For fuck sake’s listen
Often when I tell someone my husband was 20 years older than me I can feel them reducing My life to a cliché. So let's get it out of the way I was not his student. Except in the sense that all lovers are students because the ones we love teach us something about love and ourselves that we didn't know before. Every man's semen tastes different And every sexual relationship has its unique signature mode of improvisational engagement, that each lover has to learn But I got no grades or promotions for taking that particular class. _________- And he was not a father figure. So put your Oedipal fantasies aside. They're all mixed up with a whole bunch of other assumptions, anyway. See my dad had a serious heart attack right after I was born. He was dying for most of my life a frail man- not some handsome Byronic figure that I wanted to take away from Mom and it's true=I adored him But I certainly wasn't looking to recreate that experience -taking care of a dying man- the morning I met Skip. And you see Skip was not my father's age. He was my brother's. That's a whole other mythology. So put that Daddy fixation story back up on the shelf. Our parents-- Skip's and mine- were roughly the same age. We had more in common than you can possibly imagine. Children of Depression-era parents, we both hoarded string and bits of aluminum foil Like it could all dry up tomorrow Knew a lot of the same songs, called the frig the icebox. When I met Skip I had a whole history of hurtful love affairs behind me and I thought I was through with love and trying to be someone else's idea of Joan. He was trailing the wreckage of a bad marriage also sick of trying to measure up to someone else's dream. We eyed each other-- there was chemistry- but we were wary as 2 boxers caught up in the ropes. Our first date- two months later- we went to City Lights- drawn by inclination to different parts of the store. He stayed downstairs- foot propped up on the table smoking cigarettes, reading a play by Lorca. I sat on the floor upstairs, coat fanning out around me-- lost in a 19th century novel. "Doesn't sound like much of a date," my friend Allison said. But she didn't understand how energy could swirl around that store-- bringing zephyrs of smoke and total immersion from one floor to another. How sometimes you can touch without much proximity at all. On our second date, he drove out behind Golden Gate Park Stopped the car and said there was a letter in the glove compartment. He sat and waited while I read what he couldn't or wouldn't tell me -that he was falling in love. "So what do you want to do?" he asked when I finished reading -gruff as hell-- "Do I take you to lunch and we talk, or do I take you home?" I told him I was hungry and too broke to buy my own meal. And yes, Chinese would be fine. We were together 37 years up and down through good times and bad Always drawn to different stories, he with his foot propped on the table me sitting on the floor, coat fanning out around me, but always hell-bent on coming back together meeting on some mutual floor. And talking-always talking- nine to the dozens about our singular obsessions. This year is the 10th anniversary of his death He stays so close, I can feel his breath sometimes. And I still get those questions- that look when people ask how we met? how old was he? who introduced us? That look that says they think they know something. They think they know something about me. Well they don't know shit. So I wrote this poem to say that when a woman tells you she married an older man, loves an older man don't assume she was-or is- a trophy wife, or a student in the front row hanging on his every word, or an Oedipally addled young thing looking for Daddy. Listen to what the fuck she tells you about her life. Listen for the love. Oct 8, 2022
Bio: Joan Hawkins is a writer and spoken word performer, who focuses mainly on creative memoir. Her poetry and prose have appeared in Avalanches of Poetry, Fevers of the Mind, the Performing Arts Journal, Plath Profiles, and Sand.
Two poems are forthcoming in a special poetry issue of The Ryder Magazine. She and Kalynn Brower have co-edited an anthology called Trigger Warnings, which contains one of Joan’s stories; it’s currently under consideration by Indiana University Press. “My Writing Teacher” comes from a manuscript in progress– School and Suicide.
Joan lives in Bloomington, IN with her cat Izzy Isou. She is currently the Chair of the Writers Guild at Bloomington.