High ceilings

It’s that room with high ceilings.
Foreign.
I float near the rafters and merely observe.
Some people find themselves in this room,
but I just keep floating higher and higher.
I slowly lose myself and gravity’s anchor.
I twitch nervously.
Switch my weight from one foot to the other.
Eat the bread, drink the wine,
click-clack my way through the line,
but I don’t confess my sins.
Why should I?
I can’t empathize,
can’t relate,
can’t imagine.
Can’t close my eyes in prayer
and think someone’s listening to my minuscule thoughts.
There’s something about those high ceilings.
Each thought wanders around in an endless
whirlpool of air instead of water.
I try to scrawl them down onto the service program
but find little white space.
They’re trapped inside while I glide around.
Merely observing,
never taking part.
You feel at peace here.
You’ve found yourself.
I seem to be lost.
It’s a game of make believe
and I’m too much of a realist.

-E.M.S.
12/25/13
1:05 a.m.

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Never underestimate a 15-year-old

He passed copies of the poem around the room. We were 15.

“‘To Make Much of Time’ by Robert Herrick,” it said at the top of the paper:

“Gather ye rose-buds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today
Tomorrow will be dying.

The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
The higher he’s a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
And nearer he’s to setting.

That age is best which is the first,
When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
Times still succeed the former.

Then be not coy, but use your time,
And while ye may, go marry;
For having lost but once your prime,
You may forever tarry.”

We discussed the poem and dissected it. Its meaning is obvious: take advantage of the time you have; don’t waste it.

But I felt like I had read the poem before and had somehow come up with an entirely different meaning. Perplexed, I didn’t say a word during the discussion.

***

A stack of poetry books sits on my dresser. The rest are at home, collecting dust in my dad’s office.

I attack my books with brightly colored pens and highlighters, circling and marking my favorite lines. Emily Dickinson –– my namesake, actually –– is my favorite. I’ve fattened her Selected Poems book with multi-colored sticky notes.

My mom bought me a book of romance poems  (my weakness), and I did the same thing –– I read through each poem and marked my favorite lines and passages. Herrick’s poem was in there.

***

Later during that class period, I decided to do what my generation does best: Google it.

Up it popped, showing three words that change the poem’s meaning. “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time,” it said. I gaped.

I pointed it out to my classmates and then called the teacher over.

He denied it. At first. Then he recognized our –– namely my –– outrage.

Robert Herrick didn’t write the poem to appeal to everyone. He specifically aimed it toward one audience. And my English teacher had the audacity to underestimate us by chopping off its real meaning.

I’d like to think that teacher has been showing this poem to other sophomores for the past five years under the correct title, but that’d be an overestimation. I’m sure it’s been scrapped, never to be taught in that teacher’s classroom ever again after being outsmarted by a group of 15-year-olds.

 

Sonnet, revisited

Quite a few of my views also come when people search “c.b. trail” into a search engine.

It’s because of this post. And this poem (which I will type from memory):

This is for the afternoon we lay in the leaves,
after it had been winter for half a year.
And I kissed you and unbuttoned your jeans
and touched you and made you smile, my dear.
And of all the good things that love means,
one of them is to touch you there.
And to see you smile, among the leaves
and feel your wetness and your sweet short hair.
And kiss your breasts and put my tongue
into the delirium between your soft pale thighs.
Because the winter has been much too long
and soon will come again when this love dies.
I will hear sermons preached, and some of them be true,
but I will not regret that afternoon with you.

~c.b. trail

Do you feel a tad uncomfortable? Most people do. I really can’t blame you if you do.

But, I’ll tell you one thing. When, at age 15, I first read this poem, I didn’t feel uncomfortable. I thought it was beautiful then. I think it’s beautiful now. I have this poem taped in the back of my poetry book(s) to remind myself that it’s okay to let go and write about whatever the fuck I feel. It’s okay to write down random words that don’t make any sense. It’s okay to be a little more personal than normal and to write about things that might make people blanch.

And oh, blanch they did.

At the end of Composition and Critical Thinking, a required course my freshman year, the professor asked each of us to upload a favorite poem onto the class’s Moodle (online student-teacher forum-type thing) page.

I wasn’t going to post c.b. trail’s “Sonnet.”

Hell no.

I was going to play it safe and post something normal for a change. But, with the urging of a friend, I posted the poem.

In class the next day, each student had to pick the favorite poem of a peer, stand up and read it to the rest of the class. I chose to read “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley.

Nobody read mine. (Surprised? I wasn’t.)

“If anyone’s poem has not been read, feel free to stand up and read it yourself,” the professor said.

