Half way through her tenth grade year, my daughter brought home House on Mango Street.
“Hey Mom, you ever read this book? We’re reading it in class, I wanted to finish it this weekend ‘cause I hate the class discussions. They just talk about the themes (she made a disgusted face) like language and empowerment and women being trapped by their parents and stuff… I want to talk about the courage of the writer and the fact that this is so different from any of our other readings this year. It’s so awesome to be reading about a girl who isn’t struggling to be a part of the crowd or worried about her body or her friend’s fashion sense!”
I love my daughter. She’s in art school now and all pissed off that the models in her figure drawing class are all young beautiful women with well-toned bodies. “I really want to draw someone old, Mom, someone with wrinkles and flaws. It’s so boring drawing all these girls that look the same.”
Did I mention that I love my daughter…
But this is a review of a different shape and color than Mango Street. How Cisneros went from that to the open legged poems of Loose Woman leaves me forever in awe. I read Mango Street in undergrad and thought about voice, structure, style and courage.
Re-reading Loose Woman for pleasure, all I can think about is heat and the need for cold water on my face and a call to my boyfriend to please come over, quick! The book is a treatise on lusty, lovelorn, crushing, blushing closeness written by an outsider who just wants to be held close. Every woman with hot blood in her veins and breath in her lungs can find relief in poems with titles like: “I Am So In Love I Grew A New Hymen,” “You Called Me Corazon,” “You Like To Give and Watch Me My Pleasure,” “Black Lace Bra Kind of Woman,” and “Small Madness.”
In full disclosure, the first time I picked this book up I was fresh-divorced and mad-crushing on a man who had no time for me, held me at arm’s length after driving me wild with our shared desire. A desire that I’m not sure if he faked or just could not handle – I really don’t care which. I lived in a crazed fantasy that I’m more than happy to have escaped. Though truth be told, I wrapped myself in the weight of that unrequited passion and reveled in its delicious agony.
But the poems, they saved me. They made me look into myself and pull out resilience that I wasn’t aware I possessed. When I wanted to cry myself to sleep, I picked up this book and randomly opened a page. I found solace and light from sharing Cisneros’ wondrous verve. The poems gave me hope and opened me up to believe in the universality of emotion and coping and recovering and building back. Build I did.
Here’s just one poem from Loose Woman to leave you wet and longing for more (those that know me know well about my obsession with the Moon and poems dedicated to the love of white full gravity and passion, so this is a natural):
Full Moon and You’re Not Here
too beautiful to waste.
But you my Cinderella,
Have the midnight curfew,
A son waiting to be picked up from his den meeting,
and the fractured marriage waiting on your head
like a crown of thorns.
Oh my beauty
it’s not polite
to keep me waiting.
To send me reeling into a spiral
and then to say good night.
I smoke a cigar,
play a tango,
gulp my gin and tonic.
Full moon and you’re not here.
I take off my silk slip,
the silver bangles.
You’re in love with my mind.
But sometimes, sweetheart,
a woman needs a man
who loves her ass.