The door is closed, the curtains drawn within
One room, a brilliant question mark of light…
Outside her gate an empty limousine
Waits in the brimming emptiness of night.
Angela Manalang-Gloria is a Filipina poet who wrote poems in English during the time before war. Her works were given less attention to during those times, which explains why her entry was ignored in the 1940 Commonwealth Literary Contests. Her collection of lyrical pieces exploring a woman’s private passions received less favor then, but has undergone revaluation in recent years.
The poem “Querida” consists of only four lines and was criticized before as “saying nothing but that inside there was a light; outside, there was a limousine. The poem describes a certain scenario. We could conclude that it is one of the nights when the mistress, or the “querida”, as what the title suggests, spends time with her lover, who is most probably a wealthy, married man. The theme of having an affair with a married man, or a married person for that matter, was a taboo topic before. As the years pass by, and the way people’s way of thinking change, this issue had been talked about with a more open and non-discriminating minds.
Querida, as mentioned, means “mistress” and a mistress is a woman who is having an affair with a married man. Of course, the term refers to the female gender. Some would even point out that if a woman has an affair, she is branded as a mistress, but when a man does the same sin, there is no known equivalent for the term.
This subject could raise interest to women, because it’s the branding of their gender that this poem talks about. I am also inclined to believe that when news of things such as having a relationship outside marriage surfaces, it will be talked about, regardless if the people talking are male or female. In the Philippine context, there is no denying that most of these people who would be talking about this issue would be mostly women.
There is no definite labeling for the voice of the persona describing the scene. It merely describes, but somehow we could say that the voice is suggesting what the title says – it suggests that this is one of the nights in a querida’s life. We cannot definitely say that the work is sympathetic to the female gender, because as stated, the voice of the persona describing the scene is merely describing and giving hints. The work could be sympathetic, but at the same time, some may say it’s even sarcastic. The clues and hints given could have a sympathetic feel, thinking that the persona’s purpose in telling this scene is for the readers to know what a querida goes through during these nights. On the other hand, it could also have this sarcasm, mocking the mistress in her deeds with a married man.
Although the poem is consisted of only four lines, the situation is pretty clear. It doesn’t sound like the persona wants to influence the way the readers think about mistresses, because again the persona is merely telling this certain scene.
The poem is full of images, one of them being the first line. A closed door and drawn curtains suggests secrecy. An affair is not openly announced to everyone anyway. Affairs are secretive, and the first line suggests the secrecy. The second line says that there is a questionable light in one of the rooms. Light is perceived as hope, but the persona deems it as a brilliant question mark. The hope being questionable is indeed doubtful. This could refer to the querida’s purpose or feelings about her being a mistress. Maybe she loves the man but the man is already married. Or maybe she benefits from the arrangement but despises it at the same time because she had no choice but to do it.
This poem is about a branded woman. A kind of discrimination which is predominant at the time this very poem was written. The poet was sort of like discriminated as well during her time, having her works ignored and all. But as they say, it takes a strong woman to speak her mind. Writing about “immoral” topics during those times opened an avenue to a broader perspective. Having this poem written by a female herself is indeed just because more than anyone else, a woman would understand another.