the invisible girl
she arrived one day
XX a mistake on conception, a disappointment on sight XY had been the unspoken deal and her 6 lbs. 4 oz. were too heavy, in and out
she learned to walk in minimal space
speak in minimal time
she could not spark enthusiasm for old fears had sogged the underbrush
“get to the point”, Windy City would cut in
as required she learned to be deaf, dumb and blind
to ask no questions, though she heard lies
and the Winds saw no one when they blew her down. Down.
she was dust that moved over for Big Wind.
Big Wind blew in and blew out
she lifted herself after
like strong prairie grass drying after a whipping storm
the Winds howled like wolves
tormented by invisible spirits, twisting in rages
but she was strongly rooted like grass, with lovely wildflowers around
green with growth
a way up to the clouds
for the sky
Pain is fuel that can lead to creation or destruction. With pain there often is anger which is the common element in both creation and destruction. However with creativity, anger can be expressed verbally, prosaically, visually or musically. In destruction it is the physical duplication of fear, anger and pain.
I recently was able to observe the pain of exclusion in my son just prior to his fourth birthday. He was not to join the family at the formal funeral services for his grandmother, despite his older sister’s being permitted to attend. As I held him, he informed me that a bee finger puppet on his hand will sting me for going to the funeral. Through his imagination the bee was an outlet for his anger, hurting me through a sting similar to what he felt by being excluded. This displays that he knew appropriate social behavior. He did not hit but rather used his imagination and imaginary accomplice, the bee, to express his resentment towards me. At this point I verbalized his hurt, asking if he was angry that he was not joining us at the synagogue, to provide him with words a four year old may not have. My son had no qualms about expressing his wish to have me stung. He had creative “imaginary destruction”. I continued to hold him, helped him to express his feelings and did not shame him.
As a child, I did not directly threaten to sting my parents; instead I threatened to run away. My mother would laugh .She unwittingly stung me by disregarding my motivations. How could my complaints compare to their traumatic Holocaust experiences? I had everything, didn’t I? I also had the responsibility of making them happy. I could not bother them with my hurt. I recall my father complimenting me on a poem when I was a young adolescent, but upon my questioning him, probably to squeeze out some interest, he confessed as he handed the paper back to me that he did not truly understand it.
Despite my disappointment at his disinterest, I learned that I could express myself without being direct, say things I was otherwise not permitted to say. Shrouded in vagueness, I could hide my feelings or hide the poems; I usually did both. My pain outlet became expression through poetry. Decades later, and after some time in analysis, much transformed. I returned to my father’s birth name, altered during the war. It now felt “safe” to come out of hiding. I was ready for truths. Perhaps with his death I felt I could be more true to myself and my own happiness. Truths however can be more inhibiting because I know more of them. Analysis feels similar at times to the work of an emotional paleontologist, who has been digging for some years, pulling out feelings long buried that are now to be probed by another aspect of myself. The inspired poetry leaves them open for examination by others, and the vulnerability is frightening.
This leads to the issue of what is safe to reveal to myself and to others, of loyalty and what is permissible to expose. But as pain is often the greatest fuel for creativity, the conflict between loyalty to those who cause us pain versus loyalty to oneself always exists unless inhibition is overcome. When loyalty to oneself is victorious one’s creativity can flow.
I struggled with these issues in the invisible girl. My mother was ill, and the poem could seem that I was bitter, ungrateful and attacking. Ah, but ideally analysis frees us of society’s controls and allows us to see more clearly. The poem was not about anyone but the invisible girl. Old issues of impaired self-esteem came up. How could I write about positive feelings and strength; what pretentiousness! Every reader is laughing and rolling his/her eyes. Transference is everywhere! The difference now is that instead of shame suppressing me, I took a chance. By revealing my dreams of escaping to serenity, my hope for a certain strength, I feel no shame but pride. And ultimately with that pain-induced creativity I did reach a certain reality.