“I am the blue nigella flower
You never expected to find
Particularly at this late sunset hour
You are the bird in the crepe myrtle trees
Perching and jumping and flying
On the smooth branches with no leaves”
On the hunt for a distraction, I ambled over to my brother’s side of the desk, leaned over his chair, and squinted into the blue light emanating from the computer screen. My brother scowled at me for invading his space.
“I’m not a poet, but this assignment looks fun,” I said, pointing at the “poem writing” homework on his Winter Break to-do list. Having successfully found a diversion, I issued a command. “Show me what it is.”
“I am the sea of daffodils tossing
All too aware of how little time they have left to sing
Although knowing that they will return next spring”
It was an assignment for my brother’s online American History Through Literature course. His teacher assigned an endless stream of quizzes for her students, and as a dutiful older sister, it was my job to ensure that my brother completed the quizzes on time. It was a thankless ordeal. Early in the year, when I sat down next to him to plan out the week with him, he pushed me away, reluctant to accept my advice.
Yet this time when I sat down with him to work on the “poem writing,” he did not try to shove me away. After a few nights, we had over a hundred lines of doggerel, far more than the requirement. We were utterly hooked on poetry. No longer was the sky merely dark; it was “studded with stars,” “lively with meteors,” and “illuminated by the calm light of the moon.” No longer were our surroundings blurred and boring; they were glowing with the freshness of specificity.
“You are the faucet, strangely juxtaposed
Living in a marble kitchen
Surrounded with the scent of rose
I am the lake with the fountains
Upon which elegant geese sail
Look up to see the devil mountains”
Several years ago, on the way back home from a visit to the optometrist’s office, I opened the black, vinyl glasses case and ran my finger over the soft microfiber cloth cushioning the precious cargo within. Even with my childish inexperience, I knew to be careful, so I wouldn’t damage the delicate metal frames. I picked up the glasses and unfolded them, then settled them on my face. The nose pads pinched at the sensitive skin on the bridge of my nose, and the handles itched on the backs of my ears. Nevertheless, I forgot my discomfort when I opened my eyes.
I wasn’t aware that my view of the world was clouded over with the fog of myopia until I saw, through the lenses, everything resolved in dizzying clarity.
So it was with me and poetry. When I settled my fingers on the smooth keyboard and began to type a poem, it was as though I had placed a pair of lenses over the imperfect orbs of my unobservant eyes.
“You are the playground so colorful
It can be spotted from far away
Look at its swoops and curves so wonderful”
In the heady first days of our poetry writing, one of us somehow added the poem to Google Docs. On Docs, every word is stored in the cloud, so we could edit the document simultaneously. Long after the assignment was submitted, poetry remained a shared obsession. My brother and I added poems nearly every day. We fed off each other’s enthusiasm, suggesting topics and ideas to each other. The new year came. Spring arrived. AP week steamrolled through. Classes ended. Summer started. We kept writing.
“I am the fresh green horsetail
You’ll find me even a century from now
Still straight and narrow”
I applied and was accepted to an online publication. This job entailed compiling my own poems, the poems of famous poets, and my analysis into a monthly column, which I would send to my editor by the deadline. Once I fixed my errors, I posted the finished column to the website, where many of my classmates and friends would read my work. My column received little traffic, except from my brother, who invariably posted a supportive comment. Still, I was eager to seem sophisticated to my editor and meager audience. My poems had to be serious and revelatory, not just whimsical combinations of rhyming words. New anxiety was bundled with the art of poetry. It made me forget important things: I forgot the happy clatter of my fingers flying over the keyboard. I forgot to ignore the tight nosepads and the weight of metal handles resting behind my ears. I forgot how beautiful the world was through a lens. I forgot poetry.
“You are the blue and purple anemones
Colorful and joyful and free
Flowers that belong undersea”
Even in my forgetfulness, I still remembered something: deadlines. I needed to submit a column by the 26th of each month. Combing the poetry document for my favorite specimens, I smiled to see some of my better works and my brother’s additions. He did not seem afflicted with the same uncertainty, continuing to add poetry that, while usually silly, could also be surprisingly beautiful. They gave me a glimpse of the clarity I had enjoyed when I wrote poetry. With my brother’s poems, I could almost see a way out of the mist that had descended over my vision ever since I stopped writing poetry.
“I am the spiral staircase
Roping around a building up and back down
Run through in a breathless haze.”
One morning I woke up with a tingling in my fingers and an itching in my mind. It was the unmistakable feeling of needing to write a poem. I threw off my blankets, brushed my teeth in record time, and rushed to my laptop so I could write my poem. My enthusiasm evaporated as I opened the poetry document and noticed that the last time I’d added a poem was weeks ago. I pondered. What was stopping me? My pride as a poetry columnist? The fear that no one would take me seriously if they saw me struggling to fit words together into a coherent poem? “Darn the torpedoes,” I thought, remembering my brother’s bold poetry, and blazed full speed ahead to the tune of my keyboard clattering under my fingers. A strange sensation bloomed in me, like I was remembering something.
“You are the green, waxy pine trees
So high they kiss the clouds
And bring the masses to their knees”
Never content to keep wonderful things to myself, I organized a poetry recital in March and spent an hour reading poems with my friends. Even my brother came to support my event. What had I remembered? I had remembered poetry. I had remembered to take it out of its black vinyl case, musty but unsmudged, slip the handles behind my ears, and let the world resolve into brilliant focus.
“I am the wind rustling the leaves
You are the leaves rustling in the wind
Together we take on the park
Where children lark and dogs bark
Adventure lurks in every part
For those who seek: so take heart.”
Summertime arrived with the end of my tenure at the e-zine. I considered re-applying to the online publication. Should I return to my post as poetry columnist? Or strive to the higher echelons of editor?
I stared into the blue light of the computer screen, trying to decide which application to pick. War was waged between my poetry-columnist side and a new, undefined aspect of myself. After some time, I set the battle on the backburner, opened my poetry document and wrote.
Even then, while I lacked any official position, I was still writing poetry. I had fought to reclaim the poet in me, and she would not be corralled by such insignificant obstacles as titles or positions. The battle lost its significance.
Thus, I filled out my application for the position of editor. Months passed while I eagerly awaited word of whether I had been accepted. Then I received an email.
“Unfortunately the position you applied for… is already filled. However, we would love to offer you a job as poetry columnist.”
The poet in me had survived.
Tell me I’m not a writer, and I’d likely nod in agreement. Writing may be a tool I have long sought to master, but it isn’t an integral part of my identity.
Tell me I’m not a poet, and I’ll look you in the eye.
And I’ll say two words: “You lie.”
“And I am the poet in this beauty
Who picks up the pen and writes
So that you too can see”
I also have an exciting announcement to share for this column!
Would you be interested in attending a poetry recital? I will be holding one on Saturday, December 22nd at 8 PM EST in Auditorium of GP6. If you plan on participating, please fill out this form or comment below with your name and the names (and authors) of the poems you plan to recite.