Bigger Questions

I sent in my application for graduation.

I haven’t even heard back yet,

yes or no,

and already the future is waiting behind every door,

peeking out from behind the screen

as I Google search potential dreams,

its dark, hazy eyes pleading

why can’t you just decide?

But I can’t even decide

what to eat for breakfast,

what to wear to work,

whether I like coffee,

so let’s not start on the bigger questions

just yet.

Ache

My fingers ache for land,

for dirt shoved under fingernails,

for names signed on paper,

for only our footprints leading up to the door.

My fingers ache for land while

my heart aches for quiet.

Am I destined to live a hermit on a hill,

the butt of a joke,

the dare in a childhood game?

 

Maybe you’ll be a hermit with me and

we can get lost in the art of love and survival,

which are sometimes different,

and sometimes the same.

Backwards Dreaming

It’s all nostalgia,

all of it,

longing for what is, and what was, and what will be,

snapshots fuzzy with age,

all the more precious for their fading edges.

 

I hear you singing and I know you understand;

we’ve never spoken but we’re so much the same,

the way your voice swells out of the past,

dreaming backwards to dark places dripping syrupy sweet with longing,

paddling upstream, drifting down.

I’ve taken some mental space, but here it goes again.

This poem created some disagreement in my writers’ group last week where I wrote it as a response to a short poem by Maya Angelou entitled “Wonder.” I won’t box it into my intended meaning by explaining what was going on in my head when I wrote it, even though the prideful part of me is calling out for clarity, is calling out for me to fight back against the negative parts of the response I received. Instead, I’ll accept my role as “artist,” whatever that might mean: I’ll just take a deep breath, leave this here, and walk away.

 

To be a poet is to fight with all your mortal strength

for immortality.

How selfish, how arrogant, how naïve,

to admit your fear,

to wear it openly,

and proud.

 

Or is it pure genius,

a shell within a shell,

armor encased in armor,

to admit one thing in order to hide

the even deeper truth,

to throw two dimes in the cup as you

fiddle with the crisp twenty in your pocket.

 

You fill page after page with words and

pat yourself on the back for your brutal honesty,

but always, always,

there is more you don’t say,

more you could admit,

more of yourself you refuse to give.

 

To be a poet is to try to live beyond yourself,

to bury treasure in the spaces and commas,

to shed a part of your soul like skin,

emerging pink and raw and new,

a shadow of yourself left behind on the page.

 

But to really be a poet is to shout in silence,

to cry out existence to an uncaring world,

to dredge the ocean of your being

for a single, solitary pearl.

Wisps

I know I wrote these, but

I can’t recognize myself in these words.

I struggle, grasping for patterns I’m not sure are there.

This is my handwriting, but it suddenly seems

I don’t really know my own mind,

thoughts galloping wildly in different directions,

scattered like newly sheared sheep, their fleecy past

discarded in heavy piles and bags by the door.

From where I stand,

in the murky, shifting light of the barn,

I catch the repetitive thump of hooves racing across the field as they try to

distance themselves from their loss.

 

I’m eating ice cream,

a reward for a job well done,

and the creamy sweetness feels out of place here,

like the appearance of a past lover out of nowhere in a dream,

a remnant of some other life suddenly thrown into sharp focus,

meaning swirling in and out of view,

like wisps of fleece around the dusty barn floor.

More than Enough

We are mostly empty space,

a precious lot of nothing.

 

But surely there must be more to us

than those little bits of notnothing

swirling charged through the void.

 

Or maybe

those little bits of notnothing

are somehow

more than enough.

Tournesol

In the blazing light of the early summer evening,

we match pace down the row.

You make me a little nervous because

you’re just as quiet as me, so

I fill the space with the first thought that comes to mind.

 

Tournesol, I say,

gently holding the flower head in one hand while the other runs quickly down the stalk,

stripping leaves in one quick

snapsnapsnap motion.

 

You squint in my direction,

hand shielding your eyes,

head cocked, waiting.

 

Sunflower in French is tournesol.

‘Turn sun,’ I translate, because

sunflowers turn their heads to follow the sun.

