Flourishing

"if they woke at their wake
they might not recognize that woman
in the front making all that noise."

-from “waiting on you to die so I can be myself”, Danez Smith.

For so many years, I’ve figuratively tossed and turned the idea of displaying my authentic self to the public. For too long, I have feared what people would think of me. During my childhood, I was raised to be a people-pleaser. Any time I showed my real self, I was shunned, teased, laughed at, or stifled.

As I grew older, I found partners who I changed myself for, whether it was the metalhead who liked it when I spiked my pixie cut with gel and wore black boots with mini skirts or the stoner who didn’t care what I wore as long as I smoked a joint with him and wore the hemp chokers he made me.

A few years ago, I met someone who encouraged me to be the realest version of myself. He told me what he saw in me and encouraged me to chase that idealized version of myself – the artist with paint on her hands and lyrics on her soul, the girl with eyes bright and sparkling. He encouraged all aspects of me: my screaming emotions, my fiery passions, poet, artist, tarot card reader, whoever I wanted to be.

He taught me to accept myself. To treat myself like I treat my best friends. “To delight the dreamers when they see you,” he had said.

I have learned about surrounding yourself with people who love the authentic you. That’s how you will be successful, regardless of what’s in your bank account or what’s written on your resume.

I mentioned on social media that I have a new outlook. I am no longer waiting on others to die so I can be myself. I’m ready to flourish. I’m ready to be my favorite version of myself.

Hiatus

I have taken some time away from writing to go on a small vacation. I traveled about fourteen hours from home to get to the Atlantic Ocean. I immersed myself in healing and relaxation. I didn’t think about my novels, my chapbooks, or any of my writing projects.

I watched the sun rise, smelled the brine of the ocean, and threw myself in the world if vacation. It was a much-needed break from everything. The day before I left, I had a two-hour phone call with my brother.

He and I discussed many things, and even without using the language I have been with my therapist (flourishing vs. languishing), he told me if I made the decision that my head and heart knew were right, I’d flourish. I would discover myself more deeply. My art would improve. My writing would be less timid. I would begin a life that didn’t revolve around seeking approval and apologizing for my existence. The bonds of shame would shatter.

Simply put, my life would become my own again.

This is exactly what I have been desiring. I had an opportunity to start fresh. I told myself I wouldn’t look at my writing until I was home. Okay, so on that part, I fibbed a little, but I am refreshed and looking at things with new eyes.

Thus, the hiatus – but I’m back and ready to pierce a vein and watch calligraphy spill on the page.

PS: The publisher who is releasing my chapbook announced me as one of their poets!

Gasoline: a Poem

The sins of my past tasted like cigarette smoke
and drinking my depravities straight from the bottle.

My broken bones always set
and the lacerations rarely left a scar,

but your words burn through layers of skin.

I never contemplated my future
until my skull hit the floor after
the guillotine slammed shut.

(I wonder if hindsight is 20/20
when you have less than stellar vision.)

I’m the greatest self-saboteur you’ll meet,
but even before he doused his kisses in gasoline,
I was busy learning how to tape together scorched pages
of a survival guide.

(If a metaphor was ever to be scrawled on my skin,
it’d be written in indelible ink,
the tattoo needle vibrating like a lullaby hum

None of this fountain pen sketching,
drawing ink from a piston.)

I have seen the skies ablaze with fire
because his love was arson
(a torching incineration)
and I was the love he poured gasoline over.

3:21 AM: A Poem

We make do with the banality of our days
as our spirits are ripped asunder
when we witness the shifting of planets
or feel the tactile yearning of a spirit
rivers away.

She wonders these sleepless nights
if he ever lies awake too,
listening to highway sounds
or
the lonely cries of cicadas.

(The nocturnal hour is one of isolation.
Teaches the clumsy to side-step porch lights
and waltz with shadows.)

Could we be alone
(together)?

In the midnight twilight,
I stumbled into an ocean,
its breath briny,
when warned to stay near the shore.

I carried a woman on my back
as I crossed through a sea of crimson blood
like some would carry a cross, a burden, a weight.

After all these years of relentless doggy-paddling,
never being able to catch my breath,
I have discovered what is on the opposite shore.

“I stumbled into an ocean, its breath briny…”

A tribe of aliens and moon-dwellers
with gold streaks of lightning (and lunar silver)
in their eyes
& scars (with no memories of how they got them).

Crush me under the weight of love.
If it gets too heavy, all the better.
I would permit you to puncture my skin
with sterile needles (and etch in a constellation
if that’s what we wanted)
.

You graze your fingertips
against my black-dipped star,
gazing at me in wonder.
“You own a piece of me forever,”
you murmur,
“I can no more forget you
than I can forget a black star
that decorates all my pages.”

