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A Dream Deferred April 11, 2011

Posted by J. in FYI, Genius, Other People's Genius.

What happens to a dream deferred?


Does it dry up

like a raisin in the sun?

Or fester like a sore–

And then run?

Does it stink like rotten meat?

Or crust and sugar over–

like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags

like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

(Langston Hughes, 1951)

I am not a poet.  I’ve never really even been all that crazy about poetry to begin with and have NO interest in writing any in the least.  It’s because poets have a way of putting things that are non-visual into visual terms that I sometimes like, but mostly don’t.  In fact, most of the time I hate it.  There are only a few poems I really like and a bazillion and a half that I loathe.

This is pretty close to what a good week looks like in my head. Not quite as pastel, but close. Eerily close, in fact. Okay, I'm actually a little creeped out right now...

I see things that are not generally understood in a visual sense, as I said a couple of months back when I talked a bit about how I view the days of the week as it relates to my daily blog posts and reader traffic.  I conducted a terribly informal and unscientific poll and learned that most people in my circle of friends, if asked to close their eyes and visualize “a week”, get the image of a calendar page in their head.  Sunday on one side, Saturday on the other, all the same size squares, probably black printing on a white background.

Do poets think of non-tangible things like “dreams deferred” and “a week” in visual ways?  Did Langston Hughes close his eyes and write about what he saw in his head?  Or did he sit down and think of what a dream deferred might be like and that’s what he came up with?  I suspect a lot of poets do the latter.  They think of descriptive ways to describe things, but I wonder if what they write doesn’t ring true to me because I don’t buy the imagery.  Or perhaps it’s because I can close my eyes and see images of things that don’t have a physical manifestation of their own, and the poets I don’t like picked images that jar with my own.

Hell, I don’t know.  I know I like that poem in particular.  It’s on my short list. I’m sure Langston Hughes is relieved.  Or would be, if he hadn’t died in 1967.

I think we all have things that evoke physical, emotional, or intellectual responses in us.  Some people can close their eyes and “see” the music they listen to.  It has color and shape to them.  I can see emotions.  Sadness has a distinct shape, as does anger.  And not in the way you might logically think.  “Anger is red and pointy!  Sadness is a gray oval…”  Not like that.  I realize that I’ll understand how I’m feeling better in terms of what the feeling looks like in my head than by the actual descriptor.

For instance, today I’m feeling content.  It’s my birthday, and we’re having a bit of a wee thunderstorm right now.  I like thunderstorms and always have.  They’re fun to watch.  Dave is busy eating some cereal and watching Dora and thus letting me type in peace and drink my coffee.  I have nothing pressing to do today, I’m having a Chinese food for dinner tonight, and I’ll finish up with choir practice which is always a good time.

So if you were to ask me how I’m feeling, I’d say I feel pretty darn good today.  I’m content.  Satisfied.  I’m generally pleased with how the day is unfolding and I’m looking forward to the rest of it.

But while I’m describing how I feel, I’m seeing the form of my emotions in my head.  If I described what it looked like physically, it wouldn’t make any sense at all, even to me.  But I look at the form of how I’m feeling and instead of using solid terms to describe it like color or shape or movement, I see the shape of it and understand it’s physical form as an emotion.  What shape is it?  Well, it’s contented.  I know “contented” isn’t a shape.  But it IS, and that’s the thing.

I don’t think the way I visualize non-visual things is normal, to be honest with you.  And I’m okay with that.

This is what happens in my brain when you say "Poops, what's 13 x 7?"

I think it’s funny how my brain works.  For instance, I suck at math.  I can’t do math in my head to save my life.  Numbers come in and pop right back out.  I can’t remember math facts.  I’m lucky I remember my times tables, to be honest with you, and it’s why math was such a horrible subject for me.  Formulas, equations, rules…can’t remember them.  I try, but they don’t want to stay.  My brain doesn’t want to play with them.  I wouldn’t even describe it as a mental block, like when you just hate something so much that you go blind with rage and can’t even think straight.  It’s more like the math center of my noggin can’t get out of its own way.  It starts spewing out all the math I’ve ever learned and I can’t sort it all out.  It’s frustrating to know what I need to do to the numbers but to have them all get in my way so I’m tripping on them.  Fucking math.

This is what happens in my brain when you say, "Poops, can you knit a vagina?"

But let’s say I feel like making a pair of mittens.  (It happens.)  I can close my eyes and picture a pair of knitting needles and a ball of yarn.   I can picture the whole knitting process from cuff to fingertips and remember what I did in my head.  I can sketch out or describe in detail what stitches or patterns I used and how I made them fit with the thumb gusset or the top decreases.  I can picture color patterns and later translate them to graph paper.  I can open my eyes and write that pattern out from memory without ever actually touching yarn or needles.  I might have to tweak a few numbers here and there, but for the most part it came out of my head already figured out.

And yet I need to use pencil and paper to figure out 13 x 7 because for the life of me I can’t do it in my head.

Plus, 13 and 7 are both prime numbers and I don’t like them at all.  That’s an unholy union right there.  *shudders violently*

Seriously, I almost had to change the numbers to ones less skeevy, but I’ll leave them as a show of strength.

If I think of anything else weird about my brains, I’ll keep you posted.  Until then, I’m going to go let the contented feelings have their way with me.



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