1995, You Think You’re Going to Walk in Looking Just Like Cher from Clueless
You’ve been carefully planning yourback-to-school outfit for weeks,
but when the moment comes you wear
your mother’s red handprint to homeroom.
The skirt’s only worry was the dresscode, but now you wish the hem lower,
to your knees, to your ankles, you wish
the edge would hit the ground then rise
back up to swallow you in warm cloth.No one notices your new clothes
because you’re still robed in the same
shame you were last year,
same loyalty that keeps your mouthshut, your brows furrowed, your brain
daydreamy. You are never in Math class.
You are figuring new ways to love her
enough. You’re working out the ravel,the impossibility of leaving, of college,
of stepping away from worry’s dizzy,
closed-fist grip that makes you see stars
most days. You look at the stars inothers’ eyes, and they twinkle. You
seem almost the same as them, but your
stars flicker, like they too are afraid.
Generally speaking, since becoming a big girl poet, I try to avoid the immaturity and insecurity of transferring my own experiences, or the experiences of my speaker, onto the reader by inappropriately using "you" instead of owning my experiences, or having my speaker own their experiences, by claiming "I." "You" is a very specific word, with the very specific purpose of addressing and/or discussing someone other than yourself, and it is most powerful when used in the manner it was intended to be used - a love letter, an accusation, etc..
Pronouns have purpose, and when we misuse them we dilute them, we dilute our language, we dilute our work.
Unless you're going for something really off the wall and abstract and obstructionist and anarchist and you take it to full hilt.
But using it to veil yourself? Or to try and force your readers to understand and relate to you by using the second person pronoun to put them into your shoes?
At the very least, I like to create (or borrow) a character and use third person pronouns rather than fall into the "you"-trap that results from desperately wanting to reveal, yet fearfully needing to conceal, my experiences. I like to try to trust my readers to be able to relate to me as I am, a person separate from them, without feeling like they need to totally enmesh and meld with me into some hideous, two-headed you-beast.
But oh well, I used "you" here.
And you know what? I think it works best in this particular instance, moment, poem.
I've tried running it through with first person pronouns, third person pronouns, and it falls flat as warm Pepsi.
What do you think? Are you down with the you-beast here?
This poem was written on October 29, 2014 as part of Tupelo Press's 30/30 Project.