Tuesday, January 12, 2010

“The Nuisance”

It's really amazing what you find when you clean--when you really clean--your apartment. And there is no better time to really get down to the nitty gritty of what you have stowed away in corners you didn't know existed than when you move. Honestly.

I am finding unopened packets of earplugs, single shoelaces, sample caffeine pills, half-written letters, scribbled story ideas, and other tidbits and scraps I've saved for who-knows-what reason. The most ironic thing is, after examination, I still cannot bear to part with most of it! Oh I see why I saved this, I will think, despite the fact that I clearly did not remember having saved it in the first place. This will come in so useful, should I find the time/want to ____. Right.

Some of these discoveries, though, feel like small treasures: little candies I am uncovering that, as I find them, I pop into my mouth and think, "Aha! this is what I taste like. I always knew I was a good judge of myself!" Below is one such example. It is a poem that back in . . . maybe eleventh grade? So 2002 or 2003, when I was participating in a poetry workshop on Saturdays at the Braddock Library. (This was back when I fancied myself an "all-around" writer, which obviously had to include poetry. I have since absolved myself of that delusion.)

I have never been one to particularly enjoy reading poetry. It always feels to me like the poets are trying too hard, and I prefer narratives to overwrought existentialism or over-described scenery. However, poetry does demonstrate that a few well chosen words can, at times, replace entire paragraphs to convey what you mean, and this is a skill that, as a writer, you should both covet and cultivate as best you can.

I like this whole poem, as a whole, but also in parts. I think it can be read both ways, because each stanza conveys a slightly different tone, a slightly different message. I'm not going to go into the whole English Major Analysis mode here, but I'll just say that the last three lines of this poem are brilliant. Read quickly, you can almost miss what makes them so unusual. When I first read them, they made me think of a dog carrying around his pup by the scruff of the neck, with the pup being the "love," but then that not being enough to fill the dog's mouth. But then I realized that it was that word "like" that had crept past me--I had just assumed the line had read something like, "Around in my teeth." But no, it was "Around with me like teeth." Love for someone is like teeth? And to follow it with the line, "And I am starving," implies hunger for love, but also the act of destruction, because teeth chew, and envisioning "chewing" love.... Well, you get the picture. Hence why this woman does not envision herself to be the ideal lover.

In any event, an excellent poem. Packing is certainly no fun, but at least it leads me to discoveries like this!

"The Nuisance"
by Marge Piercy
Circles on the Water. New York: Alfred A Knopf, Inc, 1982.

I am an inconvenient woman.
I’d be more useful as a pencil sharpener or a cash register.
I do not love you the way I love Mother Jones or the surf
Coming in
Or my pussycats or a good piece of steak.
I love the sun prickly on the black stubble of your cheek.
I love you wandering floppy making scarecrows of despair.
I love you when you are discussing changes in the class structure
And it jams my ears and burns in the tips of my fingers.

I am an inconvenient woman.
You might trade me in on a sheepdog or a llama.
You might trade me in for a yak.
They are faithful and demand only straw.
They make good overcoats.
They never call you up on the telephone.

I love you with my arms and my legs
And my brains and my cunt and my unseemly history.
I want to tell you about when I was ten and it thundered.
I want you to kiss the crosshatched remains of my burn.
I want to read you poems about drowning myself
Laid like eggs without shells at fifteen under Shelly’s wings.
I want you to read my old loverletters.

I want you to want me
As directly and simply and variously
As a cup of hot coffee.
I want to, to have to, to miss what can’t have room to happen.
I carry my love for you
Around with me like teeth
And I am starving.


Daniel said...


Rome said...

Interesting...I have an idea why you like the poem so much, but I'll keep that to myself.

Megan daily modafferi said...

Studying Piercy in my college English class and I like how you analyzed that last bit of the poem. She sure is different though, I would have liked to hear more of your thoughts on this one

Megan daily modafferi said...

Studying Piercy in my college English class and I like how you analyzed that last bit of the poem. She sure is different though, I would have liked to hear more of your thoughts on this one