I wasn’t going to read mine. I was going to sit back and be normal for a change (for fear of not being accepted as is, I really censored myself during that first semester freshman year).

But, with the urging of another friend, I got up.

I walked to the front of the class, stood at the podium and

read

my

poem.

You could have heard a pin drop in that classroom after I finished. Mouths gaped. Everyone stared. (I felt instant judgment at this point.)

“Well, during break when your mom and dad ask what you’ve learned, you can say, ‘oh, we learned about oral sex,'”* the professor said, breaking the ice with laughter.

My peers treated me differently after that. Some respected me more. Some shot interesting looks my way. I know a lot of them talked about it afterward (hey, I’m flattered). Most of them just didn’t understand.

I think the poem is beautiful because of its brutal honesty. c.b. trail wasn’t afraid to write what he/she felt. I’ve learned a lesson from him/her. Hence why I have the poem memorized and taped in the back of my books. I need reminders that it’s okay to record even the most ridiculous or socially unacceptable thoughts and experiences.

If only they could see my poetry books. I can only imagine what they would think then.

*roughly paraphrased

Mad Girl

I haven’t gotten a single letter all week. They haven’t posted pictures of his group on Facebook in weeks. It’s almost like he doesn’t exist. I’m going through serious withdrawal. He doesn’t exist. “I think I made you up inside my head” (Sylvia Plath “Mad Girl’s Love Song”).

I go to tell him things and then realize he won’t answer for several weeks. And, when he responds, I won’t even remember what I had written in the first place. My in-an-instant world has crashed. No internet. No telephone. Get out a pen and write by candlelight. Snail mail.

My room is a pigpen. My pretty ring doesn’t look so pretty next to chipped nail polish and torn-off fingernails.

I ran this morning at 9:00. Checked the mail (no letter from Robby). Showered. Went to work from 11-4. Came home. Went to work from 5-9. My choice of clothes today came from my dirty clothes hamper. The contents is still scattered around my room. This was the second day in a row of very un-Emilylike behavior.

Tomorrow, I’d like to get up, run and clean my room. Throw a load of laundry in.

…I think I made this up inside my head.

I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead;
I lift my lids and all is born again.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

The stars go waltzing out in blue and red,
And arbitrary blackness gallops in:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I dreamed that you bewitched me into bed
And sung me moon-struck, kissed me quite insane.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

God topples from the sky, hell’s fires fade:
Exit seraphim and Satan’s men:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I fancied you’d return the way you said,
But I grow old and I forget your name.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

I should have loved a thunderbird instead;
At least when spring comes they roar back again.
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

~Plath (“Mad Girl’s Love Song”)

Censoring thoughts

I have “Sonnet” by C.B. Trail taped on the back inside cover of my poetry notebook. This one by e.e. cummings may need to be added.

i like my body when it is with your
body. It is so quite a new thing.
Muscles better and nerves more.
i like your body. i like what it does,
i like its hows. i like to feel the spine
of your body and its bones, and the trembling
-firm-smooth ness and which I will
again and again and again
kiss, i like kissing this and that of you,
i like, slowly stroking the, shocking fuzz
of your electric fur, and what-is-it comes
over parting flesh…And eyes big love-crumbs,

and possibly i like the thrill
of under me you quite so new

 
 

Poems like this one remind me not to hold back. It’s okay to write exactly what I’m thinking, no matter what genre, movie rating or reaction the topic might receive. Things about other people can be censored, but my thoughts shouldn’t be. They should be raw, real, beautiful.

Raw, real and beautiful like this piece by e.e. cummings and my favorite poem by C.B. Trail.

Bye bye, plane

Bye bye plane

fly so far 

away.

 

Over trees

and homes and

all that you’ve loved.

 

And me.

 

You’ll fly over me.

 

The plane gains height. 

Up, up, up you go.

 

Bye bye plane

fly so far

away.

 

We’ve had some 

turbulence.

But we’re still

we.

 

Fly away

but come back to me.

 

~E.M.S.

12:16 a.m.

5/1/12

Dakota

That fall you took
can’t have been your last.
So many lie ahead for you…
right now is too soon; too fast.
Wake up, please please wake up.
 
You’re missed by all your friends.
We all know Dakota as “fun” –
you’re so passionate about acting –
you can’t possibly stay forever young.
Wake up, please please wake up.
 
Oh, the thinks you probably thought
as you fell, asking “Why?”
You missed a step and fell toward black
instead of taking a stair to the sky.
Wake up, please please wake up.
 
A week of your life has passed –
and you have been in the land of unknowing…
spring has arrived, wet and rainy…
but, for us and you, it’s still snowing.
Wake up, Dakota, wake up.

