POSTED: March 1, 2021
Sometimes I enter writing and poetry contests. And occasionally I even submit to various literary journals and other publications when there is a call for submissions. It is an important thing to do, given my relationship with the publishing industry. I submit, which gives me something to do, and they reject, which gives them something to do.
Occasionally one of those publishing tricksters will actually accept my work, which puts the whole nature of the relationship in peril and makes me question the otherwise perfect harmony of the symbiosis.
So recently I saw a call for submission from a literary journal I like very much, and one that has not broken the perfect relationship of submission / rejection. It was on the topic of Invisibility, something I have some familiarity with, being largely unpublished.
The submissions could be in a variety of forms – essay, poetry, prose.
Some ideas on the topic were swirling around in my head one evening when I headed off to bed to be comforted by The Collected Prose of Elizabeth Bishop. Bishop of course is the Pulitzer prize winning Canadian/American poet. Her prose is not as well known but much of it is based on her own life so reading it is really a window into who she was, and where she came from. But I am rambling again.
While brushing my teeth some elements of a poem started to gel, and I scribbled them down on a pad I keep handy for just such occurrences.
A busy Covid schedule kept me from returning to the task for a few days but I then sat down at my cluttered desk to come back to it, and appropriately enough – the little piece of paper with the scribbled poem was invisible. And this is another aspect of invisibility I have familiarity with. Something that is there but not seen.
Like everyone on the planet, I have characteristics. I have a colour, I have an age, some gender characteristics and I present in a certain way, at times revealing my heritage, character, and perspective, and at times not. When I am with others who share many of my visible characteristics I blend in or disappear as we all look the same to at least some.
When I am with others who don’t have some of those visible characteristics – I am seen. Sometimes in a good way, often not.
I was having a drink with a friend about a year ago, when we could still do that, and he was telling me about a role he had played about a year earlier in a very popular Bollywood film. He is a part-time actor, part-time barista, and full-time gadabout, and was living in Mumbai at the time. He showed me on his phone the credit he had in the film: “OLDER OVERWEIGHT WHITE MAN AT BAR #7”. Yes, that certainly is something for the resume!
As I age, I have come to respect the thoughts of my aging friends (particularly female friends) who have long talked about their invisibility. Once you are over a certain age you seemingly disappear to the general public, and certainly as a creature with any sexual content. It is the reason eyeglass companies and hair colouring salons stay in business. It is a way for people over a certain age to say to the public – “Hey you, look over here, I have red glasses, matching red shoes and blue streaked hair and I am not what you are pre-supposing about me – I am an individual, with thoughts and ideas and a character. And yes, maybe I am even a bit attractive.”
And what of that poem. Well, that’s the thing about invisibility – if you can look beyond what you see, sometimes you find some amazing things. In my case I found that little sheet of paper on my desk, right where I left it. Here is the poem.
SEEN, BUT INVISIBLE
Just about a perfect specimen.
Tall, well proportioned,
Relaxed but confident.
The look was complete.
The shoes, the shorts, the open shirt.
Our eyes connected
And as we moved
Closer to the door
My expectations ran ahead
And my plans were with them
For a future ahead. To relive the past.
“Let me get that for you ma’am”
The door was opened,
And the dream was closed.
As always, I am good with people reproducing my work, but please attribute it to me.