Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Parthenogenesis

Fall is coming, and in way too much of a hurry for my taste. My kids are already back in school, the local college is starting up again with the "opening dinner" tonight, and this year the college I commute to is starting the week after I hope to get everything up and running at the local college, rather than the usual week later. Like many people, I see fall as a chance to reinvent myself. I'll have better commuting habits this year, I think. I'll plan some meals ahead so I can fit into the clothes I haven't been able to wear for the past two winters--I'll stop mentally admiring the friend from my undergraduate college who, when asked what she planned to do over the summer said "I thought I'd grow out my thighs."

Women, of course, can be particularly susceptible to the lure of physical reinvention. I love the way Brenda Shaughnessy imagines it in her poem "Parthenogenesis":

It's easy to make more of myself by eating,
and sometimes easy's the thing.

To be double-me, half the trouble
but not lonely.

Making cakes to celebrate any old day.
Eating too much: the emperor of being used.

Nature, mature and feminized,
naturalizes me naturally by creating

the feeling of being a natural woman,
like a sixteen-year-old getting knocked up

again. To solve that problem,
there's the crispness of not eating,

a pane of glass with a bloody-edged
body, that is, having the baby at the prom

undetected and in a trance of self-preservation,
throwing it away in the girls' room trash.

Buried under paper towels, silent.
Nothing could be better, for the teenager.

For me, starving, that coreless, useful feeling,
is not making myself smaller

but making myself bigger, inside.
It's prince and pauper both, it's starving artist

and good model in one masterpiece.
It rhymes with marveling and that's no accident.

Fullness is dullness. Dreaming's too easy.
But sometimes I don't care.

Sometimes I put in just the right amount,
but then I'm the worst kind of patsy, a chump

giving myself over to myself like a criminal
to the law, with nothing to show for it.

No reward, no news, no truth.
It's too sad to be so ordinary every day.

Like some kind of employee.
Being told what to do. Chop off a finger

to plant in fertilizer (that is, in used animal
food), to grow a finger tree.

More fingers for me. Stop saying finger.
I'm the one in charge here.

Stop the madness and just eat the mirror.
Put it in sideways or crush it

into a powder. It doesn't hurt and it works.
Mouth full, don't talk.

Nothing to say. I'll be a whole new person.
I'll make her myself. Then we'll walk away.

We'll say to each other how she's changed.
How we wouldn't have recognized us.

I used to be an accomplished yo-yo dieter, back when that worked, and the descriptions of each state really recapture those feelings, for me. Most of all I like the line "it's too sad to be so ordinary every day."

This poem is from the volume Human Dark With Sugar (recommended to me by Serena over at Savvy Verse and Wit). It's full of frankly sensual and provocative poems that would be great for shocking first-year college students out of their preconceived notions of what poetry is, but would probably get me one of those "warning: explicit content" signs if I reproduced them here. Another of my favorite poems from this volume is entitled "Straight's the New Gay," and it's lovely, the way it turns itself inside out and then keeps twisting around, so appropriate to its subject matter.

Do you think about re-inventing yourself in the fall? What are you considering this year?

7 comments:

thelass said...

I do think of re-inventing myself in the fall. This comes in two forms: bodily improvement (diet, exercise) and home improvement (which this year means painting our ugly bathroom). Fall, for whatever reason, is much more a time of regeneration for me than Spring.

FreshHell said...

Yes and no. Usually, I look at each season as an opportunity to do something better. In spring, it's the garden. In fall, exercise. Right now, though, I'm bracing myself for the changes coming with two kids in school - double lunches, double homework. I will be taking some exercise classes starting in Sept.

FreshHell said...

Yes and no. Usually, I look at each season as an opportunity to do something better. In spring, it's the garden. In fall, exercise. Right now, though, I'm bracing myself for the changes coming with two kids in school - double lunches, double homework. I will be taking some exercise classes starting in Sept.

Amanda said...

I can't wait for fall to come. Summer in Texas is like winter in North Dakota - something you have to live through but not something to be enjoyed. A Texas fall is more like a northern summer. I actually miss northern falls, though...

Anonymous said...

12 hours ago, I wanted to be a scholar Now I'll settle for happy.

-lemming

Jeanne said...

Lass, I think we all still have some of that "new beginning" feel in the fall left over from starting school.
FreshHell, When the kids are starting school, it's a forced fresh start, isn't it?
Amanda, I love heat but have never had to live through an entire Texas August, which Lass and my sister-in-law inform me is the worst month.
Lemming, words cannot express my depth of regret. Forced re-invention is harder than the inspire-it-yourself kind.

Cschu said...

I don't know if I re-invent myself in the fall. But I loved this post.