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Split This Rock :: Poem of the Week

Jennifer Bartlett

to walk means to fall
to thrust forward

to fall and catch

the seemingly random
is its own system of gestures

based on a series of neat errors
falling and catching

to thrust forward

sometimes the body misses
then collapses

sometimes
it shatters

with this particular knowledge

a movement spastic
and unwieldy

is its own lyric and
the able-bodied are

tone-deaf to this singing some

falling

is of its own grace

some

falling

                         rather occurs

out of laziness or distraction

here, the entire frame is shaken

these are the falls

where I tell myself

you shouldn’t have fallen

I mean to inflict

while the critic of the world watches

o stupid, stupid world

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This poem is an excerpt from Autobiography/Anti-Autobiography (Theenk, 2014). Used with permission.
* * *

Jennifer Bartlett was born in the San Francisco Bay Area and educated at the University of New Mexico, Vermont College, and Brooklyn College. Bartlett is the author of Derivative of the Moving Image (UNM Press, 2007), (a) lullaby without any music (Chax, 2012), and Autobiography/Anti-Autobiography (Theenk, 2014). Bartlett also co-edited, with Sheila Black and Michael Northen, Beauty is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability. In December 2014, she co-edited, with Professor George Hart, a collection of the poet Larry Eigner’s letters and participated in a “roundtable” on disability and poetics for Poetry Magazine. Bartlett has received fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, Fund for Poetry, and the Dodd Research Center at the University of Connecticut. She is currently writing a full-length biography on Eigner, and recently had a residency at the Gloucester Writer’s Center. Bartlett has taught poetry and disability awareness at Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls, United Cerebral Palsy, the MS Society, and New York Public Schools. Bartlett has had mild cerebral palsy since birth.

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If you have difficulty reading this poem, please visit the poem at our site.
Please feel free to share Split This Rock Poem of the Week widely. We just ask you to include all of the information in this post, including this request. Thanks!  To read more poems of provocation and witness, please visit The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database at SplitThisRock.org.
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