Daily Archives: February 21, 2010

Beside The Well

The girl
poured slowly out onto the pool deck
from her room, turning to slide
the door shut behind her.
I can’t take look away.

At this point in the poem
my Audience takes me to task
for calling her a girl.  “That’s a woman
you are talking about, not a girl.”

The Audience is correct, of course.  “But calling her
a woman,” I protest, somewhat sheepishly,
“feels like a lie from the height of the tall pile
of fifty years I’ve got under me.  Every one that age

still appears a child to me, no matter
who or what they are, how they look; I can’t call
a girl a woman in the voice I’ve got to work with
at this point in my life.”

“Then you need to change your perspective,”
replies my Unforgettable Audience.  “Don’t call a woman
a girl if she’s a woman, asshole.  It cheapens her.  How old
was this ‘girl’ — eighteen, nineteen?”  Plenty old enough
for you to notice her as a woman, right?”  And the Audience

has me dead to rights. She was beautiful; tan skin, dark hair,
shy blue eyes, slightly chunky with a white bikini
that didn’t quite fit according to the rules and customs
that we’re supposed to believe…” “
GET OUT OF THE POEM!

snaps the Unrelenting Audience. “Just for one minute
can you stick to the point? We’re dealing with real life here,
with objectification.  You can’t even see her because
you’re obsessed with that body, and calling her a girl

helps to reduce her worth as a human, while your self serving
commentary about ‘society’s rules’ is a cover to make us think
you’re being deep when all you want is to get your rocks off
with some thinly disguised eroticization of the moment.”

“Well,” I offer, “she was the one wearing the bikini…”
“There you go again,” the Audience scolds, “blaming her
for your clumsiness.  I don’t know what to do with you.  You seem
so intelligent, so smart about so many things, and yet
you can’t stop for a moment to call this woman a woman,

to address all the possibilities she holds…”
And the Audience throws up its hands
and turns away.  I can’t say I disagree.
I’d walk away from me too, if I could.

Everything that was said was correct. I couldn’t help
seeing that woman as a girl.  It’s no excuse, but It happens
with girls and boys of a certain age.  Each
looks like a child, or close to a child, and I know

they aren’t, but the clock inside me is spinning so fast
that I find myself behind the times too often,
and it leads to my saying something that I regret
not thinking through.  Somewhere inside me is a well of poems

I dare not write because I know the All-Knowing Audience
will see through me.  That if I do not take enough care,
something will slip through obscuring the moment
I’m trying to capture, and all I am — all insecurities,

half-baked prejudices, remnants of a past life
I’ve tried to escape and make over, over and over —
will be revealed.  I am not that poet, that person.
I hold myself and my problems close.

The poem I am trying to write is better
than the one I can write.  I can say,
She poured out of the room onto the pool deck
and leave the qualifier aside. I can rexamine the way I see her,

refashion the word girl, talk of how she transfixes me with her shy style;
offer more detail, make her real instead of abstract,
make her uniquely herself, not a rendition of my image
of her self.  One word changed, an entire world transformed.

I sit by the well inside me and stare at her,
afloat on a poem.  On the other side of that well
is the Audience, watching for what I do, hoping
I do it as carefully as I can.

I look over now
into the face that haunts me, always
demanding my best.  I recognize that face:
a man I’d like to know.

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