On Being Ordinary – by Sharon Suzuki-Martinez


Is it better to give up one’s life

And leave a sacred shell
As an object of cult
In a cloud of incense

Or better to live
As a plain turtle
Dragging its tail in the mud?
             
               – Chuang Tzu (Thomas Merton, trans.)

 

Once, I pictured myself as sinister as a vulture,
even though people treat me like a sparrow:
a creature out-and-out ordinary and non-threatening.

Likewise, in Penny Dreadful, I identified
with John Clare, the hideous,
poetry-reciting monster – when I’d be more
likely cast as “Mahjong Parlour Owner”, “Police Photographer”,
or “Audience Member”.

I used to sink into a deep blue funk thinking
about how with my plain turtle looks, nobody saw me
as a warrior princess. I was scenery
mouthing “rhubarb rhubarb” to another anonymous shrubbery.

At best, I’m comic relief.
When people see me, nobody gets a pistol-in-his-pocket,
but at least they don’t try to shoot me.

And like the Fool in King Lear who flies
from the plot before the main characters die,
I will be the Police Photographer who lives on to photograph
another gory aftermath. Or better, the Mahjong Parlour Owner
keeping the world playing for another azure day.

 

 

 

 

Sharon Suzuki-Martinez is the author of The Way of All Flux (New Rivers Press, 2012), and winner of the New Rivers Press MVP Poetry Prize. She is also the Editor of a music and poetry blog, The Poet’s Playlist.

 

 

 

 

The True Lives of Cells – by Sharon Suzuki-Martinez

 

Scientists say all our cells are replaced every seven years.

I plan to scoop up my old cells and reassemble my seven old selves. Throw them a big pity party as a distraction. Then leap naked and shameless into my latest incarnation.
*
People and things are like cells—replaced, time and again.

Like a goldfish named Sonny replaced by an identical goldfish named Cher in the fishbowl of our youth. Like the queue of father figures stepping into our angry fathers’ shoes.
*
Humans are glorified cells of the Earth.

But the Earth doesn’t need us the way it needs bees. According to a recent survey, three out of four of my friends say: the Earth needs us like geese need molten lava.
*
Now imagine each of your cells is an individual:

complete with a personality, pet peeves, and secret pain. Imagine bacteria cells roaming your body’s inner prairie like the tiniest bison.
*
The cells dally and gossip their lives away, but a few quiet cells know their time is a wisp of match-light. They marvel at the magnificent vistas within your body: their whole world. They wonder if other perfect bodies with intelligent life could exist elsewhere, in the mystery of outer space.

 

 

 

 

Sharon Suzuki-Martinez is the author of The Way of All Flux (New Rivers Press, 2012), and winner of the New Rivers Press MVP Poetry Prize. She is also the Editor of a music and poetry blog, The Poet’s Playlist.