Power Forward

shavanaas

I take a deep breath and add another 2-1/2 lb weight to either end of the chest press bar.  These “graduation” days are bittersweet.  Each crossing of a threshold puts the lie to the comforting narrative that I’m only so capable, only so strong.  If I keep surpassing my own limits, I might start to believe that most of them are self-imposed.  How in the world can I avoid living my full life under those conditions?


Image: Mary Ellen Mark’s Photograph of Shavanaas Begum, the Indian Circus Strongwoman, 1989

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3 thoughts on “Power Forward”

  1. My mother, 18, the summer before she married,
    lounges belly-down in the sun,
    books and grass all around, her head on her hands
    propped at a jaunty angle.
    She smiles in a way I’ve never seen
    at something beyond the camera.
    This photograph I come back to again and again
    invites me to re-write her life.
    I keep resisting, certain
    I’d have no part in it, her first born
    though not exactly. A boy first,
    two months premature, my brother
    who lived three days, was buried in a coffin
    my father carried. “The size of a shoe box,”
    he said, the one time he spoke of it.
    And my mother, too, offered only once
    that she was pregnant and so they married.

    Drawn to this saw-edged snapshot,
    I’m almost convinced to put her in art school.
    Single, she’d have a job in the city,
    wouldn’t marry. There’d be no children
    if that would make her this happy.
    But I’m not that unselfish, or stupid.
    And what then, too, of my beloved sister,
    her son I adore?

    So let me just move her honeymoon
    from the Wisconsin Dells to the Caribbean.
    Let the occasional vacation in a Saugatuck cabin
    be exactly what she wanted. The house
    she so loved she won’t have to sell.
    Winters, there’s enough money to pay the bills.
    There are no cigarettes, no stroke, no paralysis.
    Her right hand lifts a spoon from a bowl
    as easily as if it were a sable-hair brush
    to an empty canvas.
    And the grass that summer day
    on the cusp of another life
    is thick, newly mown, fragrant.

    “Another Life” by Deborah Cummins

      1. that’s kind thanks, just try and share the resonances i pick up between works, sometimes it translates for folks other times not so much

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