d Y i O f U f R e S r E e L n F t

whirling, swirling, spiraling

First you, outer-ness
Then you inner mass
And then the core at last

whirling, swirling, spiraling
Contorted toward
Some new angle, some new degree
The whirling, swirling, rotating –
Time slowly moves forward –
The outside displaced, refaced
The inner twisted to some new insanity
It is not the same
so they say

      Is a circle of infinite points not defined by a single point?

      The circle, a      distance
      from the defining .point.

      The ‘renaissance man,’
      O! so well-rounded
      Puts circles to shame.

      so      distant,
      from the defining .point.

spiraling, swirling, contorting
rotating, whirling, torquing
displaced, twisted, insane

The center



I remember this poem being vaguely inspired by some of the more modern poetry techniques I learned about in high school English, such as the infamous E.E. Cummings, who was famous for breaking many of the rules of accepted forms and instead letting his unique choices about capitalization, spacing, and punctuation become part of the content of his work, rather than forcing his content into pre-existing forms.

The poem is about how I felt my identity being changed by the world around me. The influences of our environment, peers, and social pressures first distort our outward-most traits, but as time wears on, the changes seep deeper into our identity and we change at our core in response to those pressures. I describe this process very negatively, as though I’m being physically mutilated into something unrecognizable. Other images that come to mind are a painting that was spun while still wet or an uncured sculpture, flushed repeatedly in a toilet.

The tone shifts from abstract violent transfigurement at the beginning and end to a more dispassionate analytical discussion in the indented stanza. Here I muse on the nature of a circle. While a circle is an infinite collection, it is defined by it’s center. This is a paradox however because the center is itself not part of the circle! In a similar way, we are defined by a core identity that remains hidden. The visible parts of ourselves remain at a distance from that core identity.

The “renaissance man” bit was a reflection on how I tried so hard to please everyone. For my English teacher I wasn’t just a good student, I was the best writer and poet. For my band teacher, I wasn’t just a flute player, I was 1st flute and Band President. For my math teacher I wasn’t just a student, I was the only one from my school who attended a national math competition. Even in pursuits in which I was squarely mediocre, like Cross Country, I was wholly devoted to my role, for my coach and my team. Being everything to everyone was exhausting and ultimately meant that I let my external identity stray from my core identity. It was that pressure to perform for a dozen audiences that spills out in poems like this where I feel like just being “me” is tearing me apart, because I don’t know who “me” is anymore.

My last two lines, “The center / unchanged” declares that our identity isn’t who people actually see, but it’s the vital unchanging foundation. While our outside self can be changed or perhaps deranged, our true self remains unchanged. I’m clinging to the idea that I am still me at the core and that I can always find myself again if I look inward deeply enough.

The title is a combining of the words “different” and “yourself” - symbolizing that while it’s a challenge to find ourselves among the differences we adopt as we undergo life’s changes, our true self is still in there.