~E.M.S.

4/24/11

11:13 p.m.

I think it’s time I write about Dakota. I don’t think I ever have.

I got a text message a year ago tomorrow morning that said “Remember how you said you had a feeling something bad would happen to someone in our class?”

My heart stopped. I instantly thought someone had died. I had discussed this issue with my friend. A tragedy usually occurs in every class before graduation. It appears to be a right of passage at our school. I never dreamed it would actually happen.

Image courtesy of Lisa Reinard.

I grew up with Dakota. We were in the same Sunday school class all the way through. His elf ears used to make me giggle. When I dated his best friend (Christian, the guy from a couple posts ago), the three of us hung out a lot. We spent hours after school at Dakota’s house across the street from school. We were in countless theater productions together. Monkeys together in The Jungle Book Kids; he, Cat in the Hat, and me, Gertrude, in Seussical Jr.; kids together in Schoolhouse Rock Live! Jr... the list goes on from there. In the winter of 2011, I played his daughter, Anne, in Cheaper By The Dozen. There are so many memories from that play in particular. They are still fresh in my memory – some of the last memories I have of him.

Dakota had an accident; he fell and hit his head. The fall put him in a coma for months. When he finally got out of it, a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) took hold. He currently resides at ECMC, where he has been for a whole year now.

We had grown apart during the later years of high school (the break up with Christian seemed to do it), but still had a connection from the childhood we spent around each other. We loved Veggie Tales and used to acolyte together at church. I never thought of him as anything more than another brother.

The last time I saw him before the accident, he was walking down the hallway from the art rooms in the school. He wore a grey shirt, black pants and had his headphones on. We sort of nodded at each other, but I didn’t say anything. I figured his music was probably too loud (we always had similar taste in music). I’ve regretted that ever since.

I haven’t been able to make it to ECMC since August. Last time I saw him, he was starting to twitch his body parts. His feet moved. His chest moved up and down with each breath intake. Like any other person with brain damage, his arms were bent with his hands up near his face.

He’s still at ECMC and is making progress every day. It’s very sad to see his – and his family’s – life on hold.

Having a friend like Dakota can open your eyes. We take a lot of simple things for granted; simple things that are very hard for Dakota.

The bracelet on my wrist reminds me of you every single day, Dakota. I will not – and can’t ever – forget the day my bad feeling came true.

I was given this bracelet on June 24, 2011. I have not taken it off since.

Just a Dream

PART I:

I dreamed a dream of a team

that knew letters could be

rearranged.

“Me” can be spelled with “team.”

But these teammates never cared.

“Me” is in “team” but it’s not

about me, or you.

It’s us.

Try spelling “me” with that.

 

It’s us or we. Not me.

We were best friends.

Always together, even after practice.

And when people asked us, we said

with pride, “we’re best friends

and we run together.”

This “we” was a team with no “me.”

We shared secrets and intimate

thoughts.

Loving each other. Running together.

Too bad that team was just a dream.

I Think He’d Like Me

When all hope has faded away

and I am blind and cannot see

lead me to my savior;

I think He’d really like me.

I’ll need that boost of esteem

when I am there; finally free

I’ll approach his throne with love

and hope that He’ll like me.

I’ll cross from world to world

moving quick and then quickly.

Once I reach the pearly gates

I’ll pray that he likes me.

After all He’s watched me do;

there’s so much sin to see!

Doors open, nails bitten

just hoping He likes me.

There He is, glittering white.

I’m dull and drab next to He.

He grabs my hand and squeezes it

…I think this means He likes me.

All my life I’d believed Him a myth

but He shakes His head to disagree.

He tells me He forgives my mistakes

…and then tells me that He loves me.

~EMS

1:43 AM 1/23/10

P.S. This poem is actually six separate stanzas of four lines each; WordPress won’t separate them no matter how many times I try. 😦

(I want) total honesty and fearlessness

My Trendy Wendy notebook that I did my math homework this year and last year is no more. The spirals got all messed up and made it nearly impossible to turn the page of the notebook without ripping the page out. I retired Trendy Wendy and her brother Todd and dug through our school supplies basket for a new Algebra II/Trigonometry notebook to do my homework in. I unearthed a green College Ruled spiral notebook and packed it in my bag to take to school the next morning.

