Baquari’s Wife

Last night was one of those sleepless nights when you talk to yourself and everything you say is absolutely brilliant and your clarity of vision could solve world hunger, bring economic stability to Greece, and make peace in the Middle East.

At times like this, you should dash to the computer and catch those falling stars before they flame-out. You should, at the very least, turn on the bedside light and make a few notes. But you lie there and the witticisms, the carefully crafted sentences, the pointed rebuttals, and your Pulitzer Prize acceptance speech chase each other playing tag.

Finally, you sleep the sleep of the dead. And then in the morning, you are sluggish and not even two cups of coffee are enough to restore the eloquence lost.

The eloquence has flown, but one shard of burned out comet remains. At some point I linked “slut,” October’s Pure Slush writing prompt to be found at http://pureslush.webs.com,   to an exhibit that I saw last week at the Tate Modern.

The Tate Modern occupies the old Bank Side Power Station built in 1952. It is a marvelous space and the space itself is well worth a visit if seeing a collection of contemporary art is not your thing.  The Tate Modern is directly opposite St. Paul’s and adjacent to the re-built Globe Theatre. Coming from St. Paul’s, you walk over the Thames River via the Millenium Bridge.

I love the open six-storey space of Turbine Hall. I love the repurposing of a building that in less enlightened times would have been demolished.

The connection between the word “slut” and the Tate Modern is this. A week ago, I went to the gallery and saw an exhibition titled “New Documentary Forms.” Five photographers were featured, and one, Akram Zaatari, born 1966 and working and living in Lebanon, caught my eye.

In addition to his own work, Zaatari included an archived photo from the Studio of Shehrazade/Hashem el Madani. The photo was taken in 1957. According to the program notes, Baquari’s wife (whose husband refused to let her leave the house) left the house and went to the Shehrazade studio.

There she had her picture taken. Baquari discovered her disobedience, went to the studio and demanded the negatives. The photographer refused to give Baquari the negatives, but to accommodate the husband, he scratched the negatives with a pin in the husband’s presence. Years later, Baquari returned to the studio. His wife had burnt herself to death to escape her misery, and Baquari wanted enlargements of the defaced photos.

Although I yearned to take a photo of the photo, I have become increasingly sensitive to intellectual property rights, so I held myself in check. Let me describe the two defaced photographs.

In the first, the wife (always “the wife” we do not know her name) is posed standing up against two, blank, intersecting walls. Her dark, shoulder-length naturally wavy hair is unstyled. Her face is attractive. She looks directly at the camera. She does not smile. She wears a simple white blouse with black buttons. All buttons are buttoned. The top button is above her collarbone. Her left arm is akimbo; her left hand is in the pocket of her black skirt. Her right arm hangs loosely at her side. She looks passive… sad… reflective.

In the second photo, Baquari’s wife is posed in traditional garb. She is dressed in black. She wears a patterned headscarf. She appears to be a bit more at ease. Again she stands. Her head is cocked to one side where it leans against the large, terracotta water jug balanced on her left shoulder. The fingers of her right hand are through the jug’s handle.

I studied these photos for a long time. Both photos are marred by the scratches. But the scratches improve/enhance the original photographs which were very good before the defacement.

My head spins.  The story of Baquari’s wife prompts more questions than answers, and it will take some thinking as I try to frame my submissions to Pure Slush. I will try to submit two pieces, fiction and non-fiction. At this point I am thinking that the fiction piece will be easier than the non-fiction.

Invention is always easier than reality.

*******************

Writers’ Trigger:

    • Check out Pure Slush. This site is manned by the same folks out of Adelaide Australia who edited 52/ 250 flash. They are good people; the quality of the printed submissions is very good; and the readers who post their comments are insightful.
    • How do you define the word “slut”? Check your definition against a dictionary definition. Do you have a match? If not, write about the differences.
    • Write about generational or cultural differences regarding sluttish dress or behavior.
    • And of course, there is always fiction. Build a piece around a nice girl perceived as sluttish.

About timeout2

I have lived 100 lives. I write essays, short stories, poetry, grocery lists and notes to myself. If I am ever lost, look for a paper trail, but be careful not to trip over any books that lie scattered here and there. I am a reader. I am a reader in awe of writers. When I don't live in Westcliffe, Colorado, I live in London where I am a long-time member of Word-for-Word - Crouch End.
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4 Responses to Baquari’s Wife

  1. Matt Potter says:

    Hi Doris,
    I found your blog through the visitor stats, which I look at every day, for Pure Slush, the flash fiction (and non-fiction) site I edit. (Someone clicked from your blog to my website.) It was great to read your mentions about the site, and they are appreciated too. Yes, Pure Slush is based in Adelaide, Australia – if based is the word to use – but actually, 52 / 250 was edited by 3 people from the U.S. – Michelle Elvy, Walter Bjorkman, and John Wentworth Chapin – although Michelle lives in and works from New Zealand. That said, I did contribute to 52 / 250 every week, from Week #9 to Week #52, and including the (thus far) three quarterlies. It was a great ride, and I wish I had been involved from Week #1. Anyway, your description of the photo/s at the Tate Modern (which I agree, is a wonderful art space) sound like just the sort of springboard for a submission for Pure Slush’s first print edition, ‘slut’. Fiction and non-fiction submissions for ‘slut’ are being accepted (until 31st October: 1500 words max) but the non-fiction inclusions thus far are a bit on the thin side (numbers, not content) so I especially encourage a non-fiction submission. So thanks again, Doris. I am glad, as I type on a Saturday night in suburban Adelaide, a connection was made between Pure Slush, and photographs taken many years ago in Lebanon, through the Tate Modern in London. And that I came to know about it.
    Matt Potter

    • timeout2 says:

      Dear Matt,

      Like you, I thoroughly enjoyed 52 / 250 and regret that I was not on-board from week one. I bounce back and forth between London and rural Colorado. When I am in London, I have a long association with a weekly writers’ group. However, when I am at-home in the mountains, I have no such group, and I miss the energy and feedback of the collective. Via computer, I had that energy and feedback with 52 /250. The quality and the range of the writing lifted me. I need to find time to read the final quarterly and thank the editors for their efforts.

      I look forward to participating as a writer/reader of Pure Slush. Thank you for your note. Best wishes, Doris

    • Doris, it was me who clicked from your blog to Matt’s Website. Helga

  2. timeout2 says:

    Thank you, Helga! As for the “slut” assignment due in just a matter of days, I can’t focus. Too many ideas (actually worse than none) floating around. Can’t seem to choose one and run with it in a cohesive manner.

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