When I was a girl I didn’t know
I was a girl. I thought I was
more of a pigment, a choral tone,
some kind of weather that disrupts
everyone’s life in the living room.
I knocked over the cast iron iron again,
and this time it broke. How could
you break an iron iron? they yelled,
but how could I not? The weight of
metal on the earth, wanting to return.
When money was missing, I thought surely
I must have taken it.
When it rained, a hurricane this time,
I thought, see what you’ve done now.
I didn’t believe in cause and effect, elements of
surprise, or the slim chance meetings
that changed everyone’s lives. I didn’t know
that people were supposed to end,
contained as vases to hold
whatever you gave them.
I thought we were more like land, islands even,
unfurling in the brown haze of the sea.
I thought there was water everywhere,
pouring us into changeable shapes –
leaf or puppy or branch. All falling
toward wherever we came from
not afraid or surprised,
not bad or tricked into good.
All falling back into the horizons that come
each evening to meet the fire.
from Animals in the House, ©2004
- What did you believe when you were a child? Did you have a free-floating sense of guilt, as the poet expresses here? Did you blame yourself for random “crimes?” Did you believe you possessed extraordinary powers?
- What family messages did you receive when you were growing up? Write a list poem called “What They Used to Tell Me” and capture some of these messages, positive or negative.
- If you were a color instead of a person, what color would you be? Write a description of yourself as that color and its many hues.