Each way I turn I am confronted by
tick this box
place a cross here
sign below please
The individual is categorised and correctly catalogued
for the supermarket shelf
so the discerning consumer may browse
the conveniently processed and packaged
new and improved, 97% fat-free
low cholesterol, salt-reduced people
I am placed in the bargain bin tagged “For Quick Sale”
a broken commodity
I will not fit their neat little boxes: I defy description
The little box created for me
will not restrict me, confine me
nor define me
I will be known
I will be understood
I will be found
outside the box
This poem was originally written for the opening of an art exhibition by a group of disabled artists called Studio ARTES. The studio operates to assist people with physical and intellectual disabilities in a range of endeavours: work skills, travelling and finance, art and creative pursuits. The title of the exhibition came out of continued discussions with government bodies for funding, but because their focus was varied, they were not able to be neatly categorised for government paperwork.
The metaphor of a box being used to define and categorise a person is not uncommon; the box being a metaphor of how we define ourselves, or have others define us; or how we make judgements based on preconceived ideas. Thus the exhibition and this poem were an exploration of the preconceived boundaries that are placed upon people with physical or intellectual disabilities, about what they can or cannot accomplish.
Don’t dis my ability.