THE TENT DELIVERY WOMAN’S RIDE
My daughter asked me if I’ve always been
A tangled woman. I told her insanity
Could be hereditary, that you get it
From your children. I’ve been asked to be
A sweeter person for my daughter’s sake
But damned if I’ll go back to that again.
Besides, I like the way I am just fine.
She called me “tangled,” like the piles of rope
I haul around for men to pitch the tent
Pavilion sets on wedding party lawns.
It’s great to see the lines go up and tight
On temporary buildings, then to see
Them all torn down again. It’s been my job
To drive the truck around. I like it fine.
Today I crossed the carcass of a dog,
And all around it purple butterflies
They splattered on my truck
And so tonight I brought a few inside.
The wings of one were still in motion, lifting
Up and down. I held it to the light
And saw its knotted patterning of lines,
Like stitches Mother tried to teach me once
Before I ran away. I hated knots,
And looking at the butterfly got me
Riled up again, enough to take the truck
Across that river bridge with all the rows
Of yellow guard-rail lights. I had in mind
To swerve against the side and shoot on past
The safety lights, another kind of tit for tat,
But what’s the use in one way to die?
I kept on going.
Now it’s three A.M.
And I’ve been driving with the windows down
Across the northern Alabama line.
Feels like I’m being pulled this way somehow,
My destiny by accident, like once
Back home, my mother left her knitting work
In the kitchen, walked outside and saw the end
Of yarn was caught around her shoe.
I feel like that, pulled out, unraveled.
But I like it fine.
Uncharted Territory: My Journey Of Self Discovery
What do these texts suggest to you about the impact significant events have on an individual’s ability to determine their own destiny?
“What do you want to be when you grow up,” was an innocent enough question when I was five but now that I am sixteen it sends chills down my spine. I am feeling more and more grown up and increasingly less certain of who I want to become when I reach adulthood. Further, I am left uncertain of who is meant to realize my destiny. Wilmer Mills’ The Tent Delivery Woman’s Ride is a poem that displays outstanding sympathy; Mills’ understanding of the fear and uncertainty an individual faces whilst attempting to realize who they want to become rings true to anyone at any stage of life – especially a nervous sixteen-year-old.
The poem, written as a stream of consciousness, outlines the woman’s journey on a path of self-discovery and the hardship that comes along with that. Beginning by addressing the perception others, specifically her daughter, have of her journey of self-discovery – “tangled” – Mills opens the poem darkly as readers are forced to address the cruel realities of life first. Furthermore, the reference to false personas and the rejection of them when it is stated, “damned if I’ll go back to that again” suggests aspects of the woman’s past that she cannot bring herself to relive in hopes of pleasing anyone. Upon first reading it, I loved the poem as it did not feel forced in the way it was written. It felt conversational and kind, allowing me to willingly find my own truths in it.
I have frequently found myself attempting to please everyone and, as a result, forgetting to find peace or happiness in who I really am. An example of this would be in saying yes to too many tasks and not realizing until the last moment that I have booked myself for four events at once – truly, does not work out in the slightest. At a young age, older than five, mind you, I began to pursue a path of self discovery, primarily in my spirituality, and was overwhelmed by the amount of times I was scoffed at by people who, at one time, I loved dearly but simply could not understand why I was so committed to the renewal and cleansing of my soul. It was a great step for me to take as I was finally prioritizing myself and the mocking made it feel like a selfish decision instead of a necessary one. The woman, on the other hand, refused to live for anyone else – a trait I greatly admired in her. Further, I was able to relate to the character of the daughter as I felt she represented my younger, more naive self. As much as it hurt to realize, my younger self would too have mocked at a journey of spiritual discovery as I was so content conforming to the ideologies of others that I relinquished my ability to be a free- thinker. With this, I realize that my decision to disregard the opinions of others and continue my pursuit of spiritual peace was the best one I could have made for my current and younger self. When I was five I was not really sure who I was but was so quick to answer who I wanted to be because I allowed everyone around me to construct my ideals for me; I would like to think that if my five-year-old-self saw the autonomy that self-discovery brings she would be a little bit more supportive. Though, at times, it is most certainly very hippie sounding and bizarre I am willing to explore all parts of my psyche, regardless of judgements, if it means I am able to decide who I wish to become, not allowing anyone else to dictate my existence again.
The poem continues with the orator discussing her day and the sighting of a dead dog surrounded by purple butterflies suggesting her admiration and appreciation for beauty even in the most gruesome of circumstances. Moreover, her memories of running away from home triggering a suicide attempt subtly suggest to readers the aspects of her dark past that she has yet to reconcile as they evidently still have a great hold on her. Finally, the last stanza’s discussion of her three A.M drive allowing her to realize her destiny as “unraveled”, rather than “tangled”, bringing about a sense of contentment, serves as the denouement of her journey of self-discovery. Though she may not know who she wants to be or understand all aspects of her past she found peace in who she is. I was able to find greater truths in the last two stanzas of the poem as it showed me how hypocritical and fruitless my quest to understand myself is.
I, like the woman, cannot help but find beauty in everyday life – the gruesomeness of which is represented by the dog. I do this as a sort of coping method when the severity of hardship get difficult to avoid realizing. Moreover, I have far too many repressed feeling and memories to allow “the carcass of a dog” to result in an emotional breakdown – much like the orator. With my rose coloured lenses, I view the world in hues of pink for I know no other way to see it. Along with this comes the disruptiveness of memories in my perfect view of the world as when I relive moments of my past I have yet to come to terms with my rose coloured lenses are no good and my sanity is left marred; thus, I am sent tumbling into fits of hysteria. I am stuck being “tangled” because I’ve closed off so much of my past that it’s all become lost in the mess that I have become. When I do finally begin to attempt to detangle, if you will, I cry. Uncontrollably and all at once, I cry. Be it smack dab in the middle of a Tim Horton’s after a heartfelt conversation or in my room alone, I truly cannot handle addressing my past. Aside from the discomfort of crying, I avoid addressing my past due to the feeling of failure and submission I associate with hysteria. These moments of overwhelming emotion have most certainly lead to meagerly thought things being done or said; however, I have yet to run away from home. Be it due to fear or excessive comfort, I have never been able to bring myself to do it no matter how badly I wanted to.
What I have done, however, is run away from the home I created for myself – my heart, soul, and mind. Essentially the only home that will ever be consistently mine is the one that I have chosen to disregard and allow whatever vermin may come find comfort within it. I allowed myself to believe that being emotionally numb would allow for better self-discovery as I wouldn’t have to worry about the hassle of judgement but, in reality, this has only inhibited me from realizing my destiny as it has prohibited me from realizing who I want to become. I am unable to “unravel” myself when I chose to disregard the aspects of me that make me whole.
I am not able to find my peace. Unlike the woman, I do not understand the feeling of contentment she found because I am attempting to find half of who I am while I leave the rest hidden, undiscovered, and unwanted. It is draining attempting to avoid my past in hopes of preserving my future but when it comes down to it I truly do not have much of a future with only half of who I am. Ergo, my decision to amputate the aspects of myself and of my past that scare me prevent my destiny from being as wonderful as I want it to be as I will never know who I am if I am only partly myself.
Credit Where Credit is Due:
More of Robin Eisenberg’s beautiful work can be found here (view at your own risk):