we bleed words

until we are read all over

this is not a poem pt. 6

Instead of going out with E, I stay home and write a poem. I do not tell him that this is what I am doing, because he will miss me and convince me to go out. In some alternate universe there is a version of myself that is out with E, where we eat nice food and have lots of fun like silly kids out on a Thursday night. We talk about his cute girlfriend and my unresolved daddy issues, and he makes me laugh so much that I do not think of poetry at all. Books do not exist in this alternate universe because I am so content. There is no time for dreaming.

Instead, I am here in my bed, thinking of the poem, unfinished, although I have been trying to write it for weeks. Somehow the outside world is separated from this realm of poetry. It’s as though there is the poem and there is the art, and everything else is just research. Daily living is just a side project.

At university I am taking a class on Creative Writing, and it is wonderful and arduous. I am painfully aware of my use of words. Everything has a purpose, everything begs for speculation. Why did you choose to call yourself water? Is this poem about death? Is this line necessary? & so on. As I grow into the world of writing, I realise that I have to sell myself. When I am asked to write for a friend’s project, I think: dear god let me feel compelled to write about happy ordinary things just this once. Every sentence is perfectly constructed, I mull over commas and line-breaks, I send drafts to other writer-friends because I suddenly want to know: is this good? Which is a necessary question, although it can sometimes shift into: is my writing passable if I use all my best technical skills, even if the feeling is not there, even if it is fake, simply because I am afraid of writing about death, or water, or some other unsayable thing?

I have decided that I am tired from months of psychotherapy, and I no longer want to talk about my anguish. At the same time I don’t know how to talk about anything else. The only thing left is to not talk at all, because I have used up all of my words and there is nothing else to say. Slowly, I try to find my roots. I say I will write about my mother. I will write about women. About food, and the weather. And the trees. There is a certain kindness in the world and I want to find it. This year I have realised that healing is inherently painful, and each week when I visit the psychologist’s office, I know I must look at this ugly thing inside of me and shoot it in the face. Which is terrible imagery, I know, but this is how it feels.

I wonder sometimes if there are things that cannot exist in poetry. If the words do not find themselves, and the feeling never comes, do I find myself in paintings? In novels? In history and essays? I recently read Audre Lorde’s Poetry Is Not a Luxury, and it resonated with me very deeply. Here is an excerpt from her piece, simply as a reminder to myself. Audre Lorde has popped up in so many of my classes and accidental readings and anthologies – I think her ghost is following me, praying for me. She makes me feel incredibly safe and understood, which is a rare and special thing.

As they become known and accepted to ourselves, our feelings, and the honest exploration of them, become sanctuaries and fortresses and spawning grounds for the most radical and daring of ideas, the house of difference so necessary to change and the conceptualization of any meaningful action. Right now, I could name at least ten ideas I would have once found intolerable or incomprehensible and frightening, except as they came after dreams and poems. This is not idle fantasy, but the true meaning of “it feels right to me.” We can train ourselves to respect our feelings, and to discipline (transpose) them into a language that matches those feelings so they can be shared. And where that language does not yet exist, it is our poetry which helps to fashion it. Poetry is not only dream or vision, it is the skeleton architecture of our lives.

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Quiet love

(Note: I forgot about this little poem, written some time ago, for a friend)

There is no kiss,
but the space between mouths
in the front seat of your car
reminds me of intimacy

without the barrier of skin.
No lover’s touch, no father’s gaze,
just your arm slung around my shoulder
in the warmth of a summer night,

where I am just a girl
in a backless dress,
sitting here,
waiting for you.

summer fruits

(a song for healing)

love in this season always gets me going.
my hometown, drenched in fat colours,
waiting for me in the suburban heat.

when the doctor asks,
i tell him i am a painter of sorts.
a sometimes-poet.

i want to write myself beautiful and open,
but instead it’s just flood. fat colours, fat tears.
fat old balding man in plastic chair who wants
me stuffed with pills to stop the noise.

some feelings don’t deserve words, i always say.
but maybe i just mean myself. no words for this girl,
no sir. you wanna talk about it?
what else do i have to say.

i’d like my heart to jump out of its home,
into the world. want to make the world my home,
but sometimes it just hurts.
saltwater bones, you know me.
it’s in the blood.

he says, “hey, you’re so young, like a baby”
and if i was more of myself, i’d be angry.

but i’m not angry, i’m tired;
the clinic’s walls are all blue, and i’m still crying,
nineteen and fully grown, patient a possible risk to self

so tired, i almost want to ask him to hold me,
because i want to be held, i want to know if this body
still beats, and loves, and lives, because i hope it does,
god, i hope it does.

this is not a poem pt. 5

but it is indeed, about poems

For context: I’m currently reading Anne Sexton, and I’ve been thinking thinking thinking about Confessional Poetry, and my poetry, and my whole heart, and why I am so shy about things sometimes. Here are some good lines from what I’ve read so far – we are magic talking to itself, tonight I will learn to love you twice, woman’s dying must come in seasons, what is this intricate shape of air?? I CRIED BECAUSE I WAS SEVENTEEN. Which is in All Caps because I really feel it, I do.

