Dear Charlotte Perkins Gilman (Yellow Wallpaper)

I have examined your wallpaper,
discussed the scholarly attributes
of shades of yellow, traced the edges
of your unravelling with my mind,
argued the merits of Gothic horror;

marvelled at the brilliance of wording,
the courage to define the nature of
feminine madness, the boldness to
highlight inequalities long before the
establishment of a Person’s Act.

Forgive me, but I need to set aside
this keyboard for a moment, for I tire
easily, am suffering from an exhaustion
that is systemic and calls for elimination
of all stimulus in favour of rest, you see

I share your sentence of confinement,
isolated to a room with windows, my
mind wandering to ancestral gardens,
contemplating shadows and movement
cognizant of underlying forces, creeping.

My husband has just left, dear man, having
checked on me, taking on my burden,
concerned that I am not sleeping at night
thinks that by reading and rereading your
words I am only fueling an already over-

active imagination; begging me to be still
as the doctor has recommended; but I am
burning to tell you that time has no
relevance between us and that you and I
exist simultaneously – a secret we dare

not confess – how correct your impulse
that there was more than one woman,
that we are many, barred by the designs
of society, papered over by irrational,
outdated shades of yellow, lacking

symmetry, or sensibility, suffocating
our creativity, tortuously contorting
ourselves to been seen, accepted.
It is the smell of our discordant souls
that pervades your consciousness

the rotted withering of  a stifled
existence – a yellowed existence –
once hopeful, sunny, now molding
mucous, desperately torn away
at the edges, pleading for escape

How grateful I am that you see –
may I call you Charlotte – that you
have smelled the angst, witnessed
the struggle, are willing to tear at
the sticking places, to set us free.

(I wrote this in the throes of severe M.E. – sleepless nights, coupled with systemic exhaustion and endless confinement to bed brought to mind the short story :  Yellow Wallpaper.  I submit it here and am linking up with Brave and Reckless’ challenge based on Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s piece)


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Permission to write, paint, and imagine are the gifts I gave myself when chronic illness hit - a fair exchange: being for doing. Relevance is an attitude. Humour essential.

39 thoughts on “Dear Charlotte Perkins Gilman (Yellow Wallpaper)”

  1. Powerful, V.J. and I’m so glad you shared the context, because the emotional pain comes through with force. I haven’t read “The Yellow Wallpaper” in years, but I have never forgotten it. I am so glad I didn’t miss reading your brilliant piece.

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      1. Oh VJ, I’m so sorry. Antibiotics make you feel crappy even for a short time, so I’m sure the prolonged course is no fun. I hope they’re able to figure out what’s going on and heal your infection. I’m doing well, thanks for asking. It’s been a rather busy couple of weeks, but for good things. I had a chance to go spend some time with my parents, and some friends we hadn’t seen for a couple of years came for a visit, so I’ve been having fun. I really hope you feel better soon. Hugs!

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