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{July 8, 2020}   What’s in a Purse?

Rumi and the Red Handbag

Before I read “Rumi and the Red Handbag” by Shawna Lemay, I would have answered this question in a very literal way: all the things I think I might need on any given day. I am not a fashionista; my purse is just a necessary tool of life. This book made me see purses in a new way, as a metaphor for life.

“The purse is a diary containing the scattered sprawl and patient sticky grunge of life. It’s a skin, a husk, it holds guts and gizzards. Think of the disruptive depths, the darkness of a purse! The purse is a portal, a hinged door. It’s the heavy burden to the bruised portal of our intimate murky depths, our tranquil and far-off selves. We carry these objects relentlessly, courageously, anonymously, absentmindedly.”

And there is so much more!! Those words are part of a long soliloquy about purses by the character Ingrid-Simone, or I.s. as she is alternately known in the novel. She is one of two characters working in a shop called Theodora’s Fine Consignment Clothing (Lemay had me right there, I once dreamed of owning Theodosia’s Tea Shop in Glasgow KY…it captured my imagination) . Working with each other all day they become friends of a fashion, but though the character telling the story paints us a picture of I.s. as an amazing person, she discovers she didn’t know Ingrid-Simone at all.

This book is deceivingly short or small but so FULL of beautiful language and life lessons — just like a woman’s purse can be.

I have been following Shawna’s blog for a while (Transactions with Beauty) and really wanted to read her book (it came out in 2015). I ordered it online during quarantine. For me, it was like taking a bite of a freshly made truffle, and I savored the smooth deliciousness of it. And, thinking of my own purse, it inspired me to write a poem.

Overladen

Everything in my life is too small.

The purse I lug around

fat with old receipts,

salvaged change, and

everything I think I could need

on any given day.

My apartment and closet

crammed too — bursting with

things I refuse to give up.

Yet, I am frugal to the point

of deprivation;

I clutch tight with claws

and fists and defend,

defend my junkyard life

like a vicious dog.

All my life I’ve known nothing

but making do,

worrying the same old bone,

funneling my needs and dreams

into what I already have —

the only way I know to stay full —

constricting to fit the vessel.

In love too, I’ve shrunk what I want

into you:

someone I see so little,

someone whose life

is elsewhere — you —

holder of my stifled desire,

my dear old bone.

 

copyright 2020 Susan Merrifield Desrocher

 

But don’t be distracted by my poetic efforts…read the 140-pg book, “Rumi and the Red Handbag” which is one long beautiful poem, and maybe you’ll buy a new purse, or write a poem of your own.

 



et cetera
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