chocolate is a verb

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Tag Archives: invisible

found poem: life

found poem: my camera

found poem: the minutiae

found poem: the incredible


1963 DAK - 1966 DAKMy father took these photos of my mother, the left in 1963 at the Pantheon, in Rome, and the right in 1966, the location unidentified, but perhaps a zoo. There are a lot of photos like this in the scrapbook, Dorothy turned slightly toward the camera. He would have used a nickname to get her attention — not Red or Dottie, which other people used, but Schnutzie or some other made-up name.

Much as she loved her Chanel suit, my mother was happy to be released from the sensible squareness of the 1950s. It would be another ten or more years before she was willing to give up her girdle, but the ‘60s offered a more generous, and welcome, range of expression. She still (and always) dressed well, with care, and her style was far from zany, but she began to recognize and test the effect of colors and layers and odd accessories. Until late in her life, she was torn between the desire to be noticed and the persistent voice of her own mother’s warnings to be good, quiet, invisible.

people roam…


jik at 2If do-overs were allowed, I would have been more fierce. And more loving. Would have stood up to my mother but also given her the tenderness she needed but so rarely demonstrated. As a child, I was cowed, afraid, lonely, angry; as an adult, I find myself following the rules, still trying to be Good.

I remember entertaining thoughts of running away from home, but if I ever did it, I don’t recall. For want of a proper stick and handkerchief to tie up my worldly possessions, perhaps I sulked off to the daylight basement, or to the bottom of the hill in the backyard. Maybe I stomped around the block — always crossing at the corner, never trespassing forbidden geography, unable to stay away long enough for her to notice. How long would that have been?

She was looking for the silence of my disappearing and I did my best to accommodate.
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more on this photo


postureMy mother used to tell me to stand up straight. I hated it. She harped on me when I got taller than the boys in my class, when I grew taller than many of the other girls and when I started to develop breasts. Stand up straight, she’d bark, Mind your posture! I just wanted her to leave me alone, to let me curl into invisibility on my own.

Yet now, when I catch a glimpse of my slouching reflection in a window, or see my profile in a photo, I sometimes wish for her reminder. Not an angry snarl or snap, just a gentle urge from the loving mother I wanted, the loving mother she wanted, but neither of us had.


When I was a kid, my most fervent fantasy was to be invisible — to be conscious, effective, but unseen. Today, invisibility is much less appealing; the magic carpet is more to my adult pleasure.

I worked hard to be invisible. Tried to keep my life orderly so it wouldn’t disrupt my mother’s, tried to be quiet so she could make the noise. If she didn’t notice me, she wouldn’t hurt me. If I was good, she wouldn’t blame me. I tried to have no needs, to follow the rules, to do what was expected when I was supposed to do it.

The really sickening thing is how successful I was. How long I wore my mask of invisibility. How I carried it out of the house, into school, into my relationships, where I became passive, seemed not to care what happened, professed that it doesn’t matter, whatever it might be. I tried to be perfect, yet there was and is no praise more painful than that word. It’s the acknowledgment of my failure, my invisibility. For in her world, only invisible was perfect.

It’s time to be visible, to see and be seen, to listen and be heard, to imagine and to spark the imagination. Invisible is no longer compelling. Now I just have to figure out how to make visible the parts that are still hidden, to see the things to which I’ve blinded myself.

To have more than a voice: to have something to say.

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