What They’re Asking

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Photo by Sven on Unsplash

This poem refers to Britt Marie Was Here, a novel by Fredrik Backman. I didn’t love the story, but Britt Marie’s empty, desperate life pierced me. I felt that her hunger was not as odd as it might seem, so I wrote this response.

Britt Marie displaced her husband’s shaver
So she could hear him say her name
To ask where it was.
He didn’t say it nicely
But it was her name and
When he said it
She knew who she was.

Backman’s novel is truer than fiction
And older than Enneagram numbers
Because women have always
Wondered and wandered
To voices that grunt, nod, or whisper
Answers to their questions that echo
Echo over oceans, porches, trails, cereal bowls—
Do you see me?
Am I beautiful?
With this mole and with this limp
And even when I can’t see you and
With that mistake—
Do I matter?
Can you read my voice?

I don’t know and I can’t hear and
What did you say?
If you said yesterday
That I’m the sun and moon to you
I wonder if today it’s true.
Do you see past my brain to my pulse,
And what do you see there?
Is it pretty? Do you like it?

She may not mouth the words or
Trust her lisp to ask
But she puzzles, dreams, doubts,
Whoever she is—
The lithe bride, the mall janitor,
And the receptionist’s hello—all ask,
Sotto voce, just like
The sparky barista, the wallflower,
And the social butterfly
Who visits all the sweet spots.

She never displaces a shaver
But she still listens
To be named,
Seen,
Belong.

5 thoughts on “What They’re Asking

  1. “She still listens,
    To be named, seen, belong.”
    Thank you for these words!!! They comfort that hidden spot in my heart and I realize I’m not alone in the desire to be known and to belong! I’ve often heard that we should find our acceptance in Christ. How do we mesh that idea with our desire to belong among our peers?

  2. “She may not mouth the words or
    Trust her lisp to ask
    But she puzzles, dreams, doubts,”

    Thanks so much for this poem….. it’s amazingly accurate. The above 3 lines esp stood out to me, as well as the part of

    “What did you say?
    If you said yesterday
    That I’m the sun and moon to you
    I wonder if today it’s true.”

    How incredibly insecure we are and how devious we can be in trying to figure out ways to confirm our worth in someone’s eyes without ever actually asking the question.

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