No Signs of Struggle

Growing small requires enormity of will

Just sitting still in the doctor’s waiting room

Watching the future shuffle in and out

Stopped; watching it stare at you

while you try not to look. Rare is an exchange:

a smile of brief, wry recognition.


You are the new kid on the block. Everyone here

was you once. You are still learning

that growing small requires a largeness

of spirit you can’t fit into yet: acceptance of

irritating help from those who love you; a giving

way and over, but not up. You’ve swallowed


hard the contents of the “Drink Me” bottle, and felt

yourself shrink. Now, familiar furniture looms,

floors tilt, and doorknobs yield only when wrestled

round with both hands. It demands colossal patience,

all this growing small: your diminished sleep at night,

your handwriting, your voice, your height.


You are more the incredible shrinking woman

than the Buddhist mystic, serene, making do

with less. Less is not always more. Yet

in this emptying space, space glimmers,

becoming visible. Here is a place

behind the eyes of those accustomed


to what some would call diminishment.

It is a place of merciless poetry, a gift of presence

previously ignored, drowned in the daily clutter.

Here every gesture needs intention, is alive

with consciousness. Nothing is automatic.

You can spot it in the provocation of a button,


an arm poking at a sleeve, a balancing act

at a night-time curb while negotiating the dark.

Feats of such modest valor, who would suspect

them to be exercises in an intimate, fierce discipline,

a metaphysics of being relentlessly aware?

Such understated power is here, in these


tottering dancers who exert stupendous effort

on tasks most view as insignificant. Such quiet beauty

here, in these, my soft-voiced, stiff-limbed people;

such resolve masked by each placid face.

There is immensity required in growing small,

so bent on such unbending grace.


Photo by Evgeni Tcherkasski on Unsplash

Robin Morgan

Journalist, editor, activist and child actor, Robin Morgan has been a leader in the feminist movement since the 1960s. Morgan ...more