I am arguing with an idiot online. He says anybody can write a poem. I say some people are afraid to speak. I say some people are ashamed to speak. If they said the pronoun "I" they would find themselves floating in the black Atlantic and a woman would swim by, completely dry, in a rose chiffon shirt, until the ashamed person says her name and the woman becomes wet and drowns and her face turns to flayed ragged pulp, white in the black water. He says that he'd still write even if someone cut off both his hands. As if it were the hands that make a poem, I say. I say what if someone cut out whatever brain or gut or loin or heart that lets you say hey, over here, listen, I have something to tell you all, I'm different. As an example I mention my mother who loved that I write poems and am such a wonderful genius. And then I delete the comment because my mother wanted no part of this or any argument, because "Who am I to say whatever?" Once on a grade school form I entered her job as hairwasher. She saw the form and was embarrassed and mad. "You should have put receptionist." But she didn't change it. The last word she ever said was No. And now here she is in my poem, so proud of her idiot son, who presumes to speak for a woman who wants to tell him to shut up, but can't.
From The Animals Are All Gathering by Bradley Paul. Copyright © 2010 by Bradley Paul. Used by permission of The Association of Writers and Writing Programs.