WAKING by Eva Figes


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The seven ages of a woman, each caught at that delicate, half-dangerous moment of first daily consciousness. The little girl's waking is curious, innocently sensual: ""I sniff the skin of my arm, how brown it smells, delicious, it smells of sunlight and yesterday's baking hot afternoon."" Adolescence is wider-angled yet also more ego-centered: ""Leaning out the window, I feel how the cool night air touches my face and bare shoulders; how it gathers in the shadows of the trees, stirring the leaves which sigh as it moves on."" Married, with young children, the woman feels alienated from her less-than-warm husband: ""Light from the window catches his rumpled dark hair, his body is a hard cliff. The waves of my misery beat helplessly into that rock, and fall back on itself."" Divorced, she experiences a sexual renaissance: ""I am inside my body, heavy but also light."" Middle-age-woes--rebellious and sullen children, bodily failings--bring the body to be also a vessel for pain: ""Inside something must have given way, walls have begun to leak or crumble."" And finally the woman is old, alone: ""a ghost in a faded photograph. I am surrounded by silence."" Then, dying: ""Now the light is fading. Is this air or water? I would think it the evening tide, but if so the cool grey waves have crept around me with such stealth, so quietly, that I heard no sound."" Figes does capture essences in this very brief (88 pp.) prose poem. But the style is undistinguished (""the creak of a floorboard,"" light as a ""pool of melted butter""); the pace is a little rubbery; and the voice is finally a thin one--with none of the reach and resonance of monologue-writing at its Beckett-ian best.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1981
Publisher: Pantheon