Come into the world like that [IndieInk Challenge]

For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Bewildered Bug challenged me with “Write a piece based on the following quote from V.S. Naipaul: ‘As a child I knew almost nothing, nothing beyond what I had picked up in my grandmother’s house. All children, I suppose, come into the world like that, not knowing who they are.'” and I challenged SAM with “Write a piece in which a character has a conversation with god, using your personal concept of god to define the character — yes, even if you’re an atheist and you believe god is nonexistent.”

Come into the world like that

I.
You can’t grow up spending summers
in suburbia reading about Narnia,
Redwall, Neverland, the Looking Glass,
Middle Earth, Terabithia,
Mount Olympus, Mars,
without wondering whether you
belong in reality.
(And it’s going to take
twenty years
—if you’re lucky—
to find out how
and where and why you do.)

Weekends on the lake
at your grandmother’s cottage
you imagine you’re really
at the ocean, because
you’ve never heard
of a freshwater mermaid
and you want to believe
one is coming for you.
You’re too young to notice
that adults pretend, too—
that family is easy,
that this is the life,
that roughing it is fun.
You’re too young to notice
that you can be forty
and still not know how
to take your place in this world.

II.
One February, when home
feels as frayed as your last nerve,
the Texas sunset spends a week
reminding you that
you found something, that
you write poems making love
to the city, that even though
you’re still a little lost,
you have an anchor here
in the shine of the river,
in your favorite bookstore
in your tiny, overgrown yard,
in the company that keeps you.

You still haven’t tailored
life to the proportions
of your imagination, but
your supplies are scattered
around the house, waiting,
and your heart now waits
for desert mermaids.

***

If you want to read more about the poem, click before the fold

I am really proud of this piece. It’s actually an imitation of Paul Allen’s “A Tangle of Angels,” from the collection Ground Forces, which is one of the best poetry collections I read in 2010. This was also inspired by an exercise in Wingbeats that uses Allen’s poem as a model. It took me a while to figure out what angle I wanted to take with the quotation, but when I did, the poem practically wrote itself.

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3 thoughts on “Come into the world like that [IndieInk Challenge]

  1. I loved the way the lake mermaids and the desert mermaids bound the poem together, and the way the whole piece illustrated the tragedy of never growing up, by contrasting the innocence of childhood pretend with the tragic sorrow of adult pretend.

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