 

I’m swimming neck-high in sticky yellow blooms,

bare feet anchored to still-warm ground.

I stand on my toes to meet your eyes over their heads as I tell you these things

I know you’re pretending to find interesting

just to be nice.

 

You’re a carpenter.

you deal in hard, dry lumber,

ready to be hammered into place,

boards and planks that fall before your saws and nails,

bending lifeless to your will and once there,

unchanging. 

 

What of these beings,

tall as nearly grown-up children,

heeding the commands of

some far-off star?

 

I fall silent and

you’re more than happy to

let the snapsnapsnap replace the sounds

of such meaningless information.

Why I Decided to Ditch the #100happydays Project.

For anyone who hasn’t heard of #100happydays, it’s a social media craze that happened the way all social media crazes happen: I’m not exactly sure. At the top of the project’s website are the questions: “Can you be happy for 100 days in row? You don’t have time for this, right?” Participants are tasked with taking a picture each day of something that makes them happy, with the goal of increasing one’s happiness by appreciating and focusing on the good things more than the bad. The project found me at a time when I had started developing this annoying habit of complaining about both my jobs every single day, before I left for work and as soon as I got home. I work with school age kids and with adults with cognitive disabilities, two fields I don’t see myself in long-term but fields in which I feel I can make a positive impact while I’m here. I love the kids and residents I work with, but the drag of working by the hour had started to get to me. So 56 days ago, I began diligently investigating each day for the things that made it happy.

And then one of my friends from high school committed suicide. It hit me really hard, harder than I expected. But I decided that continuing the project not only made sense for me but made sense as a way to honor her memory.

Then I learned on Thursday night that my best friend’s mom finally lost her decades-long fight with Huntington’s. And I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t claim that yesterday was a happy day, because it just. wasn’t.

I realized suddenly how incredibly disingenuous the #100happydays project is. To make the claim that every day is happy–or that every day should be–suddenly felt so very wrong. To claim everyday as happy, or to consider non-happy days as “failures,” robs life of the richness of emotions that are all part of our human experience. If E’s choice to take her own life taught me anything, it was that the worst thing anyone can do in terms of emotional health is to try to pretend to feel something when they don’t. She ignored the little things, pushing them down and letting them bubble up and boil over into BIG THINGS. She did everything she could to appear strong and “happy” in order to help others with their own mental health, and she lost a grip on herself in the process.

So if I could start over and rename the project I would call it #100emotionallyhonestdays. It’s not as catchy. It’s not as squeaky clean. But surely it is closer to some real and productive way to honor each day just as it is, rather than wasting time wishing it was something it’s not. –h

On Scones and Being Alone

My boyfriend is in California this week, so I’m all alone in my house. When I was younger, I loved being alone. But as a teenager I think I began to fear what being alone meant, that somehow being alone meant a lack of some sort. I’m now finally growing out of that, though I’m already anxious for C to get back so I can tell him about the minutiae of my everyday life that I can count on him to get excited about. That being said, I am enjoying the quiet, and knowing that things will be just where I left them when I get home from work.

mix it up!

Raw ingredients in a mixer are always visually pleasing.

 

This morning I woke up extra early. I’m always worried when I’m home alone that my alarm won’t go off and I’ll sleep in too late. There’s no way my basset hound would ever left me do that, but the fear persists. I was sort of glad though, because with all my extra time I made 3191 Miles Apart’s Wholegrain Maple Nut Scones. I cut the recipe in half because I have a tendency to eat the entirety of whatever baked goods I have around and without anyone to help me eat them … it’s very dangerous.

perfectly imperfect.

Perfectly imperfect.

When C comes home on Friday we’re finally going to start moving into our new house. In limbo right now, I’m not feeling entirely sold on either place. Our house now seems dark and dingy compared to the new one. The new house feels unfamiliar and stressfully incomplete. But the morning light that streams into our new kitchen and bedroom makes it all worthwhile. I’m trying to remember that as I look around at everything I haven’t packed yet. I guess I’ll just enjoy my scones and worry about it later. Enjoy your tuesday! –h

finished, mmm.

I’m all about that maple glazed life.