Hair dryer hood crisps curls, soft whirring background to the mostly bald man in conversation with the stylist who clips him strand by careful strand. He says Marion is stable but she barely gets out especially in this heat. Loneliness vines through him and spores out of his face across this partitioned room with a listening chorus of weightless magazine readers. Attention is fixed not on paparazzi fruit but the drama of Marion. We all yearn, reach across with hearts surging, hair curling, coloring, straightening, to hold this man and this Marion, to return them to something more than stable.
3 Questions for Paula
What was your process for creating these pieces?
In Displaced, I sought to discover as dispassionately as I could, my mother’s perspective as a Holocaust survivor transplanted to a foreign country and culture. This required closely listening to her voice and putting aside the perceptions of a child whose life was deeply affected by her.
In The Salon, I wanted to explore the perceptions and images of a very ordinary experience that becomes unexpectedly extraordinary. By sifting through the experience as both participant and chronicler, I hoped to capture the surprising impact of it.
What is the significance of the forms/genres you chose for this work?
Free verse feels both expansive and self-governing to me. Writing in this form leaves me responsible for making my own rules, allows me to keep a poem closer to my own voice and imposes an order that stays internal to the poem itself. Somehow that order creates a license for creativity.
What is the significance of this work to you?
Displaced: My mother escaped Poland just before the Nazis invaded, and after a series of moves around the world, wound up in a Baltimore suburb. This poem is about the life she had to abandon and what she had to accept in the name of security. It is an acknowledgment of her suffering, many years overdue.
The Salon: This poem is about connection, which can be elusive when actively sought. At other moments, when not courted, it can present itself as a gift. It is also about kindness, which I like to believe runs as a constant, but sometimes undetectable current.
Paula Selis is a former public interest attorney, with a BA in English from Dartmouth College. She currently teaches at the University of Washington and Seattle University Law Schools. She studies creative writing at Hugo House in Seattle. This is the first publication of her poetry.