I spent the weekend seeking out normal–an elusive concept I had proudly let go of. I watched movies I’ve watched before (that’s right, I watched movies), I roasted a chicken, sat by the pool. Last week was the sort that knocks everything askew–it was as if the tripod my worldview balances on lost a screw and now everything is crooked.

My work consists of saying the same things again and again to a constantly changing population of people who are suffering in a lot of the same ways. One of the things I say a lot, a lot, a lot is: Whatever trauma brought you here is not the last hit you’ll take. I can’t promise much, but I can promise this. Life will keep hitting out, you’ve got to figure out how you’re going to keep getting back up.

And so we get up and keep walking towards the things we must do–maybe we limp for a while, maybe the changes require us to tilt our heads so this different landscape makes sense.

To embrace this changing perspective, and the absolute absurdity of life, write a poem from the perspective of an inanimate object you can see from where you are right now. Check out Mirror by Sylvia Plath. It ain’t sunshine and roses. But know what? Neither am I.

4 thoughts on “Normal

  1. Precise black nibs, air-filled and
    separate, top jaw flopped wide
    I contain a gathering of long-sleeves
    along on a summer trip, the other
    shoes, embroidered vest, crinkled receipt.
    I await repacking for a multi-flight
    return; my teeth will perform their
    miracle against the odds
    and ends I hold while I totter and wheeze
    and glide and shudder when you shove me
    in that overhead bin. But I will not
    be the one flung in the belly below, so there,
    bigger bag, so there.

    • seemareza

      Mary–this is amazing!

      • Hi Seema, thank you for the inspiration! My friend Carl suggested I consider shaping the poem, and the idea infested me during hours of travel. Here’s another version. I don’t write lined poetry often. This particular challenge pushed me toward different choices. But I also held fast to certain moments in the original. Readings and comments by Ellen Bass during Writers at Work got all kinds of poetry energy flowing for me.–Mary


        My precise black tines comb empty air
        flat jaw flopping floorward
        mine are the long sleeves brought on a
        summer trip, embroidered
        vest, birthday cards, receipts, the other
        shoes. My tiny hooks yield
        one by one–corps de ballet–and make
        a miracle against the odds
        and ends I hold as I glide, stand, topple
        and shudder at your shove
        into the rank bin overhead. But I will not
        be the one that’s flung on a
        belt towards a crushing, freezing pit. So
        there, bigger bag, so there.

    • Elizabeth Fetter

      Love your spirit of adventure in producing this “extraordinary out of the ordinary” poem. Your attention to detail with what you learned from Ellen Bass in your blog is incredible. I did not get half of that, so learned and relearned from you.

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