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Barefoot, Faster, Wiser

Lady Wisdom (2) Photo via Wikipedia

I’m not like girls in pretty shoes.
Sky high yellows, oranges, pinks
written down quick ’cause somebody smiled
and wanted so bad to remember.

Always feels right, lifting youth and verve,
’cause light makes right and pretty is light
calling from the altar in your pocket every time
you want to be heard.

Somebodies believe they’ve taken my lagging pulse,
“poor, poor girl,” but unh uh. They measured mine
against theirs boomping fast as high heels crossed the floor
under ‘easy’ dresses with metal supports.

(Pause while they fall to their knees now, hands pressed together.
Blessed Structure. Good bones. Silicone. Pray.)
God speaks to them in a vocal fried “creaky voice”
dotted with question marks. Always.

I don’t talk like those girls, and won’t be taught.
I’m messy but aware when riled or coaxed by the real dark.
I shimmy around corners, warm like nectar, razor showing.
Yes. I said warm. I do cool when I want, but one can always ask.

Sweethearts in sherbet shoes
only scare me when they get attention and I don’t.
Then I loose and ease into stride, barefoot and faster. Wiser.
I say, “Go ahead, don’t look. You’ll miss me.”

I say what I want in my corner because real beauties will,
prickling nerves or smearing an edge just found
with the real properties of light.
I do because I can and I will. And I won’t.

This poem isn’t about “vocal fry” or “creaky voice”  but if you haven’t heard of these two ways to refer to a certain kind of vocal pattern, click here and a New York Times article can tell you all about it.

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17 thoughts on “Barefoot, Faster, Wiser

    • Thank you so much for reading it, Al. I’m so glad you liked it.

      Poetry feels comfortable and very scary to me at the same time. Now I’m worrying that I use the same words over and over again (not just English :), but specific words) and I’m sure I use them in ways that have a certain meaning for me, but not for others. Now I’m determined to work on being more understandable. I should be able to do that and retain my ‘voice’… right? Well, now I’m even more scared.

    • Oh Averil, do you feel like you ‘got’ something about it? Did I put anything in there to ‘get’? Or did I just sort of slap you with words that hinted at things I didn’t really say? Please, never hesitate to show me something you perceive as a negative in my work. I trust you. (And I’m not trolling for compliments, just feeling way less than consistent, and inept at bending words to my will.) Or maybe that’s my problem — too much trying to bend them. Maybe they should be allowed to live and breathe? I feel like I’m in a classroom now, only I’m the teacher, too, and that’s not good.

      • We’re all both student and teacher when we write, that’s what makes it so hard to do.

        I have learned about poetry that at its best, the poem makes you feel something, the way a painting or master photograph would do. It shouldn’t be an intellectual experience. The language in this, the unapologetic tone and wonderful turns of phrase, really got that emotional reaction from me. The frustrations of being female, a strong female, looking on; ‘easy’ dresses with metal supports.

        Yeah. I get you.

      • That helps. I’ve been mulling over what you said about feeling something, and I realize I’ve been thinking much more intellectually about poetry than I do about prose. Now that I think of it, that doesn’t make much sense with a form that’s so free to be about the intensity of a feeling or a discovery, or whatever. Going to try to relax now as I think about it some more. Thanks.

  1. Vocal fry is fascinating. I knew of it but not the name before I saw I think this very article recently. I have always used it for scary characters when reading to the kids. I loved the contrast of the candy girls (and what I imagined their voices to sound like) and the lower, more syrupy vocal fry.

    • I wish I thought vocal fry sounded syrupy. At least that’s smooth. I always think of the Kardshian girls, Kourtney in particular when I think of that grating voice. If that show finds it’s way to my set (I watch a lot of things) I find myself wanting to reach into it and slap her. I can’t imagine listening to her voice for more than a minute or two at a time. The awful, artificial sound of it brings out something violent in me.

  2. “…calling from the altar in your pocket every time you want to be heard.” Wow – that is quite possibly the best description of an iPhone I’ve EVER heard. Loved this one, Ré!

    As an amateur linguist and logophile, I am fascinated by changes in language and pronunciation over time. I thought immediately of this video about Shakespearean plays performed in Original Pronunciation: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gPlpphT7n9s

    • Thanks for this, Bee! I had to go back and read it again. I see now how that sounded like an iPhone. I need to figure out better ways to say what I mean, and analyze what that even means. It would be hard to do if folks didn’t tell me what they see in my work. I’m glad you liked it.

      Now I’m off to check out that video!

      Just watched it. It was fascinating. I love that sort of thing. Thanks for the link!

  3. I love linguistics too. 🙂 Have you read any of Deborah Tannen’s books?

    I don’t always know what’s being referred to by the words of this poem, but I’m swept away by their strong, aware tone! And the speaker’s defiant self-separation from these “girls in pretty shoes” and the ones who attend to them — that’s something that really resonates with me.

    • No, I haven’t heard of Deborah Tannen. I just read about vocal fry in the newspaper, and it found its way into this poem in a serendipitous way. I’m glad it resonates. I’ve been ‘catching it’ from so many sides lately that this poem holds a lot of my feelings about getting older in this society and my feelings about writing/blogging and hoping to be read. In my mind the two subjects (the validity of the struggle for excellence in writing, and the human desire to be heard – sometimes romantically by the opposite sex) are twined together, linked often by the same sorts of sad advice and, at times, the same withering, sometimes vocal-fried, indifference.

      • Bah, yes, lots of sad advice and indifference everywhere. Hope you can tune it out, fight it, subvert it, or get away from it — in poems if that’s what works!

        Deborah Tannen is a linguist who specializes in conversation: between men and women, mothers and daughters, sisters, etc. http://www9.georgetown.edu/faculty/tannend/ I’ve read or skimmed a couple of her books and found them really fascinating!

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