Zachary Welsh’s Response to Laura Hershey’s Working Together

The poem Working Together by Laura Hershey not only fully embraces her disability and the lifestyle that is associated with it, but she also places it fully in the light for readers, demanding that this part of her life be known and recognized by society. What is perhaps very striking about this choice of direction by Hershey, is that it goes against the norm in the fact that a majority of authors and poets that do in fact have a disability tend to hide their disability from the reader or even leave it out of the text completely. However, Hershey argues this by not only reinforcing the belief that the ordinary, every day parts of her daily life should be recognized and discussed, but also that these every day activities are in fact the exact opposite of ordinary. Hershey provides specific examples from the very get go, as in the opening lines of her poem, she describes the regular activity of brushing one’s teeth. However, Hershey expands upon how her disability affects the way she does this by breaking down the simple task into two jobs, one for her to do, and one for her caretaker to do. This is evident in the way that she states “her job: brisk bristle circle on teeth / my job: sneer / open wide.” Hershey immediately follows this up with another example of how her disability plays into how she gets ready in the morning. This time, introducing the idea of how her and her caretaker work together with her disability to get a bath, stating “her job: apply soap / loofa / hot spray / my job: how hot / say stop.” The third example that Hershey uses in her poem, is one of how she moves from one point to another when not in her wheelchair. Yet again, Hershey is discussing a simple task but she is placing on full display for her readers, how her disability plays into such a task. In this portion of her poem, Hershey states ” her job: heft my flesh / point a to point b / my job: remind her of our / respective spines and limbs.” Yet again, with this example Hershey also takes the idea of her dependent relationship as her caretaker, and displays it as a relationship of two coworkers working together to get something done. With these examples of her everyday routine of getting ready in the morning, Hershey, rather than attempting to hide her disability from her readers, is constantly reminding them and reinforcing within them, the knowledge that she does in fact have a disability. In the final portion of the poem, Hershey states “her job: what no one thinks of doing / except for self or child.” With this portion of the final stanza, Hershey portrays to readers that her disability actually does something one might not expect, it builds a relationship between two individuals, Hershey and her caretaker, and it allows them to bond. Hershey argues that through her disability, her caretaker has become closer to her in that she does these things for Hershey that one would typically only do for themselves or for their child. On top of this, Hershey argues that rather than hiding one’s disabilities or feeling negatively towards them, ones should embrace what makes them different and that by doing so they not only accept who they are, but it can also lead to them building good relationships with others.

Word count: 568

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