I Am Nobody, Arvilla Fee

Philip Kobylarz, The Refuge, Photograph


I Am Nobody


My eyes move across her page,
shy student, sits in the back,
never speaks.

But yet, here is her assignment,
Who Am I Essay:

I am silence
I am invisible
I am alone
I am wallpaper
I am a guitar without strings
I am a fish out of the pond
I am an unwritten song
I am broccoli, no cheese
I am a dandelion in a rose garden
I am a mirage in the desert
I am nothing
I am Nobody

I hold her honesty
in my hands
like shattered egg shells.

Arvilla Fee



Review by Mykyta Ryzhykh

The word nobody has long been associated with the Indian named Nobody from the Jim Jarmusch film. Times change. People can still be nothing. However, in this poem I was struck by the voluntariness of the main character and narrator, who seem to change their name in their passport to the name Nobody.


Review by Robert Nisbet

Most teachers (and I worked in high schools for thirty years) will recognise this pupil who quietly pours out her unhappiness in this way. But what makes this poem rather special is the degree of complexity in the girl’s list. Yes, the guitar without strings is lacking, but the song without words? .. well, the melody and the lyrical intention are there, muted maybe, but there. And the mirage? That too has its appeal, its magic, does it not?


Review by Theric Jepson

The title points us to Emily Dickinson. The speaker/teacher must know this, but it’s harder to be sure the student/writer does. While Emily (use of first name deliberate) uses her nobodyness to draw us in, to find pleasure in the companionship of being nobody, this student-writer offers no such invitation. The teacher does take her words and “hold [them] … / in [her] hands,” but she holds them “like shattered egg shells”—not like the hand of a friend, or a crying child, or newborn bairn—but like something destroyed and now fit for nothing. Is this the student’s fault for thinking only of her own nothingness and not reaching out? Is it the failure of the teacher for treating one honest moment as an endpoint? We might wish for a happy ending, them sitting together enjoying a tea, but, after all, how dreary to be somebody—public, like a frog—just telling our names the livelong day to those spilling their attention in the bog. Perhaps an honest aloneness is enough. 


Review by Jared Pearce

While we probably don’t like to point out to school children that we don’t matter, I like that this poem does it, both from the student and from the (presumable) instructor scoring the essay.  I wonder what score the essay earned?  I like, too, that the egg shells could be the brokenness of the speaker and possibly the students, or, perhaps more likely, that the student’s honest consideration of herself has helped her remove herself from her egg.  Once her feathers dry, she might really stand a chance.




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