Internets, I need help!

Last week for 'Writing and the 19th Century' we read Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself" (I loved it. Loved.) Our first assignment after reading this was to write our own inspired by his. We took our "shitty first drafts" into class on Monday and got into Peer groups, we read our writing to each other and were supposed to give constructive criticism so that what we wrote could get better. I am not trying to toot my own horn, because I know that I need some help, but my peer group couldn't find anything to critique so I'm hoping you on the internets can. Here is what I have so far (it is supposed to be 4-6 pages long, right now it's only 3) sorry it's longish, but if you have time please read it and help me. I'll owe you for life.

Song of Myself

I’m the best parts of you
I’m even the worst
everything I am was once parts of you
everything I’ll be will come from you
I’ll change these things
make them my own
I’m clearly yours, but becoming more my own
more and more everyday

Those people on the streets, in their cars, just trying to live their lives
the ones with the crazy hair, too long, too unnatural, too bright, too dark
the ones with their pants that are too tight, too baggy, hung too low
the ones with the bad habits, smoking, drinking, experimenting
the ones you turned your nose up at, the comments under your breath, don’t think I didn’t hear them
I did.
Sometimes now I am one of them. Judging myself is fruitless, I’ll see where this goes
see how I feel at the end.
at the end I’ll be left with the pieces that make me whole
the parts that distinguish me from you, them

I believe in my right to choose, in their right to choose. My body,
their bodies…who can tell us what is right.
religion, god, the president, parents, teachers
what do they imagine they know that I can’t learn on my own
why do they imagine that telling me who to be is better than being
who I am

I watch the seasons pass and I feel in myself the changes
they’ve brought
I used to believe whatever was said
yet, I wasn’t na├»ve, I trusted who I was told to trust
I was young, I was spring
the tears I spilled, learning the lessons some would wish me to un-learn

Just because they say they’re right doesn’t mean they are
Why was that so hard to understand?
yet, their archaic opinions they force fed me are a part of my structure
bricks in the foundation that help hold me together
the judgments hard to break
harder still to form my own opinions
the internal struggle was worth the end result
to discover that
just because he loves him or she loves her doesn’t make them evil
there are worse things in love than finding it with the same sex.
having this drink, or smoking that doesn’t mean they are all addicts
and if they are it doesn’t mean they should be written off.
wearing that shirt with those shoes while walking that walk doesn’t make her a slut,
what you wear does send a message, be aware of what you’re saying.
she doesn’t go to church, he doesn’t believe in god, there isn’t only one way to believe,
a prayer means nothing if you don’t care who’s listening, does nothing if you do nothing for yourself.
he is a man, it doesn’t make him right, I don’t have to be who says,
a patriarchal relationship will never work in this feminists world.
waiting for marriage doesn’t make your marriage more pure,
less so if that’s all you got married for. What’s left after the virginity’s gone?
birth control won’t influence or encourage people to have sex, but a lack of communication might,
even scare tactics can be forms of communication.

I wander
and along the way I find pieces of songs, smells, sounds
that speak to me
the words I couldn’t find, didn’t know I needed until I heard them
smells that take me home, far away, make me feel the remnants of my past and hopes for the future
the sounds that echo back to me the things I have yet to learn or had accidentally forgotten
I am easily distracted
watching, waiting, listening for the next big thing
that could change my mind, open my eyes
make me mad enough to finally speak up
make me care enough to use the voice I keep hidden

I’m aware of my contradictions
I judge you for judging. I become the person I struggle against.
only certain people see certain parts of me
hoping to eliminate, diminish the judgments made on me.

I am a homebody content to sit night after night reading, writing, knitting into the dark
I am the girl wearing those heels walking that walk, calling attention to herself early into the morning
I am confident and sure of who I am as a woman, I am proud of where I’m going
I am scared and worried that I’ll never be who I thought I’d be, never get to where I thought I’d end up
I am a performer shining, spinning, and smiling for all those in attendance
I am shy and will not share my thoughts, feelings unless you ask me to, force me to speak up
I am a feminist who someday wishes for the day when I can stay at home and raise my children

In this world where being a man seems to give men advantages
what does it mean to be a girl? I have found
I am the one they’ll want to tell their secrets to
I’m smaller and softer, more approachable
it’ll come as a surprise when I open my mouth and know what I mean
I have to be more alert, more aware, quicker on my feet
I am allowed to be me, emotional, strong, moody
I can pretty
I can be smart
I can be nice
I’ve learned it’s not hard to be all three, when you find others who are as well
hold onto them, often nice is forgotten or never learned

I’ve learned that some women have learned
the only way to get ahead
in a man’s world is to act more like a man
rough and tough
a man gets called a leader, a woman called a bitch
where’s the fairness in that?
I’ve learned life isn’t fair, I’ve been learning that since youth
when told to be more of a bitch
I revolted against the idea
I can be a leader and a woman
a girl who can still be heard

I’ve learned to value family and all the forms it can take
the family I was born into, who keep me through time
they’ve seen me ugly, screaming and hitting, throwing and running
they’ve seen me weak, crying and broken, dramatic and bent
they make me laugh, they feel like home, they feel like pieces of me
the family I’ve made over the years, my collection of friends
they know me as an adult, they share the memories of growing up
memories made from falling in love and falling apart
stories drunkenly put together in tandem the next day
pictures and memories of trips and just sitting and sharing the confusion of everyday life

I am a little bit of all the people I’ve ever met
I take who they are
and make them little parts of me
their ideas shape my ideas
my beliefs are versions of their beliefs
twisted and shifted to fit with me

I’m moving forward with an idea of who I am
aware that tomorrow it might shift
I might hear something that makes me stop and think, write a second draft of something I thought
I knew

1 comment:

leahcar said...

i'm sorry to say i cannot give you any critiques jill...its so good! for some reason, after finishing my first read through, the line "i was young. i was spring" kept repeating in my head.

i love it!