Posted tagged ‘Diana Barco illustrations’

Three Daughters

March 19, 2015

Molecules 1

Three Daughters

“I am a curséd man,” he said, with full marks for
the -ed, “because,” he said, cross-legged, dhoti
both wrinkled and taut, “I am the father of
three daughters.”

His hands followed the line of the shrug,
then sank like the smile beneath the black float
of  mustache, as,
from my opposite banquette, I tried to maintain an attitude
of intellectual exploration–
”don’t you love your daughters?”

“I love them too much,”meaning in my understanding
of Indian English–‘sure’–
but “meaning,’ he went on, “I must work all the days of my life
to make their dowries–”

The dowry was the price he would pay for
having his undoubtedly hard-working girls taken off his hands,
which pinched the air, long-fingered,
as if plucking words from the landscape–
and I too smiled sadly, this still a more encouraging discussion
than the one I normally had with men in Indian trains,
which always started with whether I was married
and ended somehow in my asking the most important quality in a wife,
a question which they answered without a beat–
(sometimes through teeth stained red with betel nut,
other times the teeth not stained, but always showing)–

I can’t help thinking today of that curséd man, sitting in the
amber light that fixed that train car even as it traversed
a subcontinent, as I read
of the poor cursed woman in Delhi who strangled her three
young daughters, “submitting” as the headline said, “to despair.”

Reading next of the proposed government budget in my own country–
where dowries once were also part
of the barter of women–and where girls are still often enough
discarded, though we are advanced enough to discard boys
about as much, the idea behind all the cuts for women and children
being some notion that if women are just kept flat on their backs,
families will stay intact–

Look, I’m not saying that these things–Indian dowries and the GOP– are
actually connected, except that they both make me sick,
sick of the trade in women, sick
at the base of a womb that held two daughters, sick at the heart
of a third.


A very drafty poem that is simply a rant going about my head.   I appreciate that it may not truly be a poem.  The drawing above is by a friend of mine, Diana Barco, taken from my book of poems, Going on Somewhere.  The photograph below is mine, taken a couple of years ago in Ahmedabad, in India–all rights reserved by Diana and me!  


Benefits of Friend (With Talents)

November 18, 2010

By Diana Barco (illustration from "Going On Somewhere") (All rights reserved.)

Some are blessed with beauty, talent, and a generous heart.

Others are just lucky enough to have a lifelong friend with these qualities.

I fall into the “others” category, but feel today very lucky indeed.

The talented friend is Diana Barco.  In our teens, Diana was an artist, student and something of a quiet provocateur (at least of our joint mischief.)  Today, she is an artist, architect, and social activist in the field of women’s health, and sexual and reproductive rights (mainly with IPPF).  Diana is also a founding member of the Rogelio Salmona Foundation, a charitable foundation devoted to the work of Colombian architect Rogelio Salmona.

Despite these activities (which take her frequently around the globe), Diana has found time over the last year both to illustrate my poems, and to coach and cajole me into finalizing them.  These have been major jobs; the first a showcase for her amazing visual imagination and sensitivity;  the second a test of her incredible patience.

Diana also coordinated the design of the project with Sigma Andrea Torres, a wonderfully generous, creative, and gifted graphic designer.  (Don’t ever let anyone tell you that putting together a manuscript of poetry is simple because it has relatively few words.  Arranging those words, especially with pictures, involves a host of issues–ordering, placement, fonts, margins–it’s immense.)

The final result, a book of poetry entitled Going On Somewhere (poems by Karin Gustafson, illustrations by Diana Barco), will be coming out very soon.

It really is a beautiful book.  The poems were okay on their own; the illustrations raise them to a whole new level of interest, engagement, evocativeness.

I will give more details when the book is actually out (soon!)   But we seem now to have crossed a final threshold.  I want to thank Diana and Andrea, my personal lucky stars.