As humans, each of us assumes a cluster of identities – some of them chosen and changeable, others immutable. My grandfather, for example, proclaimed himself Dayton’s Leading Republican Plumber, invoking a host of other identities as well: Mason, Protestant, Middle Class, Married. I don’t think “grandfather” was high up in his awareness. Being male or female or teenage or elderly, on the other hand, are simply givens. And the history of what we’ve done or failed to do cannot be altered, except in our own perceptions and retelling.
The range of identities is astounding. They include but are not limited to race, religion, nationality and locality, occupation, family (household and near kin to genealogy itself), education and educational institutions, athletics, hobbies and interests, actions and emotions, even other individuals we admire, from actors and authors to athletes, politicians, and historic figures. They soon extend to the people we associate with – family, friends, coworkers, neighbors. And, pointedly, our phobias and possessions.
Curiously, it becomes easier to say what we are not than what we are specifically. That is, set out to define yourself in the positive and you’ll find the list rapidly dwindling, while an inexplicable core remains untouched. Turn to the oppositions, however, and the list becomes endless. I am not, for instance, a monkey. Sometimes, moreover, a specified negative becomes truly revealing: “I am not a crook,” for instance, as the classic revelation.
Listen carefully – especially when others talk of their romantic problems or other troubles – and another portion of a mosaic appears. This collection of poems builds on such moments, constructing a cross-section of community like a web of each one of its members. Sometimes, a place appears; sometimes, a contradiction; sometimes, a flavor or sound or color. Even so, in this crossfire, then, we may be more alike than any of us wishes to admit. We may be more like the part we deny, as well. Our defenses wither. Our commonality and our essential loneliness are both revealed.
For my Village of Gargoyles poems and more, visit Thistle/Flinch editions.