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Introduction: Mystique School

“I hurt all over,/ I am so loved” are the last two lines of my first book. I wrote the book at the beginning of my marriage and titled it “Mystery School.” I thought of the poems as diving into the profound mystery of a woman’s experience as wife, mother, bearer of both life and death. It was easy to think, as I was writing the poems, that the sadness I felt haunting my young family was the loss of my first pregnancy and the loss of my family of origin. It’s only years later, with the manuscript still unpublished, that I wrote a comic to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique and I understand “the problem” causing the deep dissatisfaction running under and through the poems I wrote as a young wife and mother. One of the poems, “Still Life of a Carpet Moth,” ends on this image of neglected and thwarted potential, “the shriveled sapling/ our landlords planted/ before they left.” I offer this introduction, and the retitling of my book “Mystique School,” as an offering of hard-won clarity for the reader. In “Mystery School,” I thought the love of family would reveal to me the meaning at the center of my life, and it is only years later that I realize to my great frustration that love is only almost enough. I believed that if I had love an d a family I would be fulfilled. I didn’t realize, or accept, the point of Friedan’s book, that in devoting myself solely to my family I was ignoring the “work in which [I could] grow as part of society.” I still believe that the love of my husband and children has strengthened me and given me a deeper understanding and love for the human. But love is not the sum of my potential.

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