Montserrat Ordonez’s Instructions To Women:
How To Turn Talk Into Action And Write A Thesis, A Poem, A Book Or Nothing At All
Keep a diary, write a page a day.
Don’t wait for moments of inspiration;
if they happen, enjoy them.
Studying and reading are not to be used
as excuses not to write.
Read for pleasure,
read to escape,
read to learn,
read for security,
Don’t try to write a final version first.
Write one version,
Forget universal audiences,
write for Uncle Joe.
a blank page is not a crime.
Your writing is a conversation with yourself:
hold it close,
stir it like toffee,
watch it change colour and consistency.
even as the surface bubbles
and you lick your burned fingers.
Men say “Draw up precise outlines”,
but you can write as you embroider;
a rough pattern and the right materials.
The extra touches,
an appliquéd word;
contrasts of colour will emerge
in moments of sun and complicity.
Anonymous speaking creatures,
we give our energy for free.
We nourish the world with our wit:
we are shining coals;
sparks surrounded by sponges.
Talk to yourself and your page,
beware of plunderers.
You have two choices:
do it or not.
Paralysis means death.
If you can’t run,
or follow someone.
creep in like a worm,
emerge like a firefly.
Learn to say no.
Who could cope with marriage
if she had to say yes every morning?
There are no rules.
Trust your own process.
You are light,
Don’t reject the image,
the text that is unfolding.
The word becomes the stitch
that takes you back
to the ball of wool
and you unravel that dense,
Let it grow.
Your work doesn’t kick your belly
trying to get out,
but is more demanding than your cat,
more selfish than a child,
and will not grow on its own.
It is the lumber room in your mind,
never tidying itself,
waiting for you.
You’ll hear lots of voices,
but couples are full of emptiness,
asylums full of silences,
and male writers bark at the moon.
For yourself and for those other women
who have been silenced,
robbed and violated.
Only your anger can change your passion
you may hate it,
you may smile with nostalgia.
Let yourself go.
Bone-chilled we sit in ordered rows.
Pale sounds lap the edges of carved stone,
wind whistles out of tune,
out of time.
The tower clocks stirs the air on the quarter hour,
mourning clothes fired by stained glass,
shot through with October sun.
A sudden gull shadows the vaulted window.
The bird soars, a kite cut loose.
Today is Saint Patrick’s Day
and for you I wear the shamrock pin.
The green is as deep as the day
you gave it to me.
‘Not the real thing,’ you said,
‘but it will last longer.’
As I sort through your photographs
I would settle for shorter.
Yellow flags above the car showroom,
limp in the Summer heat.
I hear you. ‘Is it too young?’
Too young? For you nothing
was too young.
Now the yellow dress hangs
in my wardrobe.
Too young to throw away.
That summer, we idled in the market.
You, not wanting to go home,
me, not wanting to let you.
A riot of greens, reds and yellows,
caught your eye, drew you in.
You had no plan, only the impulse
that was always you.
You chose the pattern:
I stitched with care and saw
you wear it that Autumn and
the ones that chased behind.
Even in Australia the dressing gown
reminded you of home.
Now I wear it and the colours
are as bright as that market day,
but the seams are worn and
I hear you say, ‘A stitch in time…’
But not for you.
You never cared for black:
an absence of light.
Never wore it unless
the occasion demanded.
White roses, translucent
in the January frost,
shiver on your breast.
I placed white freesias
at your feet.
Your blue feet.
On the edge of sight, a board skims
under the wave’s curl.
Surf threshes the beach;
stones worn smooth
by the nagging of the sea.
Our photograph curls
in the warmth of my hand,
colours faded, salt stained,
that moment creased.
Ring me soon, you said
knowing I wouldn’t.
I will, knowing I couldn’t
but wanting to.
I feel you plaiting my hair,
tying it with marram.
I twist the ring around my finger,
put the phone down out of reach.
My table is laid with our driftwood;
photographs, letters, cards,
When you lived on the other side of the world,
a simple finger-tap brought you to my side.
That milli-second delay, before mobiles and Skype,
made us laugh as our words crossed
over the miles, hanging in space;
wisps of breath on a winter morning.
You said you missed us.
‘Christmas in summer doesn’t make sense.’
We weren’t surprised to hear,
‘I’m coming home.’
So many finger-taps, full of travel, of houses.
Seedling plans, our words colliding over the sea
then unravelling to go their separate ways.
So where did they go, those words that never reached me?
The ones you never said, the nameless fears
untapped along the ocean’s lines?
Together just briefly, fears became reality,
plans unravelled, seeds uprooted.
Now, you are on the other side
of everything, and I would give the world
for you to call collect.