Approaching a persona
poem requires much humility
For me, there have been times that only a personal poem will work for the inspiration
of the moment. Speaking, however carefully, in
the voice of another, even if it is someone one
thinks one knows well, must be done carefully
and respectfully and still there is always the
danger of saying what is not true or not really
being able to understand this "other"
well enough to honor the person's experience.
Approaching a persona poem requires much humility,
Here's a persona poem written in the voice of
a first cousin who had committed suicide in the
manner described. No one has published it but
I rarely send it out. I did so just recently.
There is no one in my family in touch with me
who would be offended by this poem. I wrote this
poem a couple decades ago to honor her. She was
a few years older than I was, so she would be
in her mid-60's now.
Lillian, Who Shoots Herself at 43, Speaks
Listen, when I pulled the trigger
I wasn’t thinking about him. No, it
wasn’t like what she says at all. What does
know? My mother with her toothy laugh,
gathering me up with the rest of the kids
for our flights through the dark
streets to the dimly lit church,
where we’d huddle around her
as she knelt and prayed the drunk back home
to sleep and some sort
of calm. The eye of the hurricane
was more like it.
No, when I put the gun to my head
I was remembering who I had been then,
lost all those years, a child,
a foundling dumped on the doorstep, though
I had a mother and a father.
With him I was home somehow, don’t ask
me to explain. But not before or since
have I felt such welcome, such greeting:
Come in, come in.
Whoever she was, I liked her. Finding her
was the thing I loved best about him,
but he ditched me. I was low class, poor -
you know the story and he was moving on up.
I would be a drag, a weight, the millstone
around his neck. No, he married
Didn’t he see her grinning at him, Come
waving her hand, Come on.
I couldn’t ever find her again
after he left me.
I had one boyfriend after another,
and a daughter I hated, but never
that girl again, who was at home
in her bones. Never
that girl again, loving
her home, these bones.
Christina Pacosz has several books of poetry, the
most recent, Greatest Hits, 1975-2001, (Pudding
House, 2002.) While living on Discovery Bay in Washington
state, she was a member of the Empty Bowl board,
and edited the anthology, Digging for Roots, Dalmo'ma
5, Works by Women of the North Olympic Peninsula
(Empty Bowl, 1985). She has been a poet-in-the-
schools and a North Carolina Visiting Artist. Several
of her poems have been nominated for Pushcarts.