Poem of the Week | November 18, 2019
Danielle Cadena Deulen “Call”
This week’s Poem of the Week is “Call” by Danielle Cadena Deulen!
Danielle Cadena Deulen is a poet, essayist, and podcast host. She is the author of three books and a chapbook: Our Emotions Get Carried Away Beyond Us, which won the Barrow Street Book Contest; The Riots, which won the AWP Prize in Creative Nonfiction and the GLCA New Writers Award; Lovely Asunder, which won the Miller Williams Arkansas Poetry Prize and the Utah Book Award; and American Libretto, which won the Sow’s Ear Chapbook Contest. She has been a recipient of a Jay C. and Ruth Halls Poetry Fellowship at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, an Oregon Literary Fellowship, the Renjen Prize for Faculty Excellence, an Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award, and three Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Awards. She is co-creator and host of “Lit from the Basement,” a literary podcast and radio show at LitFromTheBasement.com and KMUZ 100.7 FM. She lives in Oregon where she is an associate professor of English at Willamette University. You can find her author’s website at danielledeulen.net.
It lies dormant in you—some kind
of happiness—even through the morning
rain, the mundane turn out of the drive
onto the road toward work, the keening
daffodils rising green and gold from
the mud. Even when the sidewalk’s grey
leads into your chest, a solid, immovable
light is waiting. All those years I believed joy
impossible—all those years I swerved down
dim-lit highways, the blur of headlights
swirling around me or wandered, weeping
to the edge of a precipice, or walked into
a body of water, daring myself to breathe
in. I’m speaking plainly now, because I don’t
want to invite confusion or to remain alone
in this bright field. Step away from the edge
and turn toward me. I see you. I know that
ache in your chest means that you want to live.
I often write to my younger self, who suffered from severe depression. When I look back at my twenties, the entire decade looks like a desperate blur, and although at the time I wouldn’t have told anyone about it, I often found myself fixated on suicidal ideation. I don’t assume my experience is unique in this regard. Statistics about the rate of suicide among young adults will attest to this, but in the years since, I have also lost dear friends in this way, and anyone who has experienced this kind of loss, I think, wishes they could have said something—the right words at the right time—to change that devastating outcome. For me, those right words arrived as I read Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. The poem “To You” was an emotional breakthrough for me—especially the lines, “None has understood you, but I understand you, / None has done justice to you, you have not done justice to yourself.” My understanding of the poem as a plea to one contemplating suicide is, I know, an idiosyncratic reading, not one Whitman intended. So, I wanted to write a poem that more directly addressed this issue. I’m not claiming this poem contains “the right words at the right time,” only the words I wish I would have had the chance to say to those I’ve lost.
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