Welcome to WNIJ's Poetically Yours. This segment showcases poems by northern Illinois poets. Today's poem is by Jennifer Rea.
Rea is an assistant professor of English at Rockford University. She loves Irish and Japanese literature. Her love of these two island nations is wrapped up in her childhood on the shores of Lake Michigan and family trips to the Manitou and Mackinac Islands. For some inexplicable reason she fell in love with islands. At Rockford University she teaches classes in English, rhetoric and creative writing. She also helps edit Fingerprints: Rockford University’s Literary Arts Magazine and oversees the Colleen Holmbeck Poetry Prize.
Her degree path was curvaceous. She received her undergraduate degree in English at Michigan State University, her second undergraduate degree in art history at Stony Brook University on Long Island and her master’s degree in history and doctorate in English at Southern Illinois University Carbondale in the Irish and Irish Immigration Studies program.
Besides her academic work she is married with one teenage daughter, two cats, watches Japanese anime, plays tennis, knits, loves video games, cooking and baking bread, and is a museum addict which started when she lived on Long Island and became a fangirl of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Here's her poem "Self Esteem Corpse."
I watch my pre-teen draw her dead dog
On white paper with black lines.
Her face is turned to the image
Hands cleverly outlining canine teeth.
She sits across the dining room table
Brow furrowed in concentration
Headphones connected to a listening device
Playing songs of lost love and human devastation
Instilling in her the idea
That she will have power in this world.
Mighty power that will flow from her veins
Through her soft white skin
Over her chest and shapely legs
And she will learn that this power
Is something that she can wield like Excalibur
brandished by the mighty King Arthur
When he realized his beloved Guinevere
Was hanging around the pub with Sir Lancelot.
This power pulsating from her soft beauty
Curly brown hair flowing over hazel long lashed eyes
She has learned from advertisements
And television shows with strong women wearing stilettos
Catering to the male gaze that establishes the definition
Of female as body.
As she sits drawing her dead dog
Struggling to get the ears just right
And the nose long enough without looking freakish
Singers echoing songs of female power serenade her
Wearing modern corsets over fish-net stockings
Backing themselves into male dancers
Proving the lie that female is anything other than body.
As I watch my pre-teen daughter draw her dead dog
Her lines forceful and straight
Proving her strength, intelligence, and drive
She glances up as my eyes meet hers
And lights upon the concern glistening
Through my nervous stare
Her soft lips, bitten in concentration
And she gives me her impish grin
And goes back to work on the nose.
She is small but she will be fierce.
- Yvonne Boose is a current corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project. It's a national service program that places talented journalists in local newsrooms like WNIJ. You can learn more about Report for America at wnij.org.