Out of the Box Coaching and
Breakthroughs with the Enneagram, Mary R. Bast, Ph.D. 
Copyright © 1999. All rights reserved. Revised: September 16, 2014
 


 

 

 

 

 


 Poetry & Personality  

"I'll marry the bent mirror..."

How many times have you looked around and decided your life is ordinary, mundane, when you hear or read about someone else’s life and wish yours could be so?  When we step back from the ordinary and expand our vision, we can see things in a new, even innovative way. Carolyn Creedon’s “Pub Poem,” for example, quite beautifully expresses a completely new way to look at love:

If I hold my breath for a million years, little oyster
waiting my tables, fighting the tide, swimming to hope
and still I can’t open you up, love
I’ll marry the fat red tomato…
I’ll marry each barnacle I scrub
bare, barely staying afloat…
I’ll marry the bent mirror in the back
where I pin up my marmalade hair... 

The barnacles Creedon scrubs can be seen as “marrying” our flaws, just as marrying a bent mirror implies loving ourselves as we are, both unique and flawed. When we accept our own brokenness, we attract others who, too, feel broken. We then learn from our own wild child as Maxine Kumin did in “Nurture,” drawing the abused, the starvelings into an empathic embrace:  

Think of the language we two, same and not-same,
might have constructed from sign,
scratch, grimace, grunt, vowel:

Laughter our first noun, and our long verb, howl.

Being in touch with both laughter and howls deepens the anguish of loneliness and takes us on a search for companions who also allow their emotions fully. In Jennifer Merri Parker’s “Four to One” she was like the ever almost unrequited lover who wanted to be joined in her angst:

...I must finally plumb the fathoms of your feelings and anoint
your clean, still-water surface with my muddy-fingered mess…
till you confess I wasn’t in the maelstrom by myself,
but you were there and felt it all the time.

This longing can never be replaced with the ordinary, and when we look around and find our companions living superficially, what might have looked appealing from a distance becomes a cage, as in Mary Karr’s poem “The Worm-Farmer's Lament:”

...you suddenly long to shove your arm
down the disposal or rest your head
in the trash compactor or just climb in your not-quite-paid for wagon
to breathe clouds till you can stop
breathing, stop sitting there …

Yes, we may even have suicidal thoughts, torn between our romantic vision and dissatisfaction with the worm-farm in which we must make our way. In this path, however, we learn to see the beauty in each moment as it evolves, as did Jane Kenyon, who threw herself forward, greedy for unhappiness in “Depression in Winter:”

… until by accident I found the stone,
with its secret porch of heat and light,
where something small could luxuriate, then
turned back down my path, chastened and calm.

Other published poems that Illustrate this aspect of personality:

The Exaggeration of Despair (Sherman Alexie)
first communion (Carolyn Creedon)
Mending Wall (Robert Frost)
Ode to Airheads, Hairdos, Trains to and from Paris (Barbara Hamby)
Showing My Father through Freedom (Galway Kinnell)
The Wild Common (D.H. Lawrence)
Of Love and Other Disasters (Philip Levine)
The Book (Linda Pastan)
Stepping Backward (Adrienne Rich)
Presentiment (Rainer Maria Rilke)
Afterwards (Susan Fromberg Schaeffer)
How Do You Walk? (Karl Shapiro)
Fern Hill (Dylan Thomas)