Dunham’s poetry is amazing (the book I own is “The Flight Cage”, available here), and this poem struck me tonight as I contemplate the nuances between gender that I can struggle to get…
“Bless her little heart! She shall be as sick as she pleases!” – Charlotte Perkins Gilman “The Yellow Paper”
She looked like a precious doll, the mortician
said. Here in bed, I arrange my limbs
thusly, as if hinged. I will be
Incorruptible: body intact as the living,
as Maria Regina, dead at only 33
but exhumed four years later to no sign
of decay, wreathed and sweet as it smells
on high (though faded by the slow-turning
sunlight). Come winter, I will petal
the air a spray of daffodil. Yellow is
earth, orpiment, saffron and gold – most
holy metal. Coat my face with wax.
I refuse the journey forward, or back.
Figures she’d teach me a new word as well…and I’m fascinated by the movement in this poem, movement from the artificial to the no-longer-living to the organic and back to the artificial. That movement ends, abruptly, controlled by the narrator, no longer allowing herself to be manipulated at the hinges, or to be defined by men saying ‘bless your heart’.