Basically I was sort-of-unwell, and I still sort-of-am, but today tonight this moment right now I am feeling OK. I’m thinking about Anne Sexton. Why are we so drawn to the lives of tragic women? Why do I have a Sylvia Plath tattoo? Will I regret it when I’m no longer an angsty feminist English major? Etc. I am having terrible writer’s block, in the way that I am deeply unhappy with my writing and it is literally physically painful to think about attributing words to very delicate untouchable feelings. I am also stupidly sensitive.

When I was a little younger, I emailed one of my favourite poets Shinji Moon for a high school assignment. I was going to paraphrase her response to me but I found the email and I will DIRECTLY QUOTE HER here: “The poem is a creation, an extension of your soul yes but you’ve got to look at it like it’s not a part of you but something to hold out and be bewildered by, to love as precious and malleable”. Isn’t she just gorgeous? I really should get this tattooed onto my face so I can remember it and remind myself that I am not my poetry and I should stop being silly and I should write about my hearty heart and let the whole world eat it up. I’m rereading her email now, and it still makes me feel all fuzzy; it touched me so deeply when I was seventeen.

Anyway I need to write poems but I need to take a break and let my creative process do what it needs to do but I always feel like I’m running out of time because my parents are getting old and my grandparents are dying and they think I am this wonderful intelligent young artist so I have to make something out of myself before everyone’s dead or I will be so sad and I will write an entire novel about how the thought of death really ruins me.

This is getting really long now. If you’re reading this, I hope you’re having a good day. When I said this to Shinji she replied: hope you’re having a wonderful everything – which really sounds like something a poet would say, don’t you think? I want to be a poet like that; in my whole life, in everything I do, in the very natural way I speak. I really hate it when people try to write prettily just by using big fancy words that don’t go together, you know what I mean. I talk like that sometimes. But really I don’t talk like a poet at all, I talk like a teenage girl, very clumsy and ???vapid??? and I say like like like over and over again. But who cares, teenage girls are all poets and I can say whatever I want to say and I will publish all the bad poems in my hearty heart heart.

Looking for a light switch

(Note: This poem was written and rewritten over the course of one month. I didn’t want to write it, and then I wanted to write it, and then I thought it was too much or not enough. But I think some things can only be said in the form of a poem.)

The truth was waiting there, in the angles
of shadows, in the razor blade I didn’t throw away,
but hid. In the cupboard. In all things blue.

That night, I said to myself: you can be honest today.
You feel this, and everyone knows –
you always put your heart on the shelf.
You want to hurt the hurting, but it just
doesn’t work.                         Look,

I don’t know

what this life is all about. But I want to drink it up.
Want to put it to my lips like a lover would.
I’ve been on my knees all night, and it’s a prayer
I remember.                           God wants me to beg

when we’re sitting together in the bathroom,
under all the bright lights. And I’m on the floor,
and it’s late, and the cupboard wants to be opened.

He calls me by a name I don’t recognise,
with his hands in my hair.

Me, an ocean

covered in ash. A lungful of lost air.
A hot sinner in a cupboard, like an oven for my head.
Waiting for the tiles to cool my body down
with an ear to the ground. Looking for a light switch?
Looking for a demon? Left wrist

still clean. Body left untouched.
An oven, an oven. Honey on my lips.
I remember this. I remember this, I lived here.

I think again, of highways. Mid-morning heat.
A world drenched in a syrup of longing.
I make myself lonely. I burned all these bridges.
I come back to it every time, the only home I know.

There’s a knocking on my ribcage,
and it’s my own hand, it’s my own knife,
it is the house I built for myself
and every room is empty.

girl is a gun, a gun, a gun

(Note: Birthday season is upon us.)

oh eighteen, how sweet you were to me.
your memory in a wrinkled photograph of the sky,

folded into quarters. your body still learning
how to be a body. how lovely you are.

you scream until the silence is a constant hum
in your head, then you dream about your father

in a wolf mask. when the tall man asks after you,
you realise you are old enough to say yes,

but every moment has a dirty innocence now.
a spoiled fruit spilling out of you. a sonnet written

into your skin, your scars. you swim to the moon,
you kiss it with what’s left of your little girl mouth.

it all tastes the same now, it doesn’t hurt
the way it used to. but oh, how it lingers.

yellow days

seb, i do a whole lot of loving these days.
catching sunlight on my crooked teeth
changing my heart with the seasons,
like the poets do, when winter passes
and we realise we have been waiting
for the sky to open itself up again.
aren’t we just beautiful in this light.
the way her hair brushes against
the nape of her neck always makes
me think: there is no time left at all.
i want to swallow my own worries,
my own voice. i want september
to always be this shade of yellow.
your name, in every poem i write.
my heart in bundles of wax-paper
and paint; hours and hours of angles
from a face i’d recognise in the dark.
sitting in a cafe on a tuesday morning,
i wonder what the weather is like
wherever you are. and what to do
with all this loving, all this light.