The Inner Life of an Extension Cord

Illustrstion by Ann Arnold. The Romantic Quest of an Extension Cord.

Awash in endless choices, and an endless array of stuff,  we long winnow through our closets and curate our possessions, keeping only those things that spark joy in us.  But what about the things that teach us how to empathize and  listen? 

Poets, not organizers, prove to be the best guides to this.  In Edward Dougherty’s collection, Everyday Objects,  a trip to the mall is a sentimental education. Common household items confess their secret longings, proving to be just as vain and vulnerable as we are. 

At a clothier,  “All those zippers and snaps argue about God to justify their own existence.”  

Other products nurture hope for a better life.  “At the cooking store, plastic food containers reveal their aspirations.”  They dream “of taking center stage, but instead are stuck in this dead end job.”  

At a fabric shop, there are “tiers of homeless buttons…too pitiful to even look at” and at the Bath and Body boutique,  we eavesdrop on “prostitute lotions” who are “longing to settle down some day.”

Even the most  household objects can have lofty goals.  Consider the longings that  Dougherty suggests, run like electric current through the mind of an extension cord, in his poem,  The Romantic Quest

     Like Hummingbirds

     that buzz and whir in their quest

     for sweetness, the extension cord

     is on a romantic search for beauty

     It quietly crackles

     when connecting that surge,

     filled in an instant with

      an awareness: the burning oneness

      of it all, and here I am


      one small part, a loop

      in the great coil, a type

      for the universe itself.

       But in idle moments, wrapped

       In an orderly circle or jumbled

       At the bottom of the closet,

       All electricity gone,

        the extension cord is stunned

        by doubts, a flock of Yes

        but’s.  It’s not enough to have

        the experience and savor it,

        it wants the meaning, too.

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