Monthly Archives: December 2017

On Evie Shockley’s “what’s not to liken?”

Excerpt from “what’s not to liken?”

from Evie Shockley, semiautomatic

the girl’s braids flew around her head like:
    (a) helicopter blades.
    (b) she’d been slapped.

In her visceral and inventive poem “what’s not to liken?” Shockley uses the form of a multiple- choice test to juxtapose images that respond to a case of police abuse of Dajerria Becton in McKinney, Texas. The readers’ understanding of the poem’s subject (which could be any girl) changes as the details, actions, and scene change: multiple choices, indeed. Shockley asks her readers to consider the difference between a helicopter and a slap. Metaphorically, the image turns a girl’s braids into the energy of whirling blades and into a possibility of flight: a girl at play or dancing or merely enjoying life. The helicopter seems the better choice. And yet, in the mind’s eye, we can also see the helicopters of war and urban policing, and bodies airlifted for emergency evacuation. Subtly, Shockley suggests there are no safe choices, not for girls or women, and especially not for girls of color. Readers enter a difficult multiple choice test that offers few correct answers, and only a more difficult question: how do we find or make other choices?

“what’s not to liken?” from Evie Shockley, semiautomatic. Wesleyan University Press, 2017.

JNH