Burning Scorpion Grasses

This article, rather than being a continuation of my previous article "Misogyny and Equalism..." (which I will continue), is actually meant as an homage and an acknowledgment. Earlier a commenter brought up a specific aspect of feminism that I left unsaid--in regards to the two inseparable and interchangeable subjects that are 'race' and 'gender.'

Earlier I found an interesting poem by Mary Karr titled 'The Burning Girl.' The poem itself, like many great literary works, has no clear goal or motive; it can be analyzed and interpreted in various ways by a myriad of readers. 'The Burning Girl' however, presents certain parallels to that of Maya Angelou's 'Caged Bird'. I am not referring to their possible similarities in meter or rhyme scheme, as they both are individualistic in their approaches; however, they seem to portray an analogous message. For instance, their subjects--or titles more specifically--share a relation.

The "burning girl" and the "caged bird" both inhabit elements of nature and society. While Karr continuously refers to the elements of fire such as "flames," "sun," and "light"--Angelou evokes the facets of air with "wind," "current", and "sky." Now, of course, such connections to nature are common among most poets--why is this certain aspect of their poetry special? I would like to draw you to the introduction in both poems:

"The Burning Girl"

1) While the tennis ball went back and forth in time

2) A girl was burning. While the tonic took its greeny

3) Acid lime, a girl was burning. While the ruby sun fell

4) From a cloud’s bent claws and Wimbledon was won

5) And lost, we sprawled along the shore in chairs,

6) We breathed the azure airs alongside

7) A girl with the thinnest arms all scarred and scored

8) With marks she’d made herself —

9) She sat with us in flames

"Caged Bird"

1) A free bird leaps

2) on the back of the wind

3) and floats downstream

4) till the current ends

5) and dips his wing

6) in the orange sun rays

7) and dares to claim the sky.

8) But a bird that stalks

9) down his narrow cage

10) can seldom see through

11) his bars of rage

12) his wings are clipped and

13) his feet are tied

14) so he opens his throat to sing.

Above, I numbered each line to make clear what I am referring to specifically.

Note lines 1-4 in "The Burning Girl": they are examples of the elements of nature I had mentioned earlier--however, look at what she attaches to her homages to nature. "A girl was burning. While the tonic took its greeny/Acid lime, a girl was burning. While the ruby sun fell..."

The words "greeny," "lime," and "sun" are all approached with 'unnatural' words such as "tonic," "acid," and "ruby." 'Unnatural', though, is in reference to society. Allow me to explain further through Angelou:

Earlier she presents the "free bird...on the back of the wind" as he "dips his wing/in the orange sun rays/and dares to claim the sky" (1-7). Here, Angelou's element is established. We can feel the bird in flight, feel the wind caress ourselves, and understand the desire to remain in such a state of mind. It is in the next phrase though, that Angelou begins to strip it away from you. For the "bird that stalks down his narrow cage..his wings are clipped and/his feet are tied/so he opens his throat to sing" (8-14). Once again, 'unnatural' words are attached to the 'natural.' Both Angelou and Karr establish a connection between the wills of nature and entrapments of society. Angelou uses the wind and the bird as representations of freedom while Karr establishes fire as a symbol of self-societal imprisonment.

As these are brief analyses and observations of two literary masterpieces, they are also examples of how various aspects of life need to be understood. Like these poems, life is forever interpreted and reinterpreted in various ways--this includes movements for social change, films of questionable content, and discussions with friends and family. All of such things are interchangeable. What seems domestic, or only an issue to you, can be of global importance and understanding. This is the concept of intersectionality. I can read a poem once or twice and have various opinions of what it may or may not mean. However, once I consider the author's perspective and their history, I gain an entirely new impression and analysis. Add this to other opinions and view points and my entire context of the poem becomes an "ocean endless."

Intersectionality is the ability or acknowledgment of privilege, perspective, cultural and ethical history to a point where you can see there are no boundaries. Movements such as Feminism and Civil Rights are not separate but interchangeable. But sometimes, in order to grasp this concept, we need to break it down into falsely separate ideas. Yet we must not forget; never forget this global acknowledgment. The symbol of the Scorpion Grass is the Forget-Me-Not:

"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." --Maya Angelou

Let the Scorpion Grass never burn; let the discussion never cease. Write, debate, comment, and understand--it is in your right to do so.

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