This week’s assignment was to carry a favorite poem with us and read it throughout the week. I love this assignment, and it was not the first time I tried it. I chose to use the next poet on the old hundred greatest list: Denise Duhamel.
I had a hard choice. What we read, especially what we are willing to read over and over again, defines us. As a poet, what I read will shape the work I produce in the future. Though her Sex with a Famous Poet is great, I ended up deciding to go with one of her Barbie poems. They say a lot about societal gender, ethnic, and pop culture issues. I had even more trouble deciding which one to carry. I ended up choosing Barbie Joins a Twelve-Step Program. I work in mental health, and a lot of the people I work along side and serve are addicts and/or recovering addicts. I have a different take on twelve-step culture than a lot of Americans. I think I’ll share the poem and then add in a few reflections once it is all here.
Barbie Joins a Twelve-Step Program: by Denise Duhamel as printed in Queen for a Day, copyright 200
Barbie is bottoming out,
she’s sitting on the pity pot. She hasn’t the know-how to express
any of her emotions. Before she even gets
to her first meeting, she takes the first step, admits
her life has become unmanageable.
She’s been kidnapped by boys
and tortured with pins. She’s been left
for months at a time between scratchy couch cushions
with cracker crumbs, pens, and loose change.
She can’t help herself from being a fashion doll.
she is the ultimate victim.
She humbly sits on a folding chair
in a damp church basement. The cigarette smoke
clouds the faces around her, the smell of bad coffee
permeates the air. The group booms the serenity prayer:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can, and wisdom
to know the difference. Poor Barbie is lost
in a philosophical quandary. Her God must be Mattel.
How can she turn her life and will over to a toy company?
must she accept her primary form of locomotion
being the fists of young careless humans?
Ans what can she change? The only reason Barbie
is at the meeting at all is because she wound up in the tote bag
of a busy mother. She toppled out when the woman,
putting on lipstick at the bathroom mirror, spilled the contents
of her bag onto the floor. The mother didn’t see Barbie skid under a stall door
where a confused drunk, at the meeting for warmth,
was peeing. Never thought Barbie had problems,
she said, picking up the doll. She thought it would be funny
to prop Barbie in the last row. No one else noticed the doll
as she fidgeted in her seat. The hungry drunk
went on to spoon a cupful of sugar into her coffee.
Barbie sat through the meeting, wondering:
What is wisdom? What is letting go?
She wished she could clap like the others
when there was a good story recovery. She accepted
her higher power, Mattel, would finally let her move.
miracles don’t happen overnight, said a speaker.
Take the action and leave the rest to God,said another.
Barbie’s prayer that she would be at the next meeting was answered.
A member of the clean-up committee squished her between the seat
and the back of the folding chair and stacked her, with the others, against the wall.
I love that poem. This week, a girl in class said as we set up, “I think that a few people don’t want to be here.” Later I read that line about the drunk just there for warmth. I thought about how people do things because they believe in them, they’re hopeful for results. We’re all toys to circumstance, in a way.