Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Would You Like Me More

Would you like me more
if I were a woman?
Would you treat me better
were I a man?
I am just words, no
not words even, just marks
on a page, tokens of what?
Oh, you know.

Then tell them, will you?
Tell them to stop looking for me.
Tell them that I never left home.
Tell them, if you must,
that I never left my body.
Unlike so many others,
I had no wings, just shoulders.
I was like the snow bunting,
of stout build but moderate size.
Better make that “exceedingly” moderate size.
I neither blessed nor cursed
but that the good suffered
and evil closed the books in triumph.

I cured no one.
When I died, my bones
turned to dust, not diamonds.
At best a tooth or two became coal.
How long it took.
You would have liked me then,
had you been alive still.
Had you survived
the silliness of self,
you would have treated me better.
I never lied to you,
once I had grown up.

When x told you that you were wonderful,
I said only that you existed.
When y said that you were awful,
I said only that life continues.
I did not mean a life like yours.
Not life so proud to be life.
Not life reduced to this life or that life.
Not life as something – to see or own.
Not life as a form of life
which wants wings it doesn’t have
and a skeleton of jewels,
not this one of bones and becoming.

How perfect are my words now,
in your absence!
Ungainly yet mild perhaps,
taking the place of no field,
offering neither to stand in the place of a tree
nor where the water was,
neither under your heel nor floating,
just gradually appearing,
gainless and insubstantial,
near you as always,
asking you to dance.

Marvin Bell
(New Yorker; October 11, 1976)

I found this poem when I was a senior in high school and immediately loved it. In college I actually did a series of 5 illustrations based on it.

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