I forgive you
for teasing me I smell good—
fragrant like a viuda.
But I have not buried my husband,
nor do I want to.
The only viuda I knew was my grandmother,
who spent her days playing cards
with the neighbors, and died
two years later of heart failure
on grandfather’s birth anniversary.
A sweet ending, some might say.
But not for me.
This scent you detect, is it
the musk of a woman wasted
on aloneness? Or
the sandalwood of a chest
of secrets opened? Or is it
the essence of almonds trailing
after a promise unfulfilled?
Perhaps it is the burst
of jasmine on a night
spent dwelling on a mistake;
the spray of freesias on a day
drained wishing for something back;
the nip and sting of orange peels
while pondering revenge.
I would have you know
the old meaning of “widow”
in Sanskrit is “vidhwa,” solitary,
and elsewhere “separated”
eating only boiled rice
but not bereft,
and no bereavement,
treading on grief like the wife of Bath
wearing red silk stockings
on a pilgrimage.
In this manner it could be true
I am a widow
seeking to be shriven of my foolishness
yet holding fast to the hope of another
chance, a life flaming anew
with the fragrance of sanggumay,
those wild orchids that bloom
only when all its leaves have fallen.
Jhoanna Lynn Cruz is the president of Davao Writers Guild and the regional coordinator for Southern Mindanao in the National Committee on Literary Arts. She is an award-winning writer and a current professor of literature and creative writing at the University of the Philippines Mindanao. Her first book Women Loving is the first sole-authored anthology of lesbian-themed stories in the Philippines.
“Agua de Viuda” is interpreted by Rebie P. Ramoso into an oil painting. The painting is part of the Visual Aspect for Kumbira! 2016, a series of literary readings organized by the Davao Writers Guild in partnership with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts as part of the celebration of National Literature Month held last April 2016.