carapace

I think about all of the branches
that my life could have taken
how many loves dropped
and how many opportunities were presented to me
All I had to do was believe that I
was the person they thought I was.
Be the smart, creative, friendly
scientist capable of juggling and doing
and making new knowledge and forging
strong relationships.
All I had to do was not run.
All of these things still lurk inside of me
all of these potentials
that somehow were never fully expressed.
I guess that’s true for everyone to some degree.
That their greatest selves are only exposed
for a limited part of their lives
as if baring those parts would lead to hardening
and desensitization,
scabs or calluses and
any number of unlikely things.
As if showing those parts wouldn’t open
up grand complexities and happiness of human connection
or joy at experiencing an expanding life.
Instead I poke out for a moment of brilliance
instants of confidence and pride and capability
that shrink and close like a poked sea anemone.
safer like that
surer that the inverted stomach
will digest these scraps of
a fuller existence.
Ensuring the extraction of
nutrients to build stronger chitin
a carapace to hold in
a greatness that no one
is allowed to see.

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One thought on “carapace

  1. You remind me, dear friend, of a poem dear to me:We Are Many

    Of the many men whom I am, whom we are,
    I cannot settle on a single one.
    They are lost to me under the cover of clothing
    They have departed for another city.

    When everything seems to be set
    to show me off as a man of intelligence,
    the fool I keep concealed on my person
    takes over my talk and occupies my mouth.

    On other occasions, I am dozing in the midst
    of people of some distinction,
    and when I summon my courageous self,
    a coward completely unknown to me
    swaddles my poor skeleton
    in a thousand tiny reservations.

    When a stately home bursts into flames,
    instead of the fireman I summon,
    an arsonist bursts on the scene,
    and he is I. There is nothing I can do.
    What must I do to distinguish myself?
    How can I put myself together?

    All the books I read
    lionize dazzling hero figures,
    brimming with self-assurance.
    I die with envy of them;
    and, in films where bullets fly on the wind,
    I am left in envy of the cowboys,
    left admiring even the horses.

    But when I call upon my DASHING BEING,
    out comes the same OLD LAZY SELF,
    and so I never know just WHO I AM,
    nor how many I am, nor WHO WE WILL BE BEING.
    I would like to be able to touch a bell
    and call up my real self, the truly me,
    because if I really need my proper self,
    I must not allow myself to disappear.

    While I am writing, I am far away;
    and when I come back, I have already left.
    I should like to see if the same thing happens
    to other people as it does to me,
    to see if as many people are as I am,
    and if they seem the same way to themselves.
    When this problem has been thoroughly explored,
    I am going to school myself so well in things
    that, when I try to explain my problems,
    I shall speak, not of self, but of geography.
    Pablo Neruda

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