It walks behind me in the park and proceeds
to walk slowly to get a good look It
&watches I turn around and
Itlooksaway I begin to walk as
quickly as I can gaining some speed but
Itfindsme I stop Itstops I walk slowly again
Itwalksslowlybehindmeagain Finally I
turn around to say: HELLO but
Itpretends I'm inconsequential that I am
being paranoid It was just minding its own
business all along
Why am I bothering It?
Itlooks up at the sun feeling absolved
Ityawns It's bored of me already
Therese Estacion, "The ABG (Able-Bodied Gaze)" from Phantompains. © 2021 by Therese Estacion. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.
Source: Phantompains (Book*hug Press, 2021)
- What do you think the abled-bodied gaze means? Find two examples of it in the poem.
- The gaze acts as a form of inescapable surveillance in this poem. How do the conjoined and italicized words achieve this visual scrutiny throughout the poem?
- What do you think is the significance of abbreviating the title to ABG and then giving the meaning in brackets?
- The speaker refers to the gaze using the empty pronoun It manifesting the able-bodied gaze as an entity unto itself. What does it mean that calling the gaze “it” makes the gaze anonymous?
- To replicate the feeling of being surveilled in this poem, read it with a partner. One person will read the italicized and combined words, and the other will read the rest of the poem. How can you use your voice location to demonstrate the gaze coming at the speaker from all angles?
- How do you imagine the ‘It’ voice to sound? Does it take on a distinctive tone or feature in your head? How could you read this poem to make the ‘It’ voice sound different from the voice you use while reading the rest of the poem aloud? Can you change the register of your voice or read it more hurriedly?
- Write a poem about a time when you felt gazed upon in a way that made you feel scrutinized and uncomfortable. It could be during a sports game or with a stranger on the bus. You can play with a spaced-out form or by combining words. Maybe a run-on sentence to show your anxiety over the situation. Be playful with how the words want to flow onto the page.