Sam Diellor Luani, indie post-modern author, brought up how perspective colors whether you believe you are flying or falling – that depending on where you are in the atmosphere, your perspective could be completely different.
What a marvelousconcept.
Lately, I seem to vacillate between believing I am floundering or flourishing. I go through these extreme poles of thinking. I have had a difficult past couple of days, but if you read my last blog entry, “Flourishing”, you would see that I was thinking of how far I would get. How different things would be.
I don’t want to inflate my blog with false promises, nor do I want this blog to become a diary, but I think sometimes, like Sam Diellor Luani stated it’s difficult to tell if you’re falling or flying.
I have said before I understand how Icarus felt – the sensation of soaring close to the sun only to plummet to the depths of the sea. But what if it wasn’t falling but just flying in a different way? Perhaps it is all variant, depending on where you are in the atmosphere.
I’m determined. I’m determined to see success, even if initially it feels as though I’m falling into an ocean after my wax-and-feather wings began to melt.
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.
I read this quote from Rodrigo defending her use of describing a “blonde girl” (when really, the girl in question, was a brunette) in her song, and immediately, her words resonated with me.
As a poet, I tend to get specific. I say an ex-lover’s eyes sparkled like jade with the rings of Saturn orbiting her pupil. I describe the way he smelled like piney marijuana and patchouli when he danced with me. I might say another’s name tasted like taking a bite of a red apple in autumn but later, all I could taste was the scorch of burnt ash.
So I understand the need to get descriptive, but as a fiction author, I also know it is frowned on to give a laundry list of description: “He was 5’7″ with a close-cropped beard and eyes that glimmered like blue topaz whenever he saw her. He had a freckle underneath his eye that lined up with a freckle she had underneath her eye, so when they kissed, their freckles exchanged intimate greetings as well. He wore oversized dress shirts with the cuffs hanging over his small hands. His hands were stained with tobacco and always moving with a nervous, frenetic energy. When he smiled, she could see his imperfect teeth, but it was a genuine smile. He weighed around one-hundred-and-sixty pounds and was self-conscious of the hair on his stomach.”
…did you enjoy reading all of that?
I tried my best to make it interesting, but let’s be honest – that’s a lot of detail.
So, an author might pick and choose so her audience doesn’t feel alienated from her. While a fiction author has the luxury of using more words, it doesn’t mean a pile-up of details forced down her readers’ throats.
That being said, a poet wants to create a specific person but still leave the details a bit hazy, so when you’ve finished reading, you can tell yourself that the poem was about you or your ex-girlfriend or your fiancé or your next door neighbor or your grandpa who died eleven-and-a-half years ago.
Also, like Rodrigo touched on, the drama can take away the song or poem’s impact because everyone is analyzing it, waiting for reactions, and caught up in the scandal. I prefer amalgamations of people or details that aren’t really details like some of what I’ve written above.
If you search hard enough, the United States celebrates some quirky holidays – National Talk like a Pirate Day, National Peanut Butter Cookie Day, Let it Go Day, etc. etc. Today, according to a writing group I’m in, is National No Rhyme (No Reason) Day, celebrating all those strange words in the American language that don’t have rhymes.
As an author of free verse poetry, I decided it might be fun to collect a few of these words and see if I could develop a poem out of them.
So, here’s a list of some of the words compiled by the lovely folks at National Day Calendar:
In a shield of silver rain bulleting down (like rain, like the spirit of a woman), clouds of fog and condensation form on my window. (My vision obscured – I see only outlines of you, a phantasmagorical haze.)
It is the ninth month in a row; time strips your perfectly chiseled memory from me. As I claw to retrieve that which deceives me, it becomes slippery (and rips from my grasp). All this purple prose, yet the words I need to say most are stripped from my mouth, rendering me dumb.
“Say it plainly,” I hear the ghost of you insist, “or don’t say it at all.”
How do I say these words like raindrops battened down on my chest, ricocheting off my eyelashes like rainwater? How do I say these words that have become a part of my essence as familiar as goodbye, goodbye, goodbye?
