When my dad was little, he worked. He helped his father to strip furnaces in the basements of the wealthy and gathered scraps of metal and coal off the streets to sell. But even though he learned to work doing physically exhausting, menial tasks, his expectations for himself had nothing to do with the expectations that the world had for black boys in 1950s Detroit.
Anne Carson’s poem, “Shot List,” first appeared in Michigan Quarterly Review in 2005. We revisit “Shot List” today, in honor of Anne Carson’s birthday.
I used to sit in the kitchen and draw when Jean visited my mother. I loved to show my completed drawings to Jean. She made me feel as if I’d discovered an elemental truth, or shown her something vital. Once, when I handed her a picture I’d done of a yellow lion with spindly legs and huge round eyes, she looked at it with consideration and said, “You know, it doesn’t look like a real lion. But I think you’ve caught the spirit of a lion here, and that’s a lot more important. This lion has lion-ness.”
The realm of storytelling is a sacred one, and not just for authors and readers, but for our culture as a whole. As the novel makes readily apparent, if we neglect or ignore our collective pasts, our stories, then we risk losing the most important part of us forever.
I was literally looking at life from la margen (the bank, the shore). I have always wanted to use the feminine gender form of margin in Spanish, the irregular line where land meets water, rather than the masculine one, which is an irrevocably peripheral band of terrain, edges outside the body of words on a page.