The Glowing of Such Fire: Themes of Time & Life on GftT
Gender from the Trenches Newsletter, November 2019
In College I had to memorize and recite Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 73.” It was a major grade — like an exam — required for passing English 111. It was easy enough; it had personal meaning and I passed with flying colors. Little did I know, “Sonnet 73” was only one of several more works I’d have to memorize and recite during the ’90s, between my English, Speech, and Theatre courses. Perhaps the most notorious and daunting one came from my Major British Authors class, or, what every Meredith College student came to know as the bane of her existence.
In Major British Authors, we were required to interpret, analyze, memorize, and recite the first 35 lines of the “General Prologue” to Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales — and this had to be done as it was written, in middle English.
“Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote, The droghte of Marche hath perced to the roote, And bathed every veyne in swich licour, Of which vertu engendred is the flour…”
And so on… Conquering this recitation was considered a rite of passage at Meredith. I did it, but nothing about it was fun.
My memories of “Sonnet 73” are far warmer, despite its cold imagery.
And it seems every November I think back and reflect on these particular words, a memory undoubtedly sparked by the surrounding warmth of autumn leaves at their peak — blazing in saffron, amber and crimson.
That time of year thou may’st in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day,
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by-and-by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire
Consum’d with that which it was nourish’d by.
This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.
“Time,” and a sense of mortality is evident here. But, despite the darker tones of “Sonnet 73,” there’s a brighter message of hope, resilience, and the kind of love some of us may only dream of. Though time is inevitable, though we all age, mature, and slow to a halt, still, we hang on. We keep going. One foot in front of the other, even when it feels like we’re going backwards, or nowhere at all.
So I found it striking that many of the pieces published on GftT over the past couple of months seemed to weave together the theme of time: how it passes or stands still, and the theme of living your life: at any stage. Branwen Rhiannon Drew finds “Inspiration,” and through poetry shows that it’s everywhere: from life, and strife; from death, at last breath. In “Delicious, Delicious Gender Euphoria,” Andy Waller speaks of time spent thusly:
“I spent years feeling and thinking I wasn’t “trans” enough because I didn’t experience a great deal of gender dysphoria…”
Later, in “Socially Coming Out As Trans,” Andy Waller embraces living an authentic life, unapologetically and fully, and notes how the experience has changed in appearance and definition over time. My pieces focused on the experience parenting a trans teen, and how, over time, certain “same old things” tend to accumulate. Like “The Sh*t Parents of Trans Kids Hear All The Time,” and the oft-repeated accusation that parents like me are “pushing an agenda.”
Robert Frost’s iconic poem “The Road Not Taken” served as surprising inspiration which revealed parallels to trans non-binary people — themes I’d certainly never considered before — like, how it’s impossible to see where seemingly “major life decisions” will lead or take us — only that they’ll change us, and that will make “all the difference.”
And finally, if you consider yourself a trans ally, be sure not to miss Zanne Nilsson’s pro tips for cis people, in “How Not To Talk About Your Trans Friends.” You’ll learn how to be an even better ally going forward, and you’ll maybe feel better-equipped to deal with something ostensibly unimportant, like small talk! Through Zanne Nilsson’s example, you can see how some awkward banter at a wedding quickly went downhill (yikes)!!
Send me your stories, if you have them! I’m hoping to publish a lot more material in the coming month.
Til next time, be well, and live authentically!