3 posts tagged kim addonizio
There’s a bird crying outside, or maybe calling, anyway it goes on
without stopping, so I begin to think it’s my bird, my insistent
I, I, I that today is so trapped by some nameless but still relentless
that I can’t get any further than this, one note clicking
in the afternoon silence, measuring out some possible melody
I can’t begin to learn. I could say it’s the bird of my loneliness
asking, as usual, for love, for more anyway than I have; I could as
easily call it
grief, ambition, knot of self that won’t untangle, fear of my own
I can do is listen to the way it keeps on, as if it’s enough just to
launch a voice
against stillness, even a voice that says so little, that no one is
likely to answer
with anything but sorrow, and their own confusion. I, I, I, isn’t it
sound, the beautiful, arrogant ego refusing to disappear? I don’t
what I want, only that I’m desperate for it, that I can’t stop asking.
the bird finally quiets I need to say it doesn’t, that all afternoon
I hear it, and into the evening; that even now, in the darkness, it
It’s probably no secret that I’m a big fan of Kim Addonizio; her poem “Good Girl” shook my very foundation as I was heading into my thirtieth birthday. This poem shakes me, too, because of the bird that keeps “crying outside, or maybe calling, anyway it goes on and on/without stopping.” It’s a nod to Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven”—a source of distraction, “Only this and nothing more.” It’s the bird that I heard outside of my window in Cambridge, England, the squawking that woke me every morning of my study abroad and told me something wasn’t right. Six years later, I remember the bird. I remember the feeling. It’s imprecise: “I could say it’s the bird of my loneliness/asking, as usual, for love, for more anyway than I have; I could as easily call it/grief, ambition, knot of self that won’t untangle, fear of my own heart.” I love that part of “The Singing”: “knot of self that won’t untangle.” Knot of self. Fear of my own heart. It’s a feeling we’re not supposed to have, a negative entity. But the narrator has it, too.
The narrator takes this “knot of self,” this self-absorption that we’re so desperate not to have, and turns it, makes it her own, claims it: “I, I, I, isn’t it the sweetest/sound, the beautiful, arrogant ego refusing to disappear? I don’t know/what I want, only that I’m desperate for it, that I can’t stop asking.” Is it wrong to ask for what you want, even if you don’t know what it is? Or is it “the sweetest sound”?
I still can’t put my finger on that feeling in Cambridge. I only know that it was a certain kind of desperation for things to change that has never stopped. I won’t let it go. Neither will the narrator of the poem: “That when/the bird finally quiets I need to say it doesn’t, that all afternoon/I hear it, and into the evening; that even now, in the darkness, it/goes on.” Or, as “The Raven” exclaims, “Shall be lifted—Nevermore!”
Is this exuberance or depression? I don’t know. It’s beauty, it’s life.
I want a red dress.
I want it flimsy and cheap,
I want it too tight, I want to wear it
until someone tears it off me.
I want it sleeveless and backless,
this dress, so no one has to guess
what’s underneath. I want to walk down
the street past Thrifty’s and the hardware store
with all those keys glittering in the window,
past Mr. and Mrs. Wong selling day-old
donuts in their café, past the Guerra brothers
slinging pigs from the truck and onto the dolly,
hoisting the slick snouts over their shoulders.
I want to walk like I’m the only
woman on earth and I can have my pick.
I want that red dress bad.
I want it to confirm
your worst fears about me,
to show you how little I care about you
or anything except what
I want. When I find it, I’ll pull that garment
from its hanger like I’m choosing a body
to carry me into this world, through
the birth-cries and the love-cries too,
and I’ll wear it like bones, like skin,
it’ll be the goddamned
dress they bury me in.
I decided to post this poem today because I like Kim Addonizio’s poetry and it’s my birthday, and because, despite my imperfections, I’m old enough to know what I want and still young enough to fight like hell for it.
Look at you, sitting there being good.
After two years you’re still dying for a cigarette.
And not drinking on weekdays, who thought that one up?
Don’t you want to run to the corner right now
for a fifth of vodka and have it with cranberry juice
and a nice lemon slice, wouldn’t the backyard
that you’re so sick of staring out into
look better then, the tidy yard your landlord tends
day and night — the fence with its fresh coat of paint,
the ash-free barbeque, the patio swept clean of small twigs—
don’t you want to mess it all up, to roll around
like a dog in his flowerbeds? Aren’t you a dog anyway,
always groveling for love and begging to be petted?
You ought to get into the garbage and lick the insides
of the can, the greasy wrappers, the picked-over bones,
you ought to drive your snout into the coffee grounds.
Ah, coffee! Why not gulp some down with four cigarettes
and then blast naked into the streets, and leap on the first
beautiful man you find? The words Ruin me, haven’t they
been jailed in your throat for forty years, isn’t it time
you set them loose in slutty dresses and torn fishnets
to totter around in five-inch heels and slutty mascara?
Sure it’s time. You’ve rolled over long enough.
Forty, forty-one. At the end of all this
there’s one lousy biscuit, and it tastes like dirt.
So get going. Listen: they’re howling for you now:
up and down the block your neighbors’ dogs
burst into frenzied barking and won’t shut up.
I’ve picked this poem as the first post for several reasons, the main one being that I keep running into it. I thought the poem was brilliant when I first read it because it seemed to capture how one feels between trying to be a “good” girl and the desire to let it all hang out and just live, whatever that means. I keep enjoying this poem because of all the layers it has, particularly all the dirty language (licking the inside of a garbage can and slutty mascara). Perhaps I like this poem simply for the fact that I don’t like the “good” girl. I want her to let words loose, drink on weekdays and weekends, put on slutty clothes, and stop rolling over. Just stop rolling over.