26 August 2015

Vashti: Museum Piece

Esther 1

What is a wife?
An ornament?
A pretty vase
to look at,
play with,
and then put away
till another day?
What am I to you?
A decoration?
I don't exist
until you want me
or want to show me off
like a rare artefact,
a prized possession.

Why can't you see me?
Why can't you see
that I don't want admiration
but love?
I don't want to be
your museum piece,
don't want to be
a picture on your wall
or a statue
to grace your halls.

I want to be
etched into your heart,
a part of you
you can't live without.
I want to be more
than my lovely face,
for when my beauty fades,
what will I be then?
A moth-eaten garment,
a crumbling masterpiece,
a faded painting
worth nothing to you.
Why can't you see me?

So tonight
I'll put my foot down
and stand up for myself
and for women everywhere.
Disobedience? Who cares -
it has to be said,
it has to be done.
We are not your ornaments,
your pretty little things,
collectors' items,
fine rare gems.
We are people
with hearts and souls,
with needs and wishes.
We want more.

Treat me like a human being.
Love me,
see me,
hear me.
Rather than be called a beauty
I would have you look
when I'm my ugliest
and say you love me
for me.

I put my foot down.
I disobey.
I'm your museum piece
no more.


 [January 2012]

Vashti was the wife of King Xerxes before Esther became queen to replace her. The king called her to show her off to guests at a feast - and she refused to come. It's interesting how some interpreters admire her for it, while others see her actions as wrong, an act of disobedience. Here's my take on the story.

The whole idea of wives being treated like ornaments or pretty vases comes very much from the influence of my very feminist best friend, who I am certain used those exact words once. Also, the "masterpiece" idea came from A Room with a View, where Cecil (a rather unlikeable guy haha) likes to call Lucy (the main character) "my Leonardo". If I remember right she also stands up to him about that once.

It is nice to be called pretty, but in the end we are more than that. If someone likes you for your looks, they won't like you for very long. Because unless we die early we all end up wrinkled and crinkled (which I find really beautiful and cute btw). We're all more than our looks - men and women both. We can't prevent attraction to looks (I think that's quite natural), but it shouldn't be all.

And I think an important verse for this poem is Ephesians 5:25. "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her." It's not right to place a wrong emphasis on the part about wives submitting to their husbands while ignoring this second, equally important part!

Picture by Gustave Doré

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