Let Us Plant Flamingos and Move On
by Sharon G. Solloway*
Red Has No Reason by JoAnne Growney reminds us that the human penchant for holding pain close, refusing to let it go defies logic, good sense—reason. Growney is a passionate poet and mathematician. She came out of the closet to the world on that one in 2006 with her My Dance is Mathematics.
She has boxed her poems in Red Has No Reason into four rooms, “(attention),” “(memory),” “(resistance),” and “(complexity).” Within these rooms you can find mathematical connections. “Our dining room with seven doors plus closets,” “Consider the sphere--,” and “This place makes my heart turn corners, learn to trust the fierce geometry of angles”. But what stands out to this reader is the way the rooms all hold onto pain.
In “(attention)” she points to pain in “Clarification,” in the line “I write and write to cover walls…” and claims to have “sent things out of your mind, found their ends.” We might be convinced except for the last line of this room, “There is no safe place.”
Our tour takes us next to “(memory)” where we encounter in “Horizon,” “Divided into complexity, Eden disappears,” and we feel vindicated in our suspicions that unmitigated pain is the baggage in this room too. We discover in “Present Tense,” the source of the pain, “My mother is a terrifying woman.” As we leave “(memory),” we hear the hope for moving on in the lines, “…in Skagway. If you stay…you turn corners, bend angles…give up doubt,…plant flamingos.” But will we find “flamingos” or the same old unmitigated pain in the next room?
The reader is heartened in the next room, “(resistance).” Here we see that “the way you count life…is life.” Perhaps “flamingos” have been planted and the pain of childhood interpretations of mother love has been cast off. The lines “An uncommon man, an occasional woman,…buffer the malice of others, keep…the rest of us from tilting the world,” continue to boost the reader’s hope.
The last lines of “Call Me Ramona” in the next room dash our hopes, “My mother packed my head full of underwear…labeled virgin cotton. I need a sound-track…with red music that dances. Give me…a new, exotic name.” Then in “Running” the madness of repealed reason solidifies in the lines, “My sleep is brief. I rise to run again,…to flee the doubts that catch me when I’m still…I live by going faster than I can.” Red is failure to let go and move on. Red is the failure to notice our complicity with dysfunction.
The point of most therapy is to give us the good sense to let go of the pain that plays us as puppets moment by moment. Facing the pain rather than fleeing, recognizing our wisdom and the power within to let go, move on and plant those flamingos is the message of Red Has No Reason.
*Sharon G. Solloway is a sometimes poet but is mostly a professor at Bloomsburg University. She teaches mindfulness courses—how to live in the academic and professional world with more wisdom.