Ambiguity

I’d been meaning to go hunting through my room for a past class book, and today I was excited to find that I still have it. It was a book I used in my first creative writing workshop back in 2013: In the Palm of Your Hand: The Poet’s Portable Workshop by Steve Kowit. In it, I rediscovered a poem I had liked. After reading the poem and Kowit’s discussion on it, I realized it might have strongly influenced what I aim for in my own poetry.

The poem is called “Girl in the Doorway” and was written by Dorianne Laux. It displays multiple terms and phrases that serve more than one purpose/meaning in the piece – a technique called ambiguity. I love poems that can (or have elements that can) be read in multiple ways. This is something I often try to accomplish in my writing. One of my favorite parts of a workshop is getting to hear others’ interpretations of my work, especially if there’s a variety. I think that was partially inspired by this poem, so I thought I’d share it:

Girl in the Doorway

She is twelve now, the door to her room
closed, telephone cord trailing the hallway
in tight curls. I stand at the dryer, listening
through the thin wall between us, her voice
rising and falling as she describes her new life.
Static flies in brief blue stars from her socks,
her hairbrush in the morning. Her silver braces
shine inside the velvet case of her mouth.
Her grades rise and fall, her friends call
or they don’t, her dog chews her new shoes
to a canvas pulp. Some days she opens her door
and musk rises from the long crease in her bed,
fills the dim hall. She grabs a denim coat
and drags the floor. Dust swirls in gold eddies
behind her. She walks through the house, a goddess,
each window pulsing with summer. Outside,
the boys wait for her teeth to straighten.
They have a vibrant patience.
When she steps onto the front porch, sun shimmies
through the tips of her hair, the V of her legs,
fans out like wings under her arms
as she raises them and waves. Goodbye, Goodbye.
Then she turns to go, folds up
all that light in her arms like a blanket
and takes it with her.

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