The story behind the poem: “Still Life”

When I can, I try to find a nugget of human commonality between the words I write. I like to tell you about me in a way that I am actually telling you about all of us.

Although I am reluctant to tether a poem with too many ropes, I thought it would be fun to share and discuss a poem from my book Moon Full of Moons. Below is “Still Life”.

wpid-20140424_203613.jpgStill Life

I am a snapshot of now,
without the struggle or
the darkness.
as a flower in a vase,
I am cut roots, observing
and waiting for rain.
A still life of me
pinned to a scaffold,
a butterfly folded
in silent gaze –
exhibiting the shape but
not the substance.
A mannequin posed
in perpetual curtsey.

To me, “Still Life” describes the feeling of being recognized only as I exist in the present moment, rather than as the rich, serpentine journey that brought me here. Like when you meet someone new and you realize what they know about you is your superficial and recent persona. Some people never get past that stage. It’s something we all experience.

After a personal transformation or life change, it can feel even more as if the people sees us only as “a snapshot of now”and not the fullness of who we are. We are left a bit two-dimensional in their eyes; they miss the depths and the heights. As the poem describes, it is as if we are mounted butterflies or mannequins posed politely. A flower picked and waiting for something more.

After Moon Full of Moons was published, I suddenly became a favorite recipient of divulged family secrets and personal confessions. It was not something I anticipated happening (although perhaps I should have). Even so, I was glad to have bridged some connection with those who felt they wanted to release their three-dimensional selves.

I found myself being drawn into conversations about how they felt no one knew about or understood their journey, their depth, or the challenges they faced. The book made them feel comfortable telling me about what they personally overcame and how it shaped who they are now. Invariably, the lines “I am a snapshot of now, without the struggle or the darkness” would pop into my mind during these discussions, and I would share the poem with them. “Yes, that’s how it feels,” they would tell me.

The irony is that by sharing words about isolation we become less isolated. Perhaps with openness, an artificially-posed still life can find a more authentic connection. In sharing, there is hope.


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