I just purchased this gorgeous print from etsy. I'm not sure if I've previously confessed my love affair with that place of homemade heaven, but it's my weakness.
When this image was featured on one of my favourite craft blogs (yes, I really am that sad) it immediately recalled my second-favourite-in-the-world-ever poem by Gwen Harwood on the nature of marriage and female identity. I think it is something in the turn of the girl's face, the direct stare of the lion. Regardless, it jolted me back to a sudden recollection of Harwood's work. Even when I first read her work when I was 16 the poem gave me chills.
I was never a poetry buff, really. I think it comes from being such an impatient reader. I'm rarely able to take the time to let a poem wash over me, but Harwood's work spoke to me so directly from the moment I picked it up. Years later, when I suffered a miscarriage, I went back to a poem she had written about her own miscarriage. It was the only thing that seemed to come close to reflecting the questions and the grief I had about this strange loss; the loss of possibilities, of paths I would never take or a person I would never meet.
Anyway, here is the poem that the artwork reminded me of (which gave me the excuse to purchase it straight away).
The Lion's Bride
I loved her softness, her warm human smell,
her dark mane flowing loose. Sometimes, stirred by
rank longing, laid my muzzle on her thigh.
Her father, faithful keeper, fed me well,
but she came daily with my special bowl
barefoot into my cage, and set it down:
our love feast. We became the talk of town,
brute king and tender woman, soul to soul.
Until today: an icy spectre sheathed
in silk, minced to my side on pointed feet.
I ripped the scented veil from its unreal
head and engorged the painted lips that breathed
our secret names. A ghost has bones, and meat!
Come soon, my love, my bride, and share this meal.
Over ten years later, the poem still gives me the same sense of foreboding as it did back then. I don't read it particularly differently, but I think I understand it in a wider feminist context, and I can certainly appreciate the knife-edge idea of how quickly marriage can eat you, spit you out, change your boundaries... turn on you. How a wooing can lead to a devouring of your previous self. How two people could become unrecognisable to each other once they wear the trappings of tradition. It is so very hard to hold on to yourself some days.