Writers' Corner

Denise Duhamel

2001 Poetry

Author's Statement

I have been applying for an NEA grant for thirteen years, since the first year I was eligible, and this year received my first. I was born on the 13th of June which makes me think there is some strange astrological force at work. I am ecstatic -- the money came at the perfect time, when I really needed it most. I was able to travel this summer to Spain to accept a residency at Fundacion Valparaiso because of this grant. More than the money even, (which is very considerable to be sure!) I feel like the grant is the universe's way of saying, "YES!," telling me to keep going and giving me extra time and peace of mind to write.

Ego

I just didn't get it--
even with the teacher holding an orange (the earth) in one hand
and a lemon (the moon) in the other,
her favorite student (the sun) standing behind her with a flashlight.
I just couldn't grasp it--
this whole citrus universe, these bumpy planets revolving so slowly
no one could even see themselves moving.
I used to think if I could only concentrate hard enough
I could be the one person to feel what no one else could,
sense a small tug from the ground, a sky shift, the earth changing gears.
Even though I was only one mini-speck on a speck,
even though I was merely a pinprick in one goosebump on the orange,
I was sure then I was the most specially perceptive, perceptively sensitive.
I was sure then my mother was the only mother to snap--
"The world doesn't revolve around you!"
The earth was fragile and mostly water
just the way the orange was mostly water if you peeled it,
just the way I was mostly water if you peeled me.
Looking back on that third-grade science demonstration,
I can understand why some people gave up on fame or religion or cures--
especially people who have an understanding
of the excruciating crawl of the world,
who have a well-developed sense of spatial reasoning
and the tininess that it is to be one of us.
But not me--even now I wouldn't mind being god, the force
who spins the planets the way I spin a globe, a basketball, a yoyo.
I wouldn't mind being that teacher who chooses the fruit,
or that favorite kid who gives the moon its glow.

Real Audio"Ego" read by the author