The Poetry That No One Ever Sees

Poetry is everywhere.

If you’ve ever lovingly described something, then as far as I’m concerned, you are a poet. Granted, some people are better poets than others. We can’t all be Amanda Gorman, after all.

There is poetry everywhere. Poetry is in the stories that we tell that are unique to each one of us. It is in the way we choose to dress, the flowers we plant, the colors we paint our walls, and the love and care we give our family, friends, and pets. Quite often, there is even poetry in silence.

The poetry in silence is vastly different than the poetry that is silenced. The first is voluntary, and the second is an unacknowledged loss that we all are complicit in perpetuating, consciously or unconsciously, every single day.

If there is a woman in your life, then chances are you are missing out on a lot of poetry. We women are often not heard, not acknowledged, or utterly discounted. I can’t speak for everyone, but after a while, it seems like too much effort to even try to express myself. And if I do put my foot down, if I do raise my voice or insist that the conversation continue, I’m aggressive, crazy, hysterical, and/or loud.

Those who have the great misfortune to live under an oppressive regime, and those whose countries are being invaded by oppressive outsiders, have poetry so beautiful in its unbloomed truth and horror that the rest of us could never come close to composing it. There is no time for words when you are fighting for your freedom, and even fewer words get spoken if you’ve resigned yourself to your fate. Your voice has a right to be heard. No one has the right to cut it short.

If there is a child in your life, that child is brimming with poetry of one kind or another. Children should be both seen and heard. This isn’t Victorian England. Sadly, in this fast-paced world, we often don’t take the time to listen. Children can be wise, but they’re rarely taken seriously.  Every time they’re impatiently silenced, they are taught that it’s better to keep their poetry inside.

If there is an older person or an overweight person in your life, it’s a fairly safe bet that that person feels practically invisible. I happen to tick both boxes, and I can tell you that my sentences often go half spoken. What, after all, is the point, if one isn’t even being seen? By rendering people invisible in this way, we are missing out on a lot of poetry that is teeming with life experience and survival skills. These things matter.

If there is a person of color in your life, or a member of the LGBTQ community, or a disabled individual, then that person has a lot of poetic insight and perspective to impart, but that poetry is ripped up by society. It is burned, twisted into a threat, and oftentimes used against them, to the point where they find it safer to remain silent. This is a tragic loss, because they have beautiful, loving, unique, and intelligent things to say, and we would all benefit from that poetic diversity, if ever we allowed it into our world.

If there is a man in your life who is supposed to be a leader, supposed to be in charge, supposed to have it all figured out, and is never, ever supposed to cry, then rest assured he is holding quite a lot of stuff back. If only he hadn’t been taught that he must be the strong, silent type.

Every worker who is exploited by an employer and prevented from forming a union, every voter who is prevented from voting, every person who has been so politically manipulated that they cannot think for themselves, and every person who bubbles with rage has poetry within that is desperate to get out. I sometimes walk down the street and look at the people walking past me. I wonder what poetry they are holding deep inside themselves that no one has ever seen. It’s like there’s a secret garden within everyone’s mind, and each garden hides aromatic golden flowers that are longing to see the light of day.

There is profound poetry in the outrage, frustration, sadness, disappointment, and sometimes even joy that is expressed by tears. I’ve never understood why so many (men in particular) view crying as a weakness or a form of manipulation. In most cases, it’s actually a release of extremely deep emotion that has most likely been long suppressed. There’s strength in that. There’s poetry in it.

It is important to be mindful of heretofore unseen or unacknowledged poetry. It’s rewarding to take the time to listen to, and learn from, those around you. It’s as beautiful to see as it is to be seen. There is poetry, too, in that.

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Who Gets to Decide?

Who gets to define what trouble is?

One of the least favorite people in my life has told me more than once that I push back too much, and that I am always making excuses. I often wonder if he ever says those things to men. I suspect not.

What he sees as me pushing back too much, I see as me attempting to add value to the workplace. He would much prefer that I just shut up and do what I’m told, but that’s just not in me. He actually uses the term “disobedient” with me, as if I’m not a grown-a$$ woman with a great deal of life experience, but actually a puppy who has just pooped on the carpet. He laments that he doesn’t have the authority to discipline anyone. I suspect he’d use a rolled up newspaper.

If I wanted to just check my brain at the door and blindly follow orders, I’d have joined the military. It has always been my experience that it’s a good idea to listen to various points of view, rather than discount them, before deciding what a best practice might be. My goal is not to aggressively have my way. My goal is to point out things that perhaps haven’t been considered so that the whole team can reach the finish line safely and efficiently. I genuinely don’t see what is wrong with that.