“Say it plainly or don’t say it all,” the ghost insists.
Reluctantly, the age-old cliché falls from my tongue clumsy and reckless, “I love you. I miss you. I wish you were here.”
(I haven’t seen you in so long. What if you’ve forgotten my name, the way my breath falters in a crowded room?
I haven’t seen you in so long. What if you’ve forgotten the way my voice trembles when I read a poem?
I haven’t seen you in so long. I love you. I miss you. I wish you were here.)
“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.
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 meknow what you think of the poem “The Corpses of Unsaid Things”.)
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.
It was time. I bit the bullet until all I could taste was metal, but maybe that was the rust in my mouth from my teeth serrating my tongue. I have a duffle bag packed. Who knew my whole life could fit in a bag? The clothes were nothing, but packing away my crystals and tarot cards, that was when my eyes began to grow wet and puffy. I snatched my favorite photograph off the clothesline it hung from. The room began to tilt as though I had just gotten off a carousel.
I was doing it.
I couldn’t look back.
I had slipped a note inside of her favorite book so she’d see it before she settled in for the night. It was like pressing dried flowers between the pages. I put another note on the leftover Pad Thai she’d reheat when she got home from her shift at the hospital. I kept fidgeting withthe ring she had bought me last year for my birthday. My legs were restless as I sat at the bus stop.
All these people coming and going, and I still felt alone.
My lips were dry but tasted of fear. I did not know how to cry, but my heart drummed like it was sore. I didn’t know anyone in Montreal, but that was the point.
The terminal grew quiet, and I could have sworn I heard her whisper my name. It was like a pair of butterfly wings fluttering together. Her lips buzzed with the familiar sound, and I turned my head at the sound. A ladybug sat on my shoulder, its antennae twitching like it was sending telegraphs, using wires and needles. I never felt at home in my own skin, but today, my body was a map, the veins riddled with roads.
Stay tuned! On Saturday, July 10th, I will post Part II
Jonathan O’Neill took a deep drag off his joint, the thin paper crinkling and crackling as he inhaled the piney smoke. He had smoked every day for the last twenty-two years and decided if this was what it took for him to forget, so be it. He sighed. His children had all moved out ofthe house years ago. Now, they were starting families of their own. He knew that soon, their children would be crawling around the worn Berber carpet. Angie was in the other room, watching television. The faint voice of the late-night comedian reached him through the thin walls.
Closing his eyes, he brushed aside a thought, a wisp of a memory: the smell of magnolias andpatchouli. After he opened his eyes, he picked up the slim volume of poetry, inhaling again. The mint pine filled his lungs and he coughed. Angie would snicker at him, had she known he was reading poetry. The black words on the ivory page scattered.
He was forgetting.
Good, he thought,took you long enough, you old codger.
With great deliberation, he set his mind to his wife: her pillowy breasts, her comfortable stomach, her love of chocolate chip cookies and black-and-white classic movies. They’d been together since they were teenagers. High school sweethearts. Angie claimed him after a homecoming game sophomore year. Told him she’d marry him some day.
They were only eighteen when they married. Young and full of hopes. A flash of honey blonde hair shimmered in his memory, and he exhaled her name. A name he hadn’t spoken aloud in over twenty years. “Danielle.”
He remembered her curves, the way his hands could wrap around her waist and pull her in. He shook his head as though to shake the thought from his mind. Her silver-gray eyes. The way Angie had sobbed when she found out: her shoulders shaking, her plump lips trembling, tears glittering in her gray eyes.
He wished he could have told her the fierceness with which he loved her could devour a man’s sanity. The possessiveness with which he clung to her could dissolve any solid man’s reason. That, though he had signed that marriage certificate all those years ago in a courthouse, Angie by his side, his heart was signed to her, a contract only his soul could fulfill. Their love might have been forbidden, but Danielle, sweet Danielle, she had been his once upon a time.
