In Janice Mirikitani's "Suicide Note," identify the use of power creating justice.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I sense that the element of power creating justice in the poem would reside in the act of suicide, itself.  The poem carries within it the idea that suicide becomes an act of creation for the speaker.  It is an act where there is power taken against the reality of a world where there is little power evident.  It is here where there is justice seen.  The speaker refers to the conditions in the world that have attempted to silence her, or at the very least take power away from her.  The elements of disappointment or lines like "If only I were a son" represent how there are conditions in the world of the speaker that seek to take away from her voice, detract from what she affirms as her own voice.  The ledge as "an altar" helps to illuminate how taking her own life can be seen as an example of power.  This is where justice lies for the realm in which she will enter is one in which the conditions of the world are absent.  In taking her own life, there is a powerful action being taken.  It is one that rectifies the wrongs that have been endured, through which justice can be achieved.  It is here where Mirikitani's poem is one where power creating justice is used.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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This poem, which reflects on the tragedy of certain cultures where women are so devalued that they choose to commit suicide out of a sense of perceived shame, contains little sense of justice. We hear the voices of girls on the cusp of womanhood who choose to kill themselves because they are not boys:

If only I were a son, shoulders broad
as the sunset threading through pine,
I would see the light in my mother's
eyes, or the golden pride reflected
in my father's dream
of my wide, male hands worthy of work
and comfort.

What makes these girls feel like failures and consider themselves to be inadequate is the high value that is placed on being male in such traditional and patriarchal cultures. To be born a daughter in this poem is something to apologise for, as signified by the repeated refrain of apologies that run through this poem.

The only power creating justice that is evident in this poem is the act of creating the poem itself. The speaker, reflecting on all the voices and "all the sorries" she hears, chooses to commemorate their loss in an act of creation that clearly strikes a blow against such patriarchal societies and attempts to bring justice to the girls who have chosen to end their lives:

Choices thin as shaved
ice. Notes shredded
drift like snow
on my broken body,
covers me like whispers
of sorries.

The poem ends with the speaker imagining her own suicide and her remains being scattered over the earth, which is perhaps symbolic of how her ideas might spread and result in change. There is little justice in this poem, however, and the power of artistic creation is shown only as being able to give voice to the thoughts and feelings of these girls rather than magically transform this terrible situation.

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