Posts Tagged ‘self’




This is, perhaps, the year to learn to be big.

Spruce tree big. Cliffside big. Big as mesa,

as mountain lake. Big as in cosmos, as in love.

Being small has never served me—constricting,

contorting, trying to fit into a room, into shoes,

into a name. Let this be the year to escape all those little

rules with those little shoulds, all those little

cages with their little locks. Time to make of myself

a key, time to lean into immensity. Time to supersize

communion, time to grow beyond self. Time to

open, to unwall, to do as the universe does,

accelerating as it expands, not rushing toward

something else, but changing the scale of space itself.




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for it is not so much to know the self   

as to know it as it is known

   by galaxy and cedar cone

—A.R. Ammons, “Gravelly Run”


I want to know the self

the way a nest might know

the eggs it holds, the way

a feather might know a wing.

I want to know the self

as a bank knows a river,

as wave knows water,

as night knows the night.

There is a kind of knowing

that has less to do with certainty

and more to do with meeting

the world again and again as it is.

I want to know the self

with no name, with no story,

as a stone might know it,

or a song.

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I’m exactly the person that I thought I’d be.

                        —Amanda Palmer, “In My Mind”



And there she was in Wikipedia, the woman

with my name who went to my college and

attended my grad school and graduated the same

years as I did. She wrote books that I wrote

and lives in the same state I do.

There was no picture of her, but I think

I might recognize her if I see her. Though in reality,

I recognize her less and less. I remember

how much she wanted to be in Wikipedia.

How the bio she wished for included honors

way beyond the honors they list. I know

how she still struggles with what she thinks she wants

and who she actually is. Of course, I love

that they spelled her name right. That they

neglected to mention the awards she didn’t get

last week. How they left out the part

where she didn’t want to get out of bed

in the morning for months. But dang.

Wikipedia. I mean, how could that not

make her feel as if she’s somehow arrived—

categorized as “American Woman Poet,”

which, they don’t mention, has been

her dream since fifth grade. If they knew,

they might expand her bio to mention the winter day

back in 1979 when she sat in a beanbag

on Mrs. Zabrowski’s fifth grade floor

and stared out the window

at the furious Wisconsin winter storm

and read “The Snowflake” by Walter de la Mare,

falling in love with what poems can do.

That was the day she felt the wild tremor

of words and thought, Maybe I could do it, too.

And maybe tonight, looking in the mirror,

she will see that no matter the honors

she never received, she did follow

the wild tremor of words to become

the woman she dreamed she could be.

And though Wikipedia won’t tell you why,

she’s starting to believe she’s exactly

the woman she dreamed she could be.

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Losing It



It was a tiny percentage, I knew, but still

there was some French royalty somewhere

in my blood. I would spend hours imagining

myself in my proper place: in a long pink dress


and thin gold crown in a castle on a green hillside,

doing needlepoint, no doubt, and nibbling bon bons,

and so when I again asked my mother to tell me about

that part of our heritage, she told me,


It’s so little blood, and you’ve had so many

skinned knees, I’m pretty sure you’ve

bled it all out by now. And I was instantly

less grandiose. That was, perhaps, the first identity


that I was aware of losing. But soon after that,

I was no longer blonde. And soon after that,

I no longer lived in Wisconsin. And soon after that,

I was no longer a Scout. Everything I thought


I knew about myself didn’t last. Ah,

the litany of losses. Those notions of who we are,

how they shed, they spill, they slip off.

As they’re lost, we usually rush to replace them.


I became worker. Lover. Parent. Friend.

We wear them so close, these identities ,

that we no longer see them as separate. We think

they’re who we are. But what if we skinned


not just our knees, but our thoughts,

and let those roles escape? Who would

be left to walk through the field this evening

to see the double rainbow stretched across the east?



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At the Pond




It’s no Walden, but it’s cool

and the day is dust hot,

and so I ask my younger self

if she wants to go swimming,

and she grabs the hand of my older self,

and drags her to the pond.

My older self was, perhaps,

more rhetorical than sincere

when she suggested the swim,

but the younger self has already

kicked off her shoes and shrugged

out of her dress. The swallows

wheel and sweep overhead

and all along the pond’s edge

the dragonflies darn through the reeds.

What is it in us that never forgets

how to jump in, no matter

how cold, no matter who’s watching,

no matter what else

we’re supposed to do?

That is the part that is already wet

and otter slick as the older part of me

stands at the edge, still dressed,

in awe of that girl, how she

glitters in the sun, how

through chattering teeth,

she laughs, how she looks

so almost familiar.


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One Almost Lost




in a field of a hundred greens

surprised to find

I am still me

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When climbing the inner branches

of the largest spruce we can find,


and finding the prickly lattice

an easier ladder than we imagined,


we might climb high enough

that we forget if we are climbing


to get away from or to move toward,

might climb long enough


that at last it is neither tree

nor land nor sky that feels


like home, but our own

limbs as they find the next place


to step, to pull up, to rest.

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the dark is    less dark

and the shapes    of the world

reveal again their    singular shapes—

I know they don’t really    lose their lines in the dark,

but I like to imagine    all those newly

illumined    silhouettes

have spent the night    blurred, puddled

into one    immense darkness,

forgetting    for a while

that they have    any lines

worth    preserving.

It is enough    to make a woman

wish that    the light

would never    come

if that is    what it takes

to make us    all remember

how arbitrary    they are,

these boundaries    we like

to call    ourselves.

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Here, I say, I am here for you,
and then I run the other way.
My legs are two trees. They never
leave. Everywhere I go, I am rooted.
My legs are two rivers. They escape
in every moment. I am always
where I’ve never been. There is only
yes, and still I say no. The truth is
I do not want to be known. The truth
is you know me already.
I open my mouth to speak and your
voice pours out. It is my voice
that lives on your lips.
What is all this interest in yours
and mine? Sometimes I believe
these invisible lines. And sometimes,
sometimes I am here, I say.
And then I run the other way.

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And the Winner Is

I have made of my body a wrestling ring—
in one corner, the defender. She wears
a high turtle neck and her hair in a bun.
She holds up her fists to the world, to anyone
who tries to touch her. On her belt, it says,
I Don’t Need Anything. She fired her trainer
long ago. And she’s staring down the challenger,
who has shown up to the match in a soft
pink dress and bare feet. The challenger
smiles at the champ. It’s a genuine smile.
She holds out a hand to shake, but the
defender glares and starts to circle her. There
is no referee. The challenger, she wants
to be held, to be loved, to share warmth,
and she’s willing to stand in this ring
and take the hits. But after forty some years
of circling each other, they’re both getting tired
and wouldn’t it be something if one day
they took down the ropes and got really curious
about what might happen next. I’d like to think
that ring might become an altar, a place
they might meet and say yes to each other,
a place where everything is offered
and anything might happen.

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