I was married to a successful man once, successful beyond his age, who reached the pinnacle of power hour after hour by entering the corporate cage of glittering promises and golden dreams to increase our bracket and means, who dared not think that the cage was mere brass, for whom in their right mind would question the ass that feeds them?
Because married women tended to allow choices to others back then, giving them voices when they themselves had none, I tarried beside him on the gilded perch, swinging rhythmically to and fro above the stock exchange droppings paper – all the while deceiving myself in believing that I would obtain what my heart desired. Happiness, health, wealth, and love were THE BIG FOUR that I admired in my books … then.
Slowly, I realized the promises were shallow, hollowed with false hope and a great price, wrapped in drudgery, debts, depression, and drinking, to satisfy the corporate rules that vowed heaven was in the pot of gold; but all I could see was a sign on my forehead that read – SOLD. I began questioning the company commands and demands in a most urgent manner, carrying my banner high at every function I was beholden to attend, and I still don’t understand why or what those banners actually said; but maybe the words weren’t important … then.
I did not feel like I fit in, for my being wanted to permeate my doing in my eyes. In his eyes, I had grievously sinned against the rules of management that said my place in society was invisibly supporting him at all cost in the establishment. Feeling lost, I complied by swinging to and fro on the golden perch that was brass and standing barefoot in front of the kitchen sink as I scrubbed the pate off the Stratford and bending over the vanity mirror, searching for wrinkles that weren’t there and jiggling off the flabby pounds at Weight Watchers and standing behind the Health Club bar with a surgically altered plastic face, eyes tracing the aging of others and door-matting at a prestigious party with a glass of sparkling champagne in my hand and reading about what men think women think in ‘Ladies Home Journal,’ which was socially acceptable … then.
Secretly, I wanted the approval and support for writing a lengthy novel and inscribing a poem about the trauma of lost dreams and deliberating an article on the dangers of sexual roles and painting pictures of everything from the godliness of garbage to the beauty of a pastoral scene and reading the Tarot to see what the future might bring and sewing custom designed clothes and computing horoscopes to assure myself that I didn’t really have many choices after all and subscribing to ‘Psychology Today,’ ‘Omni,’ and ‘The Humanist,’ and digesting ‘Ms.’ Magazine with an inquiring mind, as well as studying Margaret Meade, C.G. Jung, Plato, Levi-Strauss, and reading the novels of Erica Jong, which was in the literary top ten … then.
When all was said and done, I finally chose not to be a female cellophane wrapper encircling my husband’s success to be discarded after the product was promoted and sold. I chose not to be a corporate courtesan, dressed in the guise of marital togetherness which ended up being much less than anyone could ever guess. I felt like a female accessory that matched the fancy Bentley or contrasted with the flashy Rolex as I draped well on his suited arm. That’s the way it was … then.
I wanted to sound the alarm and escape the stoplights at every corner, detours at very bend and rows of identical houses within which hid the trapped women and men who peered through magnifiers into the private bedrooms of others, where stepping on the grass brought newspaper headlines, and everyone’s ass was assumed to be clean under the Fruit of the Loom and tightened by Maidenform. It certainly wasn’t for me, you see, and I planned to fly free, but I didn’t know when.
I eventually chose another road – a road where the grass could be blue and the sky, red, if the mood was right, and where, at night, the birds would sing as if to the rays of day, and I could say just about anything that opened the doors of insight, instead of ripping the bowels of self doubt as I had in the company cage. I can’t blame him his priorities. It was the majorities who wiped their nose at every stop sign and cleaned their shoes with legal evasions to get the dog shit off.
It was hard to fly in the face of popular opinion, unless you happened to be a piece of Kleenex or an accursed genius with the courage to do what would be more valued in a hundred years from then. Very few knew how to accomplish that feat in the middle of social defeat. His choice was understandable, but not choose-able for me, so you see … we parted company.
To tell the truth, the corporate cage swallowed me up anyway, not as an accessory to a company employee, but as the corporate worker bee. I had to shelve so many dreams, it seems, and work like a dog, getting bogged down in mounds of paper and endless, mindless repetitive motions, filling me with notions of winning Lotto because that seemed the only ladder out of the muck. I was stuck. Responsibility has a price and it isn’t so nice sometimes. That sucks …
By L. L. Paulson Howe
*Not being sure if this is prosaic poetry or poetic prose, I chose the latter and decided to include it as a blog, instead of a poem.