Thursday, November 5, 2009

My life in poetry

195 pounds
My friend Tom Hunley recently introduced me to a fabulous Denise Duhamel* poem that I think fits this blog perfectly, and I want to share with all of you . . .

by Denise Duhamel

The manatee tries a diet of only sea grass, but still stays fat.
Mistaking her for a mermaid from afar,
sailors of long ago lost interest when they got too close,
openly making fun of her chubbiness. She knows Rodney Dangerfield
would write jokes about her if she were more popular.
She's ashamed of her crooked teeth, her two big molars
that leave her sucking and grinding
with bad table manners. She swims towards danger
over and over, scars from motor boats on her back
reminders of her slow stupidness. She resents being
called a sea-cow. She hopes her whiskers don't show
in the light. She is the mammal who knows
about low self-esteem. I first met her on my honeymoon
in southern Florida. I was on a cruise in my one piece bathing suit.
The women in bikinis squealed and pointed to the nearby dolphins,
clapping so their sleek gray backs would come to the water's surface.
In the shadow of her prettier ocean sister, the manatee swam by also.
No one but I paid her much attention. I wanted to lend her
my make-up, massage her spine, lend a girlfriend-ear
and listen to her underwater troubles. I dreamt of her
as I slept in the warmth of my new husband. I dreamt of her
as he slept in the warmth of me. On a good day, too,
I can relate to the manatee, who knows
on some level that she is endangered
and believes in mating for life.

The poem captures why dieting stinks ("The Manatee tries a diet of sea grass, but still stays fat"), how we all worry too much about superficial things ("She's ashamed of her crooked teeth, her two big molars/ that leave her sucking and grinding/ with bad table manners") and have a tendency to make bad choices ("She swims towards danger/over and over, scars from motor boats on her back/ reminders of her slow stupidness), why it's so annoying when people judge us superficially ("She resents being/ called a sea-cow"), and how we all crave a loving partner ("the manatee, who knows/ on some level that she is endangered/ and believes in mating for life").

Could anyone have said it any better?

Thanks, Denise, for capturing how we all feel time and time again.

If you like this poem, please consider buying one of Denise's books here.

*Denise Duhamel was born in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, in 1961. She received a B.F.A. degree from Emerson College and a M.F.A. degree from Sarah Lawrence College. She is the author of numerous books and chapbooks of poetry, most recentlyKa-Ching! (University of Pittsburgh, 2009), Two and Two (2005), and Mille et un sentiments (Firewheel Editions, 2005). A winner of an National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, she has been anthologized widely, including four volumes of The Best American Poetry (2000, 1998, 1994, and 1993). Duhamel teaches creative writing and literature at Florida International University and lives in Hollywood, Florida.


  1. Denise is an awesome poet and a beautiful lady!

    "I'm just an ass on the crack of humanity.
    I'm just a huge manatee." -- The Moldy Peaches