Ego by Denise Duhamel


With Lincoln’s second-hottest November on record and only 11.9 inches of snow (the fifth-smallest total snowfall Lincoln has received since 1899), the winter of 1999 ended up as Lincoln’s fifth-warmest winter, with an average temperature of 31.9°F. During this winter, Denise Duhamel’s piece “Ego” was published in the Prairie Schooner; Duhamel has since contributed many pieces to the Schooner and was recently the guest editor for The Best American Poetry 2013.

by Tory Clower

Denise Duhamel


I just didn’t get it –
even with the teacher holding an orange (the earth) in one hand
and a lemon (the moon) in the other,
her favorite student (the sun) standing behind her with a flashlight.
I just couldn’t grasp it –
this whole citrus universe, these bumpy planets revolving so slowly
no one could even see themselves moving.
I used to think if I could only concentrate hard enough
I could be the one person to feel what no one else could,
sense a small tug from the ground, a sky shift, the earth changing gears.
Even though I was only one mini-speck on a speck,
even though I was merely a pinprick in one goosebump on the orange,
I was sure then I was the most specially perceptive, perceptively sensitive.
I was sure then my mother was the only mother to snap –
“The world doesn’t revolve around you!”
The earth was fragile and mostly water
just the way the orange was mostly water if you peeled it
just the way I was mostly water if you peeled me.
Looking back on that third grade science demonstration,
I can understand why some people gave up on fame or religion or cures –
especially people who have an understanding
of the excruciating crawl of the world,
who have a well-developed sense of spatial reasoning
and the tininess that it is to be one of us.
But not me – even now I wouldn’t mind being god, the force
who spins the planets the way I spin a globe, a basketball, a yoyo.
I wouldn’t mind being that teacher who chooses the fruit,
or that favorite kid who gives the moon its glow.