“Split Personality” by Gertrude Abercrombie
Prompt: “And now for our (optional) prompt. In our interview, Kyle Dargan suggests writing out a list of all of your different layers of identity. For example, you might be a wife, a grandmother, a Philadelphian, a dental assistant, a rabid Phillies fan, a seamstress, retiree, agnostic, cancer survivor, etc.. These are all ways you could be described or lenses you could be viewed through. Now divide all of those things into lists of what makes you feel powerful and what makes you feel vulnerable. Now write a poem in which one of the identities from the first list contends or talks with an identity from the second list. This might turn out to be kind of a “heavy” exercise, emotionally, but I hope you will find the results enlightening. Happy writing!”
You’re never enough. Falling
to pieces like that—in public, nonetheless.
What are you thinking? Pretending to care
when we talk. To understand
when you clearly don’t. Believing
in unicorns and that everything will be OK.
(Knowing it won’t.)
Thinking of yourself as a mutant,
no matter how true. Flying
without our express permission.
Using your gills to breathe underwater.
Roosting in the chicken coop. Telling everyone
with ears you can’t sleep in a bed.
(All that gibberish. Honestly.)
Since when don’t you have a home
to go to? A place to lay your head down?
What’s up with these illusions
of grandeur, the false modesty? Why
would you ask for the cup to be taken away?
Who’s going to drink what’s yours?
(What about the apple? Leaving Eden?)
And what’s with that pitiful memory
you’ve acquired since you were born?
Have we even decided you needed one? Why hang
onto it, tooth and nail? Like it’s the best
freaking thing that ever happened to a mortal.
Are you ready to deal with the guilt?
(Or will you pass the buck on that, too?)
Who do you expect to come
and save you from yourself?
No one. Not you, for sure.
You might think you’re invincible, but.
Things tend to leave you.
It doesn’t take long before
they realize you’re not fun enough
to stick around. There’s nothing authentic
about boredom, I guess. This is how
last summer’s beach towels found their way
into your neighbor’s yard; how
the wide-brimmed sunhat hopped
along the sand and into
the brush by the highway.
I know you’ve noticed it recently,
this constant exodus.
The keys you duplicate every month.
The Oxford dictionary that stopped
propping your door open
and is now a bookend in your
dog walker’s apartment.
Even your toothbrush, which should
know better (see, I can use parentheses, too),
whitens someone else’s teeth.
Look back at your path
through this life you claim
to have mastered. Be honest, tell me
the truth. Don’t you find it
uncluttered, debris-less, as if
you hadn’t lived?
Don’t you see your shadow grow
tired of following in your footsteps,
as you shuffle
through a desert of things,
where the only voice you hear
is your own?