Paula Gunn Allen

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Dear World

Allen, Paula Gunn

Last Updated: Dec-12-2006
Annotated by:
Stanford, Ann Folwell

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem


In this poem, the speaker’s mother has lupus [systemic lupus erythematosis], a "disease / of self-attack" where, for example, when the police arrive at a mugging, "they beat up on you / instead of on your attackers." The speaker goes on to reflect on the logic of such an illness residing in the body of "A halfbreed woman" who, for historical reasons, "can hardly do anything else / but attack herself." Being Indian and white, the speaker says, "cancel each other out. / Leaving no one in the place," which would be fine except that, being a woman, she must perform caring duties regardless of her circumstance. The speaker describes her mother’s physical pain, her ". . . eyes burn, / they tear themselves apart . . . / her joints swell to the point / of explosion, eruption," concluding with the observation that "when volatile substances are intertwined, / when irreconcilable opposites meet, / the crucible and its contents vaporize."

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