Nerissa Nields wrote the poems for The Pantsuit in the Back of the Closet as part of a fundraiser for Center for New Americans called 30 Poems in November. The collection begins with the narrator watching her daughter climb onto a bus headed for sleep-away camp for the first time. What follows is a series of meditations on anxiety, mortality, femininity, and the seismic shock that was the election of 2016. She ends with a Jobian rant at the Divine which circles back to an image of her children, unaware of how profoundly their world may have changed, figuring out how to make their way, “stealing the mirth wherever they can find it” and reminding us, in the words of Anne Frank, that “Whoever is happy will make others happy too.” By turns humorous and serious, vacillating between accepting and refusing the outcome, the poems keep demanding presence. If, as Pema Chodron says, “death is inevitable and the time of deathÂ is uncertain,” it seems reasonable that we always have three choices: to despair, to escape, or to celebrate each and every moment we have now. Allowing the fear to drive the bus is to live in despair 24/7. Pretending there is nothing to fear does not help the most marginalized in our communities. But finding that middle place, where we allow fear to wake us up to what is going on, to take action, to appreciate what we still have: this is the sweet spot.
A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this book will go to the Women’s Fund of Western Massachussets, and their Leadership Institute for Political and Public Impact.
The LIPPI is a non-partisan initiative designed to address the need to provide women in our region with the training and support to become powerful and effective civic leaders.
Nerissa Nields is a writer and musician living in Western MA with her family.