If I give it to you I will have to give it to everyone

Morgan Library (A More Exalted Kind Of Multiple) ©MAIERMOUL
Morgan Library (A More Exalted Kind Of Multiple) ©MAIERMOUL

I was born in Boston in 1949 the poem starts. It’s so easy to perform this poem because I just start talking about my life. It’s what I do.

I mean – in some ways I have been writing this proposal for thirty years, certainly since 1984 when I thought surely now that I’m the director of the Poetry Project I will be able to get significant support from an important private foundation. But now I’m suspecting that the working-class person only knows how to make herself a more exalted kind of multiple. What’s wrong with that. Growing up, adults always said: if I give it to you I will have to give it to everyone. Well give it to me I say. I am everyone. That’s exactly who I am.

Have you noticed that black children generally are photographed in groups. That’s what I’m told. White photographers just have a hard time wrapping their minds around black kids as individuals. Unless one gets killed by a stray bullet or is like Taisha- this poet girl who got strangled with a phone cord because she didn’t pay her cell phone bill to a neighborhood guy. Then the paper will carry an individual portrait. School picture or a snapshot.

What’s subliminally driven home is that a universe of invisible dangers awaits anybody of the underclass who leaves their group. Wanting more. Cause if you’re not picked- really taken up by the mainstream as a winner, you’ll probably get stomped on as a loser. So smile for the camera and stay in your chair.

– Eileen Myles, Solo Performance, from Inferno, A Poet’s Novel