Monday, November 9, 2015

"Paper Matches" by Paulette Jiles

Paulette Jiles - A poet, novelist, journalist and a memoirist, Jiles has already published many works of literature. Her works usually entail philosophical, ironic and witty thought but can evoke deep insights. She is a modern poet and her most famous work is Enemy Woman (2002).

"Paper Matches"

My aunts washed dishes while the uncles
squirted each other on the lawn with
garden hoses. Why are we in here,
I said, and they are out there?
That’s the way it is,
said Aunt Hetty, the shriveled-up one.
I have the rages that small animals have,
being small, being animal.
Written on me was a message,
“At Your Service,”
like a book of paper matches.
One by one we were taken out
and struck.
We come bearing supper,
our heads on fire.

This poem is very modern, written in 1973. It does not have a traditional rhyme scheme, but instead uses free verse. This poem uses symbolism and a couple literal examples to support a feminist view and convey the struggles that women face. The poem is modern because it has modern examples, such as yard work and work in the kitchen. Back when this poem was written, women's traditional role was to be in the kitchen. Jiles' commentary on this belief shows through in her poem. she writes, "written on me was a message, 'At Your Service,'" which portrays how women were thought of. Women were thought of as an aid to a man, always at their beck and call. From context clues we can infer that the speaker is a child working in the kitchen with her aunts. The speaker does not understand why the men get to go out and do yard work and the women are confined to the walls of the kitchen. Aunt Hetty responds to this saying "That's the way it is," insinuating that it is social norm and it is the way it is supposed to be. While the women slave away in the house, making dinner and setting their heads on fire with effort to present supper, the men remain outside having fun and squirting each other with the garden hoses. 

I think that this poem displays the situation women can be put in, and sheds light on it. Now, women have been breaking these barriers. There are female CEOs, presidential candidates and even some men that take on the "woman's role" in homes. However, this poem reminds us of how things used to be different in the past and how our social customs have changed and evolved over the years.

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