He views my input as a form of humiliation. But in order for me to wish to humiliate the man, I’d have to first give a shit about him on some personal level. And given his low opinion of me, I really can’t be bothered.

What he sees as me always making excuses, I see as me attempting explain and defend my actions when he attacks my reputation. He has a habit of throwing people under the bus.

He thinks I’m saying “I refuse to do this thing because I want to avoid doing it.” Or, “I only speak because I live to embarrass you.” No. I’m saying “I agree the job needs doing, but doing it that way might cause the following things to occur. Maybe we should try this slightly different approach instead.” But apparently that’s me not being a good little soldier.

In his mind, I am a troublemaker. That begs the question, “Who gets to decide who is a troublemaker?” And, “Who gets to define what trouble is?”

As far as I’m concerned, my attempt to try to improve upon an idea isn’t trouble, even if it agitates him. The fact that I’m not passive enough to allow him to make me do whatever fool thing pops into his head isn’t trouble, even if it frustrates him. I suspect that his agitation and frustration are actually related to his lack of maturity, his closed mind, and his deep-seated belief that he’s far superior to anyone else and therefore should never be questioned.

When war is going on, each side sees the other as the troublemaker. In the end, the victors get to write the history. That must be a heady experience. But maybe you shouldn’t climb up into your rigid old tank just yet. Maybe there’s room for diplomacy.

Sometimes two people are just attempting to reach a destination by using different paths. There’s nothing wrong with saying, “You might want to detour around that patch of quicksand. Just saying.” If someone said that to me, I’d give it some serious thought.

Perspective. While Native Americans see us as invaders, thieves, and perpetrators of genocide, those of us of European descent often try to desperately cling to some sort of modernized concept of manifest destiny so we won’t have to feel guilty. Who is the true troublemaker in this scenario? I’m thinking it’s not the ones who are usually called the troublemakers in our school books.

Suffragettes were called troublemakers, too. But the story of their movement can and has been written by a variety of people with a whole host of perspectives. Those who wanted to keep women down would naturally see their protests as trouble. Those who saw a problem with policy and watched these women draw attention to that problem so that it might be solved rather than ignored saw those protesters as heroes.

The late US Representative John Lewis said it best:

“What can you do to get into good trouble? There is a light inside of you that will turn on when you get into good trouble. You will feel emboldened and freed. You will realize that unjust laws cannot stop you. These laws cannot stop the truth that is in your heart and soul.”

Yes, there are people out there who delight in being trolls, who enjoy making trouble for trouble’s sake. I’m not that kind of person. If I irritate you, it’s because I’m suggesting a change that I think might be an improvement for all concerned, which you, unfortunately, have chosen to view as an inconvenient interruption by an uppity woman.

But, dammit, if I see quicksand, I’m going to speak up. Every time. What you choose to do with that information is entirely up to you.

If I really wanted to be a troublemaker, I’d just sit back and let you step into that quicksand. I’d laugh as you sank. Do you really think that’s my goal? Grow up.

Grow up, or go suck on a lollypop.

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Are You Sure?

From a recent conversation:

Me: “I need someone from maintenance to come out and remove some car parts from the middle of my drawbridge, as they are backing up traffic.”

“Um… That drawbridge is no longer in our system.”

“Er, yes it is. I think you’re thinking of the Montlake Bridge.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, I’m a City of Seattle Employee.”

“But do we maintain that bridge?”

“Yes we do. Yes, you do. I’m standing on it right now. I’ve worked here for 3 ½ years.”

“Was a tow truck called?”

“I have no idea. The cars in question are long gone. They just left parts behind.”

“Yeah, but was a tow truck called?”

“Not by me!!!! Please, are you sending someone out to remove the bumpers? I have traffic backed up for miles.”


Welcome to my pet peeve. Not being taken seriously drives me absolutely insane. Why would I lie? I mean, honestly, just get the damned bumpers off the road, already!

My whole life, this has been a problem. As the youngest in the family, I was not taken seriously at home. Even though I graduated at the top of my class, I was quiet and shy and not in with the in crowd, so I wasn’t taken seriously at school. As a female in a male dominated workplace, to this day I am not taken seriously at work. Now that I’m fat and old, I’m generally not even seen when in public. I’m completely invisible. It’s maddening.

The reason that I try so hard not to be dismissive of people, the reason I’m extra polite to cashiers and wait staff and the elderly, is that I know what it’s like to be discounted. It’s an awful feeling. And it’s completely unnecessary.

Common courtesy and mutual respect ought to be everyone’s default position. Listening to people and trying to understand what they’re saying is a necessary survival skill, so it shouldn’t be so hard to come by. As the planet becomes increasingly crowded, we need to behave all the more decently, or life will get pretty unbearable up in here, people.


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