The Operating System

5th Annual NAPOMO 30/30/30 :: Day 10 :: Jessica Mehta On, Under, and Between Kim Addonizio

[box]It’s hard to believe that this is our FIFTH annual 30/30/30 series, and that when this month is over we will have seeded and scattered ONE HUNDRED and FIFTY of these love-letters, these stories of gratitude and memory, into the world. Nearly 30 books, 3 magazines, countless events and online entries later, and this annual celebration shines like a beacon at the top of the heap of my very favorite things to have brought into being. [If you’re interested in going back through the earlier 120 entries, you can find them (in reverse chronological order) here.]
When I began this exercise on my own blog, in 2011, I began by speaking to National Poetry Month’s beginnings, in 1966, and wrote that my intentions “for my part, as a humble servant and practitioner of this lovely, loving art,” were to post a poem and/or brief history of a different poet…. as well as write and post a new poem a day. I do function well under stricture, but I soon realized this was an overwhelming errand.
Nonetheless the idea stuck — to have this month serve not only as one in which we flex our practical muscles but also one in which we reflect on inspiration, community, and tradition — and with The Operating System (then Exit Strata) available as a public platform to me, I invited others (and invited others to invite others) to join in the exercise. It is a series which perfectly models my intention to have the OS serve as an engine of open source education, of peer to peer value and knowledge circulation.
Sitting down at my computer so many years ago I would have never imagined that in the following five years I would be able to curate and gather 150 essays from so many gifted poets — ranging from students to award winning stars of the craft, from the US and abroad — to join in this effort. But I’m so so glad that this has come to be.
Enjoy! And share widely.
– Lynne DeSilva-Johnson, Managing Editor/Series Curator [/box]
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JESSICA MEHTA ON, UNDER, AND BETWEEN KIM ADDONIZIO (I WISH)

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[line][script_teaser]”Addonizio was tiny, the hard years etched into her face in a beautiful way. She wrote and read about what it means to be a woman. What it means to be madly in love with men. With drinking. At times with herself. I adored each and every one of the poems she read, but ‘What Do Women Want?’ is the one that rabbit punched me and stuck with me for life.”
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What Do Women Want?”

I want a red dress.
I want it flimsy and cheap,
I want it too tight, I want to wear it
until someone tears it off me.
I want it sleeveless and backless,
this dress, so no one has to guess
what’s underneath. I want to walk down
the street past Thrifty’s and the hardware store
with all those keys glittering in the window,
past Mr. and Mrs. Wong selling day-old
donuts in their café, past the Guerra brothers
slinging pigs from the truck and onto the dolly,
hoisting the slick snouts over their shoulders.
I want to walk like I’m the only
woman on earth and I can have my pick.
I want that red dress bad.
I want it to confirm
your worst fears about me,
to show you how little I care about you
or anything except what
I want. When I find it, I’ll pull that garment
from its hanger like I’m choosing a body
to carry me into this world, through
the birth-cries and the love-cries too,
and I’ll wear it like bones, like skin,
it’ll be the goddamned
dress they bury me in.

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When I was an undergraduate, my very first (and who remains my favorite) poetry teacher, Michele Glazer, told us: “If you’re ever in solitary confinement, you need beautiful words besides your own in your head.” Otherwise, we’d go crazy. As such, we were required to memorize and recite one poem each week. I was brand new to poetry. I hadn’t a clue about whom to write about. But Kim Addonizio was doing a reading on campus, and we got extra credit for every reading we attended.
That’s when I fell in love. Poets, we always remember our first, right? Addonizio was tiny, the hard years etched into her face in a beautiful way. She wrote and read about what it means to be a woman. What it means to be madly in love with men. With drinking. At times with herself. I adored each and every one of the poems she read, but “What Do Women Want?” is the one that rabbit punched me and stuck with me for life.
I chose it as my first poem to memorize and recite. Now, all these years later, it’s still imprinted into my brain. In fact, it’s showcased in my closet, alongside Maya Angelou’s “Phenomenal Woman.” It’s written in Sharpie on a series of ornate mirrors, because that’s what I want blanketed over me while I slip on the day’s yoga pants or the evening’s halter dress. A reminder of the power of beauty, of fashion, of what it means to be in total control of how we as women see ourselves and feel.
All of Addonizio’s work resonates with me and, I believe, will whisper closely to all women. In “What Do Women Want?” it’s all about what she wants. The mentions of other people, from the Wongs to the Guerra brothers, are given the respect of names but they exist solely in her world as a backdrop—extras who are necessary to make life seem real.
However, it’s the dress and the life she breathes into it that’s really the only other character in her world. Of course, the dress exists as a metaphor. It’s not meant to hide, but to expose on her own terms. She uses it as an access point, a siren’s song, and ultimately as a double for her own outward shell—one which, unlike the shell of a body she’s born into, she gets to choose in totality. And what she chooses is a showstopper.
How lovely would it be if we all had such a dress? We do, of course, but some of us have it buried deep in the recesses of our closet while the rare few of us have it hanging, ready to grab and slide into, right at the forefront. I challenge myself and all women to dig out that “dress,” zip it up or tie it on, and admire yourself completely. It’s a choice we can make every single day, and one that can dramatically change our perspectives and our lives.
 
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[textwrap_image align=”left”]http://www.theoperatingsystem.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/mehta-photo-2-e1460124542449.jpg[/textwrap_image] Jessica Mehta, born and raised in Oregon, is the author of the forthcoming novel The Wrong Kind of Indian published by Wyatt-MacKenzie Press. She has also published two books of poetry including the Pulitzer Prize nominated The Last Exotic Petting Zoo and What Makes an Always published by Tayen Lane Publishing. She is the founder of MehtaFor, a writing company which serves a variety of clients including Fortune 500 enterprises and major media outlets. Her company received the national bronze award for Startup of the Year from the American Business Awards in 2015.
Jessica received a Writers in the Schools (WITS) residency from the Oregon Literary Arts Council for 2015-16. As a member of the Cherokee Nation, Jessica offers complimentary writing and editing services through her company to Native American students and non-profits based in the Pacific Northwest and/or serving Native communities.
She received her master’s degree in writing from Portland State University, and established The Jessica Tyner Scholarship Fund in 2013. An extensive traveler, she has lived in England, South Korea and Costa Rica. She’s a certified yoga instructor, avid runner, and collector of first edition books. Jessica currently lives in Portland, Oregon.
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