Posts Tagged ‘self’

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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In spite of everything, an odd delight
upsurges in the body, like a tide
that claims a rocky shore, or like a wide
and widening pool of morning light—
except it’s messier. It spills, despite
our thin attempts to hold its force inside.
It sloshes, splatters, overflows. It slides
and slips, it floods, upends, engulfs, unrights.

Oh fierce irrational joy! It doesn’t care
about the setting. Doesn’t care who sees.
It soaks us with its ecstasy, its strange
unruly grace. And then it’s gone. No prayer
or pretty please will make it stay. And we
are changed: yes, still ourselves, but rearranged.

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While the moon watcher stands
out on the porch in her towel
and stares at the almost full moon,

the practical one starts to fuss
about how she’ll catch cold with wet hair,
and the list maker is already thinking

of all the things to be done
when she gets back inside,
“Like go check on your kids

to be sure they’re asleep,” says the mother,
and that’s when the laid-back one says,
“Oh relax, they’re fine, drink some wine,”

and the optimist notes what a sparkling
night it is, how the snow in the field
has never, ever been so luminous,

and the pleaser agrees with her
and says, “Never, ever so luminous,
you’re so right, oh it’s beautiful out here,”

at which the budding wise ass says,
“You’ve seen one moon, you’ve seen ’em all,”
and moon watcher almost sticks out her tongue,

but that is not like her, not like her at all,
and she marvels at the impulse, how it seemed
to rise out of nowhere, just like that gorgeous

enormous shining orb. “Oh yes,” says the scientist,
“Did you know that the moon’s surface
has exceptionally low albedo, giving it a reflectance

only slightly brighter than that of worn asphalt,”
and that’s when the reporter jumps in and begins
to take notes. And the little girl says, “There’s a bunny

in there, do you see it, do you see it tilting on its side,”
and the lover, feeling lonely, wishes she had someone
with her to watch the shining moon as it slides

all the way across the visible sky, somehow
never noticing all that company she’s keeping
on this luminous, cold night.

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He Wants to See My Photo ID

I do not tell him that the woman
in the photo, who looks just like me,
only 12 years younger, does not exist.
She is smiling in the way that only
a woman who has not yet had children
can smile. She knows nothing yet
of how desperate she will become,
how she will lie, how she’ll tell the truth,
how she’ll lose her sense of worth and
replace it with, well, it’s impossible to say.
So instead, when he says, “Is this you,”
I say, “Yes, travelling to Chicago today.”

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