There is a me under this me who wishes to do lovely in this magnificent

by Katie Berta

I am a truth but also I am a truth beneath an I, like a skin under a skin or layers and layers of clothes, which means I don’t have to listen when someone tells me the truth of my truth on the surface, the skin-truth that doesn’t at all account for the truth that is invisible and living as a skin underneath. Or so I am told. No one wants anyone else to see their underwear but everyone wears underwear, a capitulation to all of our socialization and a metaphor, in this case (not a perfect one—I would never say that—because in this case we really would like everyone to see the truth that is I beneath the I that I seem to be, but normally we don’t want anyone to see our undergarments). I was told by my therapist that I get to decide what the truth underneath the I is, and for a while she tried to determine who this was by asking what my favorite foods are and what kind of television I like to watch and then summarizing the kind of person that might mean I am when I answered, but honestly I hadn’t thought about what kind of food was my favorite in maybe one thousand years and so I just said the food that was my favorite when I was five, spaghetti, and said I liked Game of Thrones (before these last few seasons, RIP), but honestly the only things I give a fuck about are poetry and Kent and our dog. These, says my therapist, do not constitute a personality, but I don’t know if she’s ever been an artist, in which case she might equate poetry with a job like the kind you leave at the office with your outside-skin-I and a cardigan because the air conditioning makes it really pretty chilly on some days. Listen, normally it would be my impulse to apologize for calling
myself an artist and acting like this is some rarified thing that mere therapists can’t understand, but my therapist has tried to get me to quit with all the apologizing and explaining, which is part and parcel of the belief that there really is an I underneath this I that is the truth-I that no one can see or touch. My friend Brad tells me who we are as humans is not determined by whether people are offended by us or not. Listen, someone will be—I know that I’m sloppy—but I’m trying to make a choice not to aestheticize all this underneath-skin-I, all this—oh god if any—that has a chance of authentic engagement with anything at all, the sky, the trees, my dog, oh humans. Oh humans, just let me be. Here I am, I love you, just let me

Katie Berta lives in Phoenix, Arizona where she works as the Supervising Editor of Hayden’s Ferry Review. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, The Kenyon Review Online, Blackbird, Sixth Finch, The Offing, Indiana Review, Salt Hill, The Journal, and Washington Square Review, among other magazines. You can find her book reviews on the Ploughshares blog, in West Branch, and elsewhere. She has received fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center and the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing. She has her PhD in poetry from Ohio University and her MFA from Arizona State.