Still life with milk

My privileges are all my own:
a Speedo tracksuit
with my feet tightly laced
into leaden shoes.
A mold to fit, a mask of skin
too tight for comfort.

I wear my privilege of expectations
to be competitive and combat ready.
to be compassionate,
to be a man and never cry.

My privileges are
to try my best
to understand that walking barefoot
can be worse than being tied
in shoes too tight.
and that being young
is preferable to growing old.

My privileges are cold
tastes like silver spoons
and are white
just like a jug of spilled milk.

Still life with Milk by Paula Modersohn-Becker

Today Anmol wants us to write about Privileges at dVerse. Of course this a subject for me that is being born with certain blessings that is also part burden. I could not express myself by being straightforward and got winded down into elaborate metaphors and wordgames.
—-
February 19, 2019

25 responses to “Still life with milk

  1. privilege of expectation is a sobering thought, never take anything for granted. your metaphors are wonderful especially in the closing stanza. food can seem a right to some yet not just a privilege but luxury to others. I so love metaphors used like this.

  2. I started to read your poem about an hour and a half ago but was sidetracked by a long telephone call with a friend I have know most of my life. That’s a privilege I couldn’t do without. I like the honesty of your poem and the way you serve up the male stereotype in the lines:
    ‘I wear my privilege of expectations
    to be competitive and combat ready.
    to be compassionate,
    to be a man and never cry’.

  3. I have always been a man who is combat ready, but also a man who is ready and able to cry. The planet itself is in its death throes. If that’s not enough to reduce you to tears, what is?

  4. I admire the metaphors of shoes too tight, silver spoon and spilled milk. Sometimes we take them for granted, until we realize that some walk barefoot, no spoons or no food. I really like that second stanza too, a man’s character, for sure.

  5. I like how you show privilege also has it’s downside!
    I liked this part of your poem…
    My privileges are
    to try my best
    to understand that walking barefoot
    can be worse than being tied
    in shoes too tight.
    and that being young
    is preferable to growing old.

  6. I love that “still” in the title might be a verb, and that “a jug of spilled milk” might be a breastfeeding reference — and really, isn’t that the ultimate privilege? ~To drink your mother’s milk?

    Today, I found out an old friend was murdered last weekend. She left behind three children who will never again know the comfort of their mother’s “bosom,” literal or figurative. Status and privilege fly right out the window when the loss is great enough. But that’s not exactly related to your poem, I guess.

  7. Such an interesting array of metaphors — leaden shoes, molds, masks, walking barefoot, tight shoes, silver spoons, spilled milk, et al. It’s great that you used them not to hide but to showcase and point out the layers of human existence and experience through their use. Accepting certain privileges does not discount personal experiences.
    This bit says it all so well: “My privileges are/to try my best/to understand that walking barefoot/can be worse than being tied/in shoes too tight.”
    I am glad that you participated and provided a thoughtful perspective, Bjorn! 🙂

  8. Not sure I followed but interesting images except that they are metaphors. Perhaps it is our different understanding of the word privilege that blocks me.

  9. Privilege of expectations is a pretty sound observation. I like the suggestion that men aren’t supposed to cry as an odd requirement for your “station”. Like, privilege comes with certain expectations as well.

    I think you nailed this one, Bjorn.

  10. I think your feelings of ambivalence towards the privileges you have in life really comes through here. There is an honesty and a struggle – the last stanza is the most powerful I my opinion. Great write!

  11. The last stanza is so insightful. The last two lines….zeroes in on the perspective — in fact, it’s like throwing a dart in the pub and hitting the bulls eye!

  12. That’s very powerful. You are right – the privileges of middle class professional life are sometimes so tight they fit like a straight jacket.

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