BEWILDERED

mood: BEWILDERED

Poem 1 = entire grid
Poem 2 = inner circle, central vision that’s left
Poem 3 = Blind Ring

Poem 1 

Slowly I get better at not knowing what I am doing. At not knowing where I am. At not knowing if that person in front of me is coming or going. I get better at not recognizing my husband in a store my kids at the playground. Better at not sensing the distance from my elbow to a tree my hip to the edge of the wall. At not seeing signs when I enter unfamiliar buildings. I find ways to live beside the constant not-quite-knowing. To not be paralyzed by fear. I practice in the summer while I swim across the lake. When I cannot sight any of the orange buoys that direct me to the opposite shore I do not stop. I keep swimming straight into the blue void. 

Poem 2 

bow to
the edge
o
enter unfamiliar

Poem 3 

Lately less fear more wonder. Everything soft. Few clear edges. Fuzzy. The world, italicized. Life, undetermined. A sign might be a person. A wave, a particle. Unmoored I flow freely become unlocatable elude certainty invite mystery and possibility.

Resources and Additional Thoughts

In the Dictionary, to bewilder is “to cause to lose one’s sense of where one is.” The wilderness as metaphor is in this case not evocative enough because causing a complete failure in the magnet, the compass, the scale, the stars and the movement of the rivers is more than getting lost in the woods. Bewilderment is an enchantment that follows a complete collapse of reference and reconcilability. It cracks open the dialectic and sees myriads all at once.

Fanny Howe

The world, italicized.

Diane Seuss

One of the most difficult, bewildering things about losing my vision, is how I am unable to immediately make sense of a scene; it takes a minute or two to take in everything. At first, I am lost–quite a bit of what I see is fuzzy or blank or unrecognizable.

What I remember of better eyesight is how the world assembled all at once, an effortless gestalt—the light, the distance, the dappled detail of shade, exact crinkles of a facial expression through a car windshield, the lift of a single finger from a steering wheel, sunlight bouncing off a waxed hood.

Naomi Cohn

The difference between myself and my student is that I am better at not knowing what I am doing.

Mary Ruefle

This line, from a lecture in Ruefle’s essay collection, Madness, Rack, and Honey, helped shape this mood poem, and served as the inspiration for my anaphoric (is that a word?) structure–my repeating of the phrase, “I get better at not knowing…”

The idea of never fully knowing, of unknowingness, and messy, unreconcilable complicated ways of being (both/and NOT either/or) was a central theme in my scholarly work in feminist and queer theory and ethics. And, it was central to my feminist pedagogy: the idea of finding and staying in the spots of trouble–where our most sure ways of knowing, our common sense assumptions, fail us. Often, the goal of my classes was to help students learn how to be uncomfortable and uncertain, to learn how to resist claiming that they know (or have) THE answer (as if there is ever only one answer). Now, what was once much more theoretical and abstract, is my everyday lived experience. I often don’t know what I am looking at, or who I am looking at. I am learning how to deal with this uncertainty, to not panic or shrink away from it. And I am working to see it as opening up new possibilities instead of being an obstacle that shuts out the world.

some sources on bewilderment/uncertainty
some short thoughts and some longer thoughts on my feminist pedagogy

At the end of the mood poem, I mention practicing not being able to see as I swim across the lake. I created a collection of poems about my practicing during the summer of 2018: How To Be When You Cannot See

the inspiration for the line, “Better at not sensing the distance from my elbow to a tree my hip to the edge of the wall”: “Whacked my elbow on a tree, running too close to it. As my vision declines, I have started to run into more things” (from a sept 2, 2019 log entry).

from a log entry on nov 4, 2020

Thought about another mood ring poem. This one, about feeling like a ghost, a shadow. Fading, faded. Unmoored, floating in the world. Ephemeral. Unable to see concretely, or feel like anything around me is solid. It all shifts–or does it echo endlessly–the trace of something that once was there, but isn’t any longer? I feel this way a lot when I’m running but also when I’m walking. This floating, dreamy feeling can be cool to experience but it can also be disorienting, unsettling. Too difficult to find solid ground.