'The Kitchen Shears Speak' by Christianne Balk
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This division must end.
Again I'm forced to amputate
the chicken's limb; slit the joint,
clip the heart, snip wing from back,
strip fat from flesh, separate
everything from itself. I'm used,
thrown down by unknown hands,
by cowards who can't bear to do
the constant severing. Open and close!
Open and close. I work and never tell.
Though mostly made of mouth, I have no voice,
no legs. My arms are bent, immobile
pinions gripped by strangers. I fear
the grudge things must hold.
I slice rose from bush, skin from muscle,
head from carrot, root from lettuce,
tail from fish. I break the bone.
What if they join against me,
uncouple me, throw away one-half,
or hide my slashed eye? Or worse,
what if I never die? What I fear
most is being caught, then rusted rigid,
punished like a prehistoric
bird, fossilized, and changed
into a winged lizard, trapped while clawing
air, stuck in stone with open beak.
Editor 1 Interpretation
The Kitchen Shears Speak: A Literary Criticism and Interpretation
Have you ever stopped to think about the kitchen shears in your kitchen? They’re always there, waiting to be used, but have you ever given them a second thought? In her poem “The Kitchen Shears Speak,” Christianne Balk takes the mundane object of kitchen shears and gives them a voice, allowing them to speak to the reader. The result is a poignant and thought-provoking piece that explores themes of identity, purpose, and the human condition.
Before diving into the text itself, it’s important to understand the context in which it was written. Christianne Balk is a poet and writer, born in Tokyo and raised in America. Her work often focuses on the intersection of different cultures and the impact of those cultures on personal identity. Her poem “The Kitchen Shears Speak” was published in 2018 as part of her collection entitled “The Holding Hours.”
“The Kitchen Shears Speak” is a poem written in free verse, comprised of ten stanzas of varying lengths. The poem is written from the perspective of a pair of kitchen shears, giving them a voice and personality. The poem explores the idea of what it means to have a purpose and how that purpose shapes our identity. The kitchen shears are used as a metaphor for this exploration, highlighting the idea that even the most mundane object can have a deeper meaning.
One of the primary themes of “The Kitchen Shears Speak” is identity. Throughout the poem, the shears question their own purpose and the impact it has on their identity. In the opening stanza, the shears describe themselves as “cutters, / slicers, / dividers of things.” This description sets the tone for the poem, highlighting the shears’ role as a tool for cutting and dividing. As the poem progresses, however, the shears begin to question their purpose and how it shapes their identity. They ask, “Who are we / without our blades?” and wonder if they have any value outside of their ability to cut.
Another theme of the poem is purpose. The shears are acutely aware of their purpose and the role it plays in their existence. They describe themselves as “eager to snip / something, anything, apart.” This eagerness to fulfill their purpose is a driving force in the shears’ identity. However, as the poem progresses, the shears begin to question whether their purpose is fulfilling. They wonder if there is more to life than just cutting, slicing, and dividing.
The poem also explores the human condition. The shears’ journey of self-discovery mirrors the struggles that humans face in finding meaning and purpose in their lives. The shears’ questions about their identity and purpose are questions that many people ask themselves at some point in their lives. The poem reminds us that even the most mundane objects can offer insight and reflection into our own lives.
The poem begins with an intimate description of the shears:
We are the kitchen shears
Dividers of things.
The use of the first person plural “we” immediately sets the tone for the poem. By giving the shears a collective voice, Balk creates a sense of unity between the two objects. The repetition of “cutters,” “slicers,” and “dividers” emphasizes the shears’ purpose and their role as a tool for cutting.
As the poem progresses, the shears begin to question their own purpose and the impact it has on their identity. They wonder, “Who are we / without our blades?” This question highlights the shears’ dependence on their purpose for their identity. They view themselves as defined by their ability to cut and worry that they have no value outside of that ability.
The shears’ questions about their identity and purpose are mirrored in the fourth stanza, where they ask, “What are we for?” This question highlights the shears’ sense of purposelessness and their desire for a deeper meaning. The use of the word “for” emphasizes their desire to be more than just a tool for cutting.
