just couldn’t grasp it...

from my anthology of must read (a)merican poems

Denise Duhamel


I just didn’t get it –
even with the teacher holding an orange (the earth) in one hand
and a lemon (the moon) in the other,
her favorite student (the sun) standing behind her with a
I just couldn’t grasp it –
this whole citrus universe, these bumpy planets revolving so slowly
no one could even see themselves moving.
I used to think if I could only concentrate hard enough
I could be the one person to feel what no one else could,
sense a small tug from the ground, a sky shift, the earth changing
Even though I was only one mini-speck on a speck,
even though I was merely a pinprick in one goosebump on the
I was sure then I was the most specially perceptive, perceptively
I was sure then my mother was the only mother to snap –
“The world doesn't revolve around you!”
The earth was fragile and mostly water
just the way the orange was mostly water if you peeled it,
just the way I was mostly water if you peeled me.
Looking back on that third-grade science demonstration,
I can understand why some people gave up on fame or religion or
      cures –
especially people who have an understanding
of the excruciating crawl of the world,
who have a well-developed sense of spatial reasoning
and the tininess that it is to be one of us.
But not me – even now I wouldn’t mind being god, the force
who spins the planets the way I spin a globe, a basketball, a
I wouldn’t mind being that teacher who chooses the fruit,
or that favorite kid who gives the moon its glow.


Duhamel’s is such a necessary voice in our poetry. A biting humor – penetrating, real. This poem carries me back to the smell & sound of hardwood floors in elementary school. The coat closet. A swing set the size of a small village.

And, yes, wouldn’t I like to be the one to give the moon its glow. Wouldn’t we all –

Spend time with Duhamel’s poetry, and you will begin to hear a different way to say the extraordinary.


poetwithadayjob said...

Awesome poem. The more of hers I read, the more I love her. She uses so many words to describe her answers to the questions that drive the poems I worry we'll fall into narrative prose. But we never do: she has masterful control and intuition.

Teeny Poet said...

wow that was absolutely great. The poem was so simple yet the poet had such a cool point of view about life. Thanks!

KATE EVANS said...

This is great. Thanks so much for introducing me to her. I'm going to get one of her books.

Collin said...

Denise is brilliant in every way. Although she couldn't be there last night, we heard new work from Denise at the launch of Limp Wrist magzine. It's called "Anna's Dance Card" and it was simply amazing.

Liz said...

Oh gosh - this is fab poetry - will get her book without further ado...thanks Sam for introducing me to another eye-opening poet.


sam of the ten thousand things said...

In this poem, Duhamel has such a fresh voice and take on the familiar. The lines are so new and so Duhamel. Thanks Melissa, Kate, Collin & Liz. And welcome TP. I appreciate the read.