Love is Not Anonymous is an exploration of the expectations and heartaches often projected onto women’s lives and their spiritual journeys. The complexities of coming of age as a woman are presented with humour and parody as Jan Wood leads us on a journey through the many realms of love from first love and infatuation to marriage, motherhood, and even extramarital temptation. Spiritual love and the challenges of faith are also examined as Wood juxtaposes the competing themes of belief and female sexuality, examining the pain and injustice to which women are subjected in the realms of both love and faith and searching for order and meaning in the two most complicated territories of human experience. Spirituality is at the forefront as Wood reflects on her religious background and converses directly with God in the interspersed “godtalk.com” poems. She illustrates a relationship to God that is physical and intellectual as well as transcendent, often drawing out the romantic elements of spirituality as in “/is/there/a/prayer/to/mend/this?” when she bargains with God, promising to pay [him] back/on her knees.” Elsewhere she wrestles with the challenges of faith when she confesses, “I liked you more when I thought/there was an alternate plan/with side benefits for being good.” Despite these uncertainties, however, “she cannot leave/the idea of him/alone.” Wood also explores women’s issues and the experiences of women as they battle the expectations of both innocence and inherent sinfulness projected onto them in the realms of love and faith. The biblical Eve is a recurring character as Wood reflects on the sexual repression enforced by church and society, and the dark side of a woman’s experience is explored in poems about domestic abuse (“Duplex”), prostitution (“Sometimes She’s Afraid to be Loved”), and the lethal conclusion of being female (“Invasion”). Feminist undertones show through in Wood’s narratives, but she refuses to be hemmed in by definitions, writing in “Mary, a Woman” that “she does not desire equality but freedom to celebrate/her differences,” vocalizing the exhaustion many women experience at “being the culprit and the icon.” She also celebrates the complexity of love and sexuality with honest portraits of teenagers sneaking out on a winter evening (“She Pretends”) and experienced lovers revealing secrets by firelight (“Salvage”). These poems are small confirmations that love signs its name on everyone who seeks it, and they reveal the difficulties women face on the journey to well-being and wholeness.
“The Sin Nobody Wanted”
was born behind the barn
where she danced
and the boys watched,
looking for an excuse
for what pressed their zippers
they claimed her skirt too high,
her legs too bare
she refused to be blamed
the priest prepared a cleanse,
amid the incense
surprised to find
she wasn’t alone
when the elements are served
she is not invited
to the table
the boys and family gather
at the altar
with cupped hands
she kneels in the back pew
longs to lift the emptiness
of her own
Listen. Eve fell!
It is so syrupy-tragic who could stop the gossip?
It was no leap for attention, there are onsite photos.
Perhaps she stumbled, pitched forward accidently
I wonder why she was so close to the edge
In the first place
Who cares if it was feet-first, backwards
Or head-over-heels? She is fallen.
It’s not as if she will continue to fall
She’ll get back up on her feet again.
What is that helmet?
A standard pink model, of course,
She’ll have to wear it, a percentage of the profit
Will be donated to reconstructive surgery
This is not a national disaster,
Government grants to set up the barricades.
Are not necessary
They have evidence and a witness. She fell!
She has to be restricted from elevated areas
It’s her fault
Reminds me of an eagle’s nest
Perhaps she was pushed
Did they check her back?
What have eagles got to do with this?
You are not suggesting this was a flight?
“godtalk.com/after the funeral”
there you are
in a wake
of cards and cold-cuts
holding my hand in yours
massaging my fingers
into slender reeds
lifting songs from them
refrains complex as chromosomes
blur the boundaries
words dry up
my tears do not
i am unable