Stop, Jonathan scolded himself, let it go. She has forgiven you. But still the memory of Danielle struck him. He had never cheated on Angie before, but with Danielle, it didn’t feel like cheating. In fact, the nights he laid his head on the pillow beside Angie and inhaled her lavender sachet and fresh linen, those were the nights he felt he was cheating.
He remembered how they talked about taking her yellow Volkswagen Beetle cross-country, driving all the way to the East Coast, then driving west to Colorado. He thought about the way they talked about going to music festivals where she could sell her art and inhale music like it was a drug. He savored the memories. The memories that never were. He thought what if he had met her first.
He steeled his eyes into an empty stare. His glazed, honey-brown eyes softened as he took in his surroundings. The leather wingback chair in his office. The antique typewriter. First-edition books. His diplomas on the wall. Life was good. Comfortable. He heard Angie chuckle at one of the comedian’s jokes on television. Jonathan inhaled another drag, willing himself to forget.
How many years since she died? he wondered. Shuddering, the icy chill pierced through hisheart like a frozen dagger and dragged down his spine. No, he told himself sternly. It was best to forget. Danielle was just a girl.
Her mother had compared Danielle to a hummingbird at the funeral: small, magical, alwaysfluttering around. And Jonathan had understood. He remembered the last time he had seen her alive. They walked the perimeter of a pond. She was moving her hands as she spoke quietly about putting her dog to sleep. He remembered the other times too. The softness of her lips. The tentative way she explored the scar on his spine. The glimmering wonder in her gray eyes as he broke open a walnut and fed it to her.
How she had taught him to sip the viscous, amber liquid from a honeysuckle. The poems she had written him. How she swore she was going to write him a play so he could return to the stage some day. The post cards she had written him from California, Montana, Colorado.
You would love it here, she had scrawled on the cards, I miss you. I think of you every day.Jonathan had saved them each and stowed them away in the back of the slim volume of poetry that was hidden in plain sight most days on his book shelf.
Shut up, shut up, shut up, he reminded himself, scolding.
That was the thing about both the marijuana and the early onset of his disease. They might help him forget his current miseries, but the past taunted him. Slightly out of reach, yet still familiar. A dream sparse on details but little snatches coming back to him as the evening progressed.
He remembered the language she had invented and her laugh. The silver sparkle in her gray eyes. Her skin the color of milk. The way she’d talk about the wild animals she saw in her backyard-the coyotes, the foxes, a fawn once.
His bones felt brittle. He felt so old. His teeth sometimes felt too large in his mouth. Thedisease stripped him of words. Sometimes, he’d be talking to Angie and mid-sentence, he’d falter.
But these memories of Danielle.
They persisted, whether he appreciated it or not.
It was as though he wasexperiencing the nostalgia of anemoia, shuffling through old photographs in his mind (the ones he never took, lest Angie discover them when cleaning oneday) and experiencing the wave of sentimental remorse for a time he pretended did not belong to him.
He took a deeper inhale of his joint. Smoke unfurled deeply into his lungs. His thoughts slipped away, and he leaned back in his leather wingback, a dazed smile on his face.
He was forgetting.
And it was bliss.
But then, an image shattered his serenity. The haunting image, though never something he saw with his own two eyes, froze him whenever his memory called it back. Danielle going home one night to her lover after traveling. He had discovered the poetry book she had penned Jonathan and ripped every page out, feeding it to the fireplace. That night, as the fire crackled, the man wrapped his hands around Danielle’s throat and suffocated the light out of her gazes.
Jonathan took a deep breath.
When he had arrived at the wake, he… no, he repeated to himself, I will not go down that path. Stop. He remembered nonetheless. Despite the mortuary cosmetologist’s best attempts, Jonathan could see fingerprints on her slim, pale throat.
Or at least at the time, he believed he had.
It had been so many years.
He was better to forget their past. The smell of magnolias and patchouli. The way her lips parted slightly when she hungered for a kiss. Her soft skin. Her honey-blonde hair.
He’d spend a lifetime, trying in desperation to forget.