An Interview With Danaan Parry
You and I and every human being I have met in any culture — we have all been conditioned to put a barrier between ourselves and other people, to stay safe. And it is that safety that creates most of the conflicts in the world. It’s that crazy paradoxical situation whereby if I stay safe from you in that way, I can make you the enemy, and we can go to war and kill one another. That kind of safety has to end — especially in this nuclear age. We have to make ourselves unsafe to one another personally and psychologically so that our planet can be safe.
My mother never held a baby that way. Even when she was feeding my brother, he always somehow rested on her arm, never melted into her body. In New Hampshire, I finally said something to my brother about never having been treated that way when I was a baby. “No,” my brother said. “Our mother would have held us out there with a pair of tongs if she could have.”
Our materialistic culture breeds depression by promoting distorted and unattainable goals for human life. And our commonly held psychological theories make it hard for people to make direct contact with depression as a living experience, by framing it as an objective “mental disorder” to be quickly eliminated.
Our favorite game was called “Spy on Stella.” We loved to watch her when she thought she was alone and unobserved. It was our way of having power over her, for the few moments she dozed in the green chair in the living room or stood in the kitchen cooking, singing along with Jack Jones on the stereo.
All month I thought of your body, / soft with its delicious baby flesh / and fragile with its hidden bulbs and bones, // and knew you would be torn. / I pulled your small shoulders / closer as the days passed, / and some nights felt the tumor / rise beneath my palm like a burl / in a redwood forest, / worrywart, skullcap / under the duff of your skin.
—from “The Operation”