It’s twenty past three in the morning,
and she lies in that space
between awake and asleep,
listening to highway sounds
and
the lonely cries of cicadas.

Spoken Word Poetry/The Corpses of Unsaid Things


“The Corpses of Unsaid Things” is live on my Instagram page. I have been toying with the idea of releasing my reading of poems; instead of merely doing a couple of video montages with an overlay of my reading, I wanted to develop the bravery of facing the camera while reading my poems.

This is my first time doing such a thing, and while I know I was extremely uncomfortable, and it is not an amazing performance, I am proud of taking this as an opportunity to attempt to face the camera (flaws, blemishes, and all) and share my words.

Usually, I cower when someone is reading my writing. It could be fiction, and I would still hide or pace when someone’s reading. I only ever had one reader I sat still for, and that was because I trusted him completely with my heart.

But now, I am so frightened about sharing my poetry as stated in “Fears and Submitting a Poem”, yet I am doing what I can to conquer that fear.

So, if I have any friends who are authors, spoken word poets, poets, public speakers, can you give me some tips? I would love to learn from y’all on how not to be afraid when reading your stuff out loud!

Thanks in advance, but also, thanks for listening!

(Also, please, let me know what you think of the poem “The Corpses of Unsaid Things”.)

When we Were Young: a Poem

anemoia: looking through old photos and feeling a pang of nostalgia for a time you’ve never actually experienced. (The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, John Koenig.)

Shuffling through old photographs,
a wave of emotion undulates inside,
churning up a long-dredged emotion.

This anemoia conjures up memories
(memories of a time that never was).

You showed me photographs of you
when you were young –
your eyes glimmering bright
(twin stars gazing at me through the Polaroid),
that mischievous grin.

Are you sure our paths didn’t cross
when we were young?

I showed you the photos taken at school dances,
shiny hair, forced smiles (braces exposed),
dresses with corsets (constricting my breathing
like being smothered or controlled)
.

I told you how I wished I had known you then,
butterflies in my hair,
a few wriggling around my stomach.

Maybe we could have climbed that tree together,
and when I fell out of the branches,
you could have grabbed my hand.

I look through the photographs you hand me,
a past I never witnessed except through your stories
and think, “We would have been inseparable.
Why didn’t we meet sooner?”

Girl Making Bubbles Selective Focus Photography

When we were young,
we rode our bikes like maybe we could escape
this town.

When we were young,
we believed in magic tricks and caught fireflies
(and wishes on stars light-years away).

When we were young,
we were brilliant with naiveté.
You could have kissed me in that treehouse,
our mouths tasting like honey lemonade
and jangled-up nerves.

Instead, I grew up, wondering if I’d ever be loved.
I grew up, thinking myself in terms of ugly and stupid,
despicable, a monster.

When we were young,
we were impressionable.
You could have saved me
(and I could have saved you).

Fears & Submitting a Poem

For years, I have been subscribed to and watching videos of spoken word poems from a poetry publisher based out of Minnesota. Their poets never fail to make goosebumps prickle up and down my arms. Not only is it because of the language they employ and the metaphors they utilize, but the way these poets perform their poetry is nothing short of an art form. I interviewed a spoken word poet on my blog for Global Poetry Month (Poetry Spotlight on: Carlene Gist), but now, here is my opportunity to be a spoken word poet. I have read my poetry before, but spoken word poets have a different way of wielding their words. They emote their poetry. My personal favorite line from a poem I wrote is the very line I use as a headline for my social media and my blog:

Pierce a vein and watch calligraphy spill on the page.

These poets do not just spew lines like that haphazardly; no, they actually prick a vein on stage with razor-sharp words and raw emotion floods out. This is what I aspire to do with my poems: craft something raw, something that shears through emotions, and oozes the heart of what I’m feeling.

So, I am combing through my poems, trying to find the perfect one to put to video for this submission.

A couple of years ago, after my muse whispered in my ear that I could accomplish anything I put my mind to, and so, I braved my fears, quieted the demons, and submitted a chapbook to Button Poetry. It wasn’t accepted, but I was proud of myself for putting myself on the chopping block like that.

I think it’s possible to get too comfortable in your comfort zone.

What do I mean by that?

If you get too comfortable, that means you aren’t doing anything that scares you, and I think it’s important to do things that scare you. Those can be the things that make you feel alive. Sometimes, being too comfortable can feel like slowly being smothered by a pillow.

So, sometimes, I like doing things to shake it up a little.

Therefore, I am challenging myself to record a poetry video and submit it to this contest…because change is scary, but not changing at all is even scarier.