, so she quickly went on to a more poetic description.

The closing salvo. "Power and grace shine in her face. When she smiles, no regrets or fear of the future. Her every word is great advice." He was slipping away, alright, time to summarise. "She teaches and coaches with a kind heart. She knows what goes on in her house. Laziness is not in her dictionary." Add in a little fluff. "Her children are proud of her and she makes her husband sigh with joy: 'Of all the gutsy and talented women you are the best in the world.'"

He mouthed gutsy after she said it. He gestured an hour-glass as a more likely compliment, even wolf-whistling. Alright, this point needed to be driven home, then. "Cuteness deceives, beauty is fleeting, but a woman of God is always worthy of praise." His head went sideways. That last bit had been a little too much, perhaps. After a few seconds he shrugged in grudging concession.

"Remember, repay her in kind for all her good deeds." When he stood up quickly after that, she said quickly, "Do not pretend they don't exist." Another shrug, and without a word he fled her. Perhaps she'd gone on too long, but that was always the case with mother-son talks. She rubbed her head in her hands.

A modern adaptation of Proverbs 31, a chapter of the Bible said to describe the ideal woman of that time.