Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Whole Effect (Poem)

The Whole Effect

When you're great,
you could be misunderstood.

Think of how words not punctuated
cram their space, daring to be

deciphered. Put a comma in the wrong
place and you change the meaning.

To be misunderstood is to write
Brillo on box after box

and become a sell-out.
To remain great it helps

to have a name and somebody
pushing you from behind,

keeping you mixing, dripping,
and pouring black on black on canvas

first scored with your palette knife
and then wiped clean. You have to

like the whole effect . . .
after your paints dry.

If you were great, once, and now have
a story you can't figure out how to tell,

people won't understand how you lost
your voice. These days, they'll leave

you for the others always
waiting in arrears.

To be great and misunderstood
isn't a life you'll want to go looking

for. Until you've spent a lifetime trying
for something you've never experienced,

you can't imagine a hand searching out
your own at the moment your heart quickens.

© 2011 Maureen E. Doallas

A thirty-first prompt for the Domino Project's #Trust30 online writing project appeared in my e-mail this morning. I could not ignore it. (Nor could I follow its instructions.) And why not end the 30th of June with a 31st poem?

This poem is inspired by a prompt by creative thinker Matthew Stillman:


Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Mess up your hair. If you are wearing makeup - smudge it. If you have a pair of pants that don't really fit you - put them on. Put on a top that doesn't go with those pants. Go to your sock drawer. Pull out two socks that don't match. Different lengths, materials, elasticity. Now two shoes.

You know the drill.

Need to add more? Ties? Hair clips? Stick your gut out? I trust you to go further.

Take a picture.

Get ready to post it online.

Are you feeling dread? Excitement? Is this not the image you have of yourself? Write about the fear or the thrill that this raises in you. Whom do you need to look good for, and what story does [the picture] tell about you? Or, why don't you care?

* * *

I used all the #Trust30 prompts as inspiration for new poems. You'll find my poem for the 30th prompt and a list of poems for prompts 16-29 here. You'll find my poem for the 15th prompt and a list of poems for prompts 1 - 14 here.

And now I really am done with this project!


Elizabeth Young said...

Wonderful, wonderful poem Maureen, greatly enjoyed.

Ruth said...

I'm so interested that you posted this poem, because I was thinking yesterday of how important it is to shed identity now and then, step outside of my own history, or let someone else be other than I've always thought they were, to spend "a lifetime trying / for something you've never experienced." I don't know if that's what you mean, but I relate to it this way.