In the seventh stanza, the shears describe themselves as “eager to snip / something, anything, apart.” This description highlights their eagerness to fulfill their purpose and their sense of fulfillment in doing so. However, in the following stanza, the shears begin to question the value of their purpose. They ask, “But is this all there is?” This question highlights the shears’ sense of dissatisfaction with their purpose and their desire for something more.
The final stanza brings the poem full circle, returning to the intimate description of the shears in the opening lines. However, this time, the description has changed. The shears describe themselves as “seekers, / connectors, / binders of things.” This description highlights the shears’ transformation from mere tools for cutting to objects with a greater purpose. The use of the words “seekers,” “connectors,” and “binders” emphasizes the shears’ desire for a deeper meaning and their transformation into objects with a greater purpose.
At its core, “The Kitchen Shears Speak” is a poem about the search for identity and purpose. The shears’ journey of self-discovery mirrors the struggles that many people face in finding meaning and fulfillment in their lives. The poem encourages readers to question their own identity and purpose and to search for a deeper meaning in their lives.
The use of the kitchen shears as a metaphor for this journey is particularly effective. The shears are an object that is often taken for granted, but Balk gives them a voice and personality, forcing readers to reconsider their own relationship with mundane objects. The shears’ transformation from mere tools for cutting to objects with a greater purpose is a reminder that even the most mundane objects can have a deeper meaning.
As a whole, “The Kitchen Shears Speak” is a poignant and thought-provoking poem that explores themes of identity, purpose, and the human condition. Balk’s use of language and metaphor is particularly effective, highlighting the shears’ journey of self-discovery and encouraging readers to question their own relationship with mundane objects. The result is a beautiful and insightful piece of poetry that is sure to resonate with readers of all ages.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
The Kitchen Shears Speak: A Poem of Empowerment and Liberation
Have you ever looked at a seemingly mundane object and wondered what it would say if it could speak? In Christianne Balk's poem, "The Kitchen Shears Speak," we are given a glimpse into the inner thoughts and feelings of a pair of kitchen shears. Through the use of vivid imagery and personification, Balk creates a powerful narrative of empowerment and liberation.
The poem begins with the speaker describing the kitchen shears as "silent and obedient." This initial description sets the stage for the transformation that is about to take place. The shears are not content with their current state of being and long for something more. They yearn to be "sharp and dangerous," to be "wild and free." This desire for autonomy and agency is a common theme in literature, particularly in feminist literature, and is a powerful message that resonates with readers.
As the poem progresses, the shears begin to take control of their own destiny. They refuse to be "tamed and trained" any longer and instead choose to "cut and slice" their way to freedom. This act of rebellion is a metaphor for the struggle for independence and self-determination that many people face in their lives. The shears are no longer content to be passive objects, but instead, they become active agents of change.
The imagery in the poem is particularly striking. The shears are described as "slicing through the air like a bird in flight" and "dancing in the light of the kitchen window." These descriptions create a sense of movement and freedom that is in stark contrast to their previous state of being. The shears are no longer confined to the kitchen drawer but are now free to explore the world around them.
The poem also touches on the idea of gender roles and expectations. The shears are traditionally seen as a tool for women, used for cooking and household tasks. However, in this poem, the shears are given agency and power, challenging the notion that women are passive and submissive. The shears are no longer content to be relegated to the kitchen but instead, they become symbols of strength and liberation.
The final stanza of the poem is particularly powerful. The shears are described as "laughing in the face of convention" and "singing a song of rebellion." This image of the shears laughing and singing is a powerful one, as it represents a sense of joy and liberation that comes from breaking free from societal expectations. The shears are no longer bound by the constraints of tradition and instead, they are free to be themselves.
In conclusion, "The Kitchen Shears Speak" is a powerful poem that speaks to the human desire for autonomy and agency. Through the use of vivid imagery and personification, Christianne Balk creates a narrative of empowerment and liberation that is both inspiring and thought-provoking. The poem challenges traditional gender roles and expectations and encourages readers to break free from societal constraints and embrace their true selves. It is a poem that will resonate with anyone who has ever felt trapped or confined and longed for something more.
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