cantadora, Catalan sausage, Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Cry Me A River, Cybele, Guernica, lacrymosa, Mater Dolorosa, Melbourne gallery, Picasso Dora Maar, saltimbanques, Semana Santa, Seville, suffering machine, torch song, unrequited love, Virgin of Guadalupe, Women Who Run With The Wolves
I like that song, ‘Cry Me A River’, Brassie said, meditatively.
Yes, it’s what is known as a ‘torch song’, I replied.
What is a ‘torch song’?
Oh, it’s based on the phrase about carrying a torch for someone.
You mean unrequited love? said Brassie.
Mmm. I used to think of those Cybele statues whenever I heard
that song, or cartoon characters spouting projectile tears.
Why are you bringing Cybele into it?
Oh, I just associate the over-production of breast milk with the over-
production of other body fluids, I suppose.
(Photo by Yair Haklai)
You’ve been going on about tears recently. I wonder why?
Well, I was just reading ‘Women Who Run With The Wolves… I began.
You would, interrupted Brassie. I wish she’d stop the annoying practice.
Read, or run? I countered.
Who wrote it? She ignores me!
Oh, someone called Clarissa Pinkola Estes.
Look of incomprehension.
She’s a Jungian psychoanalyst and cantadora. A woman who keeps old
stories. She wrote about tears in myths melting the icy heart. She reckons
that women cry to keep predators away. Tears mend rips in the psyche
and prevent one from sleeping and lowering one’s guard.
I would immediately think of the Picasso portrait of Dora Maar, Brassie
commented- quite astutely for her.
Woman as a ‘suffering machine’, according to Picasso. Did you know he
painted more than one version?
I think one was stolen from a gallery in Melbourne, wasn’t it?
Yes. They got it back, fortunately. He always claimed not to be repeating
the image through sadism and denied it gave him any kind of pleasure to
portray her like that. He just said that, for him, Dora was always a weeping
At least she went down in history for something, Brassie reflected. Oh, yes-
not ‘Dora was a first rate photographer.’ Just: ‘She was the one that
cried her eyes out.’
‘Maar’ is an interesting name. In the Old Testament the waters of Marah are
bitter and the name ‘Mary’ may be associated with tears. Jesus’ mother
certainly had plenty to cry about, didn’t she?
Oh yeah. ‘Mater Dolorosa’
Photo by Angel Cachon- Virgin of Guadalupe (Semana Santa, Seville)
Hmmm. Anyway, I tried to immortalise Dora Maar in a little poem I wrote
years ago. I discovered it during my cellar clear-out. Do you want to see it?
I might as well… (nothing like enthusiasm for one’s writing!)
Here! It’s a bit crumpled and I’ve edited it a bit, but there you go…
I tried to immortalise her too, I said, taking out my notebook. Along
with all his other weeping mistresses. But she will always be the arch
LADIES OF SORROW
I prematurely blossomed with rose-hued
saltimbanques. those dull, brutish critics gored
other artists, but I escaped attack:
a skilful matador…Who loved me best?
I’d say no woman, but my old friend, Braque.
When lovers left, they could, in truth, attest
I missed their dogs, more than I missed them. Did
I propose to Gaby? I don’t know. War,
its ghastly preoccupations, outbid
her for my attention. Yes, caviare
was Olga’s favourite; I preferred sausage-
Catalan, with beans. She wanted her face
recognisable; to be centre stage;
wanted too much from me, in any case.
Her image had by then begun to fade.
I was playing with Dora Maar (my mouse);
slashing Guernica with a razor blade,
careless of mistress, as careless of spouse.
Woman becomes a suffering machine.
When Nazis asked me: ‘Did you do this art?’
I replied: No. You did. When black with spleen,
Francoise and I could claw each other’s heart.
She who had resembled Venus became
Christ. Martyr. She left me – it was her loss.
She’d been expert at apportioning blame:
‘Who was it then who put me on the cross?’
I did, but, so doing, set them apart;
made them immortal in the realm of art.