The first time I saw hundreds of fiddlehead ferns boiling in an enormous pot I realized
what an odd person I must be to hear tiny cries from the mouths of cooking vegetables.
Similarly, when you hurt me, I curled like a mouse behind my third eye. I realize what an
odd thing it is to believe as I do in my third eye and the mouse behind it that furls like a fern
and whimpers like a fern being boiled on a monster stove beside its brothers and sisters.
Poor mouse. The things that make a person odd are odd themselves. Think of DNA,
the way it resembles the rope Jack climbed to secure his future and that of his aging Mom.
Or the way a sudden wave can drag a child under, that addiction to adrenalin, her
siblings farther away and more powerless than she ever imagined, the pure and ecstatic
irreversibility of undertow. It’s odd to come back to life, as they say, she came back to life.
I think I’ll come back to life now. It’s odd to think of something so big we could miss
the elephant we’re living on, like this planet Earth, is she alive and we’re her brain cells,
each one of us flickering, going out, coming back to life? Even Chicago looks poignant
from the top of the Hancock, organized and sincere. Think if we were photographing
Earth, how dear she would be, how we’d watch her shimmer in the shimmering black soup
of the firmament, how alone she’d look and how we’d long to protect her, the way it feels
to protect a woman at the height of orgasm, the liquid giving, the seawater slide of coming
back to life. When you hurt me, I evolved like a backboned sea creature, translucent
nervous system sparking along in the meanest deep where I was small enough to not care
and my passions ran to swimming, gulping, spitting bubbles back into new oceans.
Once when you hurt me I slept at a Red Roof Inn. I double-locked the door and tried to
watch talk shows to keep my mind off sounds like someone suffocating someone
in the next room. I thought I saw blood on the box spring and imagined needles and bulgy
veins, there’s something odd, I thought, about someone whose imagination runs this wild.
So often I dream you’re here and I wake in the middle of a prayer from my muzzled
childhood. Jesus Mary and Joseph, I say, appalled that I’m stuck in 1955 when I need
something profane to see me through. Serrano’s submerged cross. Ginger tea.
The idea that we’re moving between horizons and the Earth is so wise she sends us
Winter and red-tailed hawks when we least expect them. I can do this, I say,
and the planet shifts imperceptibly. From a great distance she appears to be at peace.
"Fiddleheads" from Fibonacci Batman: New and Selected Poems (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2013). Copyright © 2013 by Maureen Seaton. Used with permission of Carnegie Mellon University Press and The Permissions Company.
About this Poem
"How odd I was to myself in 1998—a good, married, Christian girl about to graduate from my hometown college in Tennessee—yet how normal I seemed to everyone else. A private hell, trying to corral the queerness that flared inside. And then this poem arrived—a woman’s voice taking up space—articulating, which is to say loving, the oddness (how sad the world is in which this is true) of feminine ecstasy, which is to say power—stretching its lines out long—images folding back on one another, bringing something (someone) else along each time.
"By the time I hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2001, I had come out as queer but not yet as trans. I carried this poem in my pocket, memorized it, and recited it to strangers at bars in small towns, trees in Pennsylvania, stars in Maine. Embodying the poem made my own becoming more possible. Not the first poem I had ever seen but the first poem to see me—to make me say, I can do this.
"Thank you, Maureen Seaton, for bringing me back to life."
Maureen Seaton is the author of six poetry collection, including Furious Cooking (University of Iowa Press, 1996), winner of the Iowa Poetry Prize and the Lambda Literary Award.
Date Published: 2016-05-12
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/fiddleheads