Individualism and the absolution of social responsibility

The human experience: peculiar and fraught with hypocrisy and the grasping of straws and other things. Us humans, the ‘wise’ ones whose hips grant us the ability to walk on two legs, and our ability to supposedly ‘make’ things. One moment, we assure ourselves and everyone around us that we are ‘this’ kind of person, and hypothetically drive a stake into the ground in declaration. Upon waking the next day, we reach for the vices of yesterday and are propelled by some undefined and existential need. We state we are one thing, and we act as another thing, a being driven by worldly forces beyond our control.

Today, I was attracted by a common sentiment: two proverbs of Western civilizations and self-help enigma. The first being that, one should ‘love thyself.’ Especially prior to external validation. There are many platitudes which one can repeat daily. The second being that of ‘individual responsibility,’ coddled in values brought forth polished by The Enlightenment of Western Europe, which include (so stated): Reason, Liberty or Freedom, Progress, Tolerance, Constitutional governments, and Separation of church and state. These are Enlightenment values of Western Europe, emerging in the 17th century.

It is arguable that Enlightenment values are good and just in some context, but individualism absolves interpersonal social responsibility.

It is arguable that Englightenment values are good and just in some context, but individualism absolves interpersonal responsibility. If it is most important to remain stalwart upon thy mountain-top, to love thyself, to ‘pull oneself up by the bootstraps,’ it relinquishes social responsibility to thy neighbor. Such platitudes and self-help philosophies of the 19th-21st century American new-age movements, release social responsibility to one’s neighbor, friend, or relative. At worst, it means money and employment status should relinquish guilt and suffering, but perpetuate social isolation.

When words of individual responsibility, individual love, and individual healing awake from the abyss of self-help platitudes, better to turn a questioning eye to those whom absolve themselves of social immersion and connective responsibility. While it is a wholesome ideal to improve oneself, it is also a shameful shirking of interpersonal social responsibility to blindly project Hellenistic platitudes of Stoicism. The questioning eye should not be condemned to the object, but rather, to the one forming the object in order to absolve their own social responsibility to another.

Just a thought. –C.L.Q.

Daughtered Out

Funny you should ask–
deoxyribonucleic acid
is the basic building block
of life, holding the torch
in my own little world.

Some people are not
carrying the torch.
“In the presence”
may not be the place for you.

"Daughtered out"
what it means is–
you cannot find a descendant
of a female ancestor.

Don’t believe the hype,
because there isn't any to find.

There was a girl (absorbed)
under my care, but
held against her will–
until I had become the water
under the boat
and saw her looking up.

Created from a Google search result: ‘Torch DNA.’ First appeared in the Found Poetry Review’s “PoMoSco,” a collective April 2015 National Poetry Month challenge.

Burn, Burn a Witch

john william waterhouse the magic circle 1886

Once, I was ordinary–
irrefutable, beautifully smug,
but I would rather be horizontal.
The horizons ring me like faggots.
In the marketplace, they are piling the dry sticks.
I shall never get out of this– there are two
of me now– the abstracts hover like dull angels.

Widow. The word consumes itself–
On this bald hill, the new year hones its edge.
I do not want a plain box, I want a sarcophagus.
The month of flowering’s finished, the fruit’s in.
This was the land’s end: the last fingers–
Knuckled and rheumatic– first frost and I
walk among the rose-fruit, the marble toes.

They are the last romantics, these candles–
the white light is artificial, and hygienic as heaven.
Touch it– it won’t shrink like an eyeball.
Empty, I echo to the least footfall!

I can stay awake all night, if need be.
The night sky is only a sort of carbon paper.
This is a dark house, very big–
two girls there are– within the house.
It is ten years, now, since we rowed to Children’s Island.
Black lake, black boat, two black, cut-paper people.


A found poem ‘cento’ composed and rearranged from the first lines of the following poems in Sylvia Plath’s Crossing the Water: ‘Wuthering Heights,’ ‘Finisterre,’ ‘Parliament Hill Fields,’ ‘Heavy Women,’ ‘Insomniac,’ ‘I Am Vertical,’ ‘The Babysitters,’ ‘In Plaster,’ ‘Private Ground,’ ‘Widow,’ ‘Candles,’ ‘Magi,’ ‘Small Hours,’ ‘The Surgeon at 2 A.M.,’ ‘Zoo Keeper’s Wife,’ ‘Last Words,’ ‘Two Sisters of Persephone,’ ‘Who,’ ‘Dark House,’ ‘Maenad,’ ‘Witch Burning,’ ‘A Life,’ and ‘Crossing the Water.’

First appeared in the Found Poetry Review’s “PoMoSco,” a collective April 2015 National Poetry Month challenge.

Thigh High Subversion


The right dose

of thigh high subversion

borrows from past and place.

I try to make it abstract.

The work of human hands,

and dreams become reality.

Confident woman

(global chameleon)

of the true north–

–haute couture.

Consider the ground

held on an icy winter:

fiery candles and stone ruins

plunged into ancient culture.

I have seen true Vogue

inspired by an elevator.

She started an affair with

a license to imagine.


©C.L. Quigley, 2018

First appeared in Found Poetry Review’s “PoMoSco,” a collective April 2015 National Poetry Month challenge

Source text: Menkes, Suzy. “Time Traveler.” Condé Nast Traveler 1 Mar. 2015.