When it’s night time and quiet and the clouds
resonate, symmetrical, woven-glowing like
the fruit of stars, orange peel and pink passion,
it’s always still until a Bill or a Jane wake from their dreams
their dampened bed sheets, their dim glow bulb flickering
to keep the monsters away. The shutters crack and let
images loose, he’ll say, and a pinch of the arm will scream love
and terror all at once. Am I not too young? she’ll say
and the monsters will howl and bite the ears of silence until
every crevice, every stem of Godfear, shaking, poisoning
the cold plummet is nothing more than shafts of gold
and white light, crawling through the smokey glass that sits
stained with bad words and trickles of sweat and secrets
that a ripened moon of fruit-blue illuminates for blind eyes.
It’s not her bed; she never even slept in it.
Neither had her mother and new stepfather. It was their marriage bed, but her stepbrother decided he wanted to break it in when he tried to maneuver her between his body and the queen mattress. Later, when she moved to her new apartment, her mother offered her the bed as a farewell present. But she refused to let the bed and the demon that was born during that struggle follow her into her new apartment, into her new life, into the peace that she found finally being away from her brother.
Now, fifteen years later, her kid sister sleeps in the same oak frame with sturdy curved pillars, the same pillars she used as a brace against her stepbrother’s advances. It still even has the same geometric comforter that he sat on and fondled right before he lunged for her arms. She wonders if the bed retained the imprint of the assault in the padding, a violent handprint pressed deep into the foam. She wonders if her sister can feel it when she sleeps, if the dent in the bed gives her bad dreams, the same nightmares our girl relives in her own bed hundreds of miles away.
It’s not her bed; she never even slept in it; but it’s a bed that defined her, shaped her life, gave her more to fear than just the dark.
In poetry, the number of beginnings so far exceeds the number of endings that we cannot even conceive it. Not every poem is finished — one poem is abandoned, another catches fire and is carried away by the wind, which may be an ending, but it is the ending of a poem without an end.
Paul Valéry, the French poet and thinker, once said that no poem is ever ended, that every poem is merely abandoned. This saying is also attributed to Stéphane Mallarmé, for where quotations begin is in a cloud.
Paul Valéry also described his perception of first lines so vividly, and to my mind so accurately, that I have never forgotten it: the opening line of a poem, he said, is like finding a fruit on the ground, a piece of fallen fruit you have never seen before, and the poet’s task is to create the tree from which such a fruit would fall.
We read a poem by T.S. Eliot last year about how some people spend their entire lives, hunched over, attempting to measure life with coffee spoons, only to die, withered and old, left with nothing but empty dreams.
I suppose some people do spend their entire lives attempting to measure every step they take. They have a plan and Excel spreadsheets filled with colors that tell them which step of the way will come after the next, and they want to force the mass that is life and mold it into their plans.
But me, I don’t care to measure life with coffee spoons, or to attempt to force it into my plans. I want to take a road trip across California and like those horrendously hipster photos that I see across Instagram, stop at scenic locations and feel small compared to the mountains and oceans I stand next to. I want to make a bucket list filled with improbable goals to achieve, and somehow, check off each event. I want to discover new music, write songs, share with the world meaningless words that I throw together in half asleep stupors. I want to dream of foreign countries, explore the different parts of the world, and find new adventures to embark on.
I suppose I am a very stereotypical college student, filled with cliche dreams, driven by the sudden influx of hipster-culture, of hippie vans that roll across dusty roads to a soundtrack provided by Blind Pilot.
And so, I certainly don’t intend to measure my life with coffee spoons. But as I stare at the disgusting amount of pre-requisites and major courses that don’t particularly excite me, and the list of strange, eccentric courses that I would love to take, but don’t fit into my allotted schedule no matter how many 8 am’s I move around, when I think about a prospective career that would potentially provide me the means to actually arrive at those foreign countries and experience different cultures… I realize that no one actually intends to live life by measuring out each drop carefully. No one actually dreams of fulfilling a predestined path of mediocrity.
It just somehow happens.
Anonymous asked: What inspires you to write?
balmy summer nights and mandarin peels. music playing in another room and how people move their hands when they speak. the intersection between past present and future, and everything that’s both lost and found. human contradictions. long fingers of light sweeping through a train carriage. boys with soft, curious eyes. boys with beautiful hands. all hands in general. old people hands. callouses and dimples and the way new skin grows back so much whiter, so much cleaner. being touched tenderly, being touched brusquely, just being touched. my mother bending over in the kitchen, or on the bed’s edge rubbing lotion into her heels. split lips and honeysuckles. blue mosquito lights in public bathrooms. abandoned roadside furniture and the way people try to say goodbye with their bodies when words are useless. familiar cities that don’t feel like home, and unfamiliar ones that do. the smell of basil, the smell of cherry tomatoes, the smell of burnt butter. the fact that none of us really know where we’re going, but we’re going anyway. all this blind, mad hope and hearts that perpetually threaten to vibrate out of their nests. “we are all going forward. none of us are going back.”