Summer Durant is a senior in the College. She is one of three spoken word poets highlighted in this week’s arts-themed digital issue. She performs this poem in a video below, and discusses it in this week’s “Fresh Voices” podcast.
In kindergarten I accidentally broke a porcelain sink.
I watched it fall 2 feet in slow motion, before shattering across the tired, tile floors.
My toes wanted to run
To absolve myself of guilt,
But my chest lingered for a while.
It wanted to watch all of the pieces settle.
Wanted to study this breaking moment like a roadmap.
Wanted to make sure each shard found a happily ever after.
Eventually my feet convinced the rest of me that this was not the right time.
That we would have plenty more moments of shattering.
The first time I was told to break something on purpose, it was to make a fraction.
The teacher said: A fraction is one number divided by another.
I asked what gave the bottom number the authority to tear down a bird in flight
The teacher said: The number on top is the numerator and the number below is the denominator.
I asked which way was up
In which direction does gravity pull a fragmented body?
The teacher said: It is improper for the numerator to be bigger than the denominator. Called this a mixed number.
I looked at the unbalanced ratio of my mixed hands and wondered why God would ever build so
impolite a body
The first time I was told to divide myself, I was between 7 and 8 years old.
Which is to say, the first time I realized that being 2 halves is not the same as being 1 whole, I
was a mixed number, 15/2.
I didn’t know about fractions, didn’t understand how to break up a person.
The first time I looked in the mirror it cracked down the middle.
That’s not a metaphor, it’s just true.
I remember thinking my body looked so strange split in half.
Like an unsurvivable thing.
The first time I looked in a mirror, I was whole and the mirror was shattered.
I was one body and the mirror was a mosaic staring back at me.
Which is to say … I was not born of division.
Partition and segregation are in my history, but my body is not repeating itself.
The Indian and Black women inside of me are not whittling my bones hollow
I am the most hard-working hour glass you’ve ever met
I am all denominator and all numerator
All unbalanced seesaw.
But you don’t think a seesaw broken.
You don’t demand it pick sides.
Don’t watch a pendulum swing and call it a liar where it lands.
And all of this is to say, I am neither bird bones nor pendulum.
Nor spectacle nor object.
But I did break a mirror once
and a sink.
I did watch the pieces fall 2 feet in slow motion.
I did wait for each shard to find a happily ever after.
Lingered in this breaking moment like it was a roadmap and I was a sink
I did watch.
I did wait.
I did tuck a shard beneath my tongue.
I did bleed.
And the halves of me seeped into each other.
Mixed into one impolite body.
One unbalanced ratio.
And I was as whole as I would ever be.
And I am as whole as I will ever be.
Video credits: Danielle Hewitt (Executive Producer), Kayla Hewitt (video)