Prosetry: She’s Just Not Her Old Self

Quansoo 1981 —Alison Shaw

I tried to find my old self.
Looked under the bed
In the closet
Inside the kitchen and bathroom cabinets, behind the books on the shelves in the library.
No luck.
I did find several messages claiming to be me on my answering machine.
All from unnamed locations, except one.
I went there but the place was empty. Stripped bare.
I found only walls of layered, chipped paint. Venetian blinds with missing slats.
And on the floor a torn piece of scrap paper with a
scribbled, temporary forwarding address,
Where I was invited to go and receive an award on my behalf.
But it was one of those events that doesn’t get much attention in the press
And all they gave me was a fill-in-the-blank certificate where I could pencil in my name.
I wouldn’t accept it at first, having no idea what it was for.
Though someone told me I had done some very good work
Saving children/cleaning up oil spills/memorizing all the letters in the Farsi alphabet/playing Scrabble till dawn/finishing 141st in the marathon
and only dying after I had put up a really good fight.

It was the last that
Gave me pause … and hope.

Finding my dead self would
Now afford me the opportunity
To view the body and internal organs.
To finally see what had happened when I had
Vented my spleen.
Had the gall.
Found the stomach.
Listened to my gut.
I would also be able to see the unavoidable result of my broken heart,
(Although it is still hard to say which one of you [or me] it was that gave the final decisive almost welcome blow that killed me.)
Freeing me to negotiate a new and tentative contract
With a self that I now lease on a long-term basis,
with an option to buy.

Niki Patton is a writer who has been active in the Island’s music, theater, video, and writing communities for two decades — both as a performer and as a supporter. She lives in West Tisbury.

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