Yes, I did homework in it, but I noticed that the closely spaced lines made writing between them more inviting for me. Smaller print means more words can fit on the page – it’s a no-brainer. So, for the past couple weeks or so, I haven’t been paying attention in Trig (and I’m sure that my average has suffered a little if not immensely). Instead, I’ve been picking up my pen and getting lost in words I have written. Poetry’s always been my forte, but until a couple of weeks ago, I hadn’t been writing any new material. Now, thanks to this green notebook, I haven’t been using my laptop in school as much. Instead, I’ve been distracted by the beauty a clean, white page can provide. Just knowing I can fill that blankness with words makes me want to write all over on every page. So, that’s what I’ve been doing.

The green notebook isn’t for Trig anymore. No, I unearthed a new notebook for that subject (this time it’s red!) and have been using that instead. I’m letting this plain old green notebook help me stretch my writing abilities. I’m writing everything I can (it’s all poetry, mind you) even if it ends up sucking. At least I’m getting everything out of my head.

Lately I have been trying to write beyond my comfort zone. I’ve always kind of written G-rated poetry subconsciously. Now, my most recent works hold a new, deep and hidden meaning that it will take a reader several read-throughs to figure out what it’s truly about. Some of my recent poetry could be rated R or PG-13 at least. I used to be cautious about what I wrote. Now I find myself wanting to write about everything that I hold in my mind, no matter how vulgar or inappropriate my thoughts are (and let’s face it, every mind thinks vulgar and inappropriate thoughts sometimes). One of my most favorite poems is by this poet called C.B. Trail. He obviously didn’t care what the reader thought when he wrote “Sonnet”:

This is for the afternoon we lay in the leaves
After it had been winter for half a year,
And I kissed you and unbuttoned your jeans
And touched you and made you smile, my dear.
And of all the good things that love means,
One of them is to touch you there
And make you smile, among the leaves,
And feel your wetness and your sweet short hair,
And kiss your breasts and put my tongue
Into the delirium between your soft pale thighs,
Because the winter has been much too long
And soon will come again, when this love dies.
I will hear sermons preached, and some of them be true,
But I will not regret that afternoon with you.

I love his honesty and just the truth behind this sonnet. I have had some of my friends read this poem, and their first reaction is “ew! That’s disgusting!” but me? I think it’s beautiful. I think the way it was written is beautiful. I don’t necessarily think that the act displayed in the poem is beautiful (though, what in love isn’t beautiful?), but the way it was written is just phenomenal. Total honesty. Total fearlessness. I want to write like that. I don’t want to be reserved with my writing just because I’m afraid of being obscene or inappropriate. Marilyn Manson’s song “mOBSCENE” has a line that goes “Be! Obscene! Be be obscene!” I’m going to be totally honest with everything I write to get my point across, and if it means being obscene in the process, so be it. I’m willing to take the risk. This green notebook is helping me stretch that ability and is nursing it to reach its full potential. I write how I feel instead of how I pretend I feel. I make up stories in my head and then write them down in poetic form. I create magic with my poetry.

So, I’m trying to be open-minded with everything I write. Even if I think it’s horrible, I keep it. Even if I think a subject is a little iffy to write about, I do it anyway. I’m broadening my horizons. I’m making way for the new – so, out with my old ways and techniques!

Here are samples of my random thoughts in poems from school days (I’m keeping this G-rated here):

You Don’t Know Me

I appear miserable all the time
angry, sad, never happy
to you, this appears to be quite the crime.
Oh, how you don’t know me.
I’m filled with laughter and smiles
and I know, laughter you can’t see
but even though I run miles and miles
I don’t think you know me.
You think you know all my quirks
and what I like to be
the truth is, I’m not the queen of jerks
which shows that you don’t know me.
For as long as there is air to breathe
nobody – nobody – will ever know me.

I would tell you how the sun rose
but I’ve never seen its birth.
I know that the light slowly grows
and gradually heats the Earth.

All I know is when I wake
her silky rays reach my eyes
I know there is no mistake –
I’m in the right place when I rise.

I would tell you how the sun rose
but you’re asking the wrong girl.
This secret, nobody but her knows.
We’re both little girls in a big world.

Alone,
hated,
discombobulated.
She’s alone,
hated
and discombobulated.
I…
I’m alone,
hated
and discombobulated.

Surrounded by millions, thousands, billions
she smiles for the camera constantly.
She’s mocked and her popularity’s docked
all around her, bodies are flocked.
She looks in the mirror, but cannot see.
The flashes blind her temporarily.

She faults in her footing, cameras still shooting
capturing a moment that lives on forever.
She’s harassed and so embarrassed…
never did she ask for this.
She looks for her shoe, but cannot see
the flashes blind her temporarily.

She never has that moment, the missing component
to calm herself down completely.
Not missing a beat, she’s again up and on her feet.
She struggles, but won’t admit defeat.
She walks on, but cannot see…
the flashes blind her permanently.