Some Personal Poetry

I am signaling you through the flames.

The North Pole is not where it used to be.

Manifest destiny is no longer manifest.

Civilization self-destructs.

Nemesis is knocking at the door.

What are poets for, in such an age?

What is the use of poetry?

The state of the world calls out for poetry to save it.

–Lawrence Ferlinghetti, “Poetry as Insurgent Art”

I am unabashedly in love with poetry of all forms. From the staples of Shakespeare, to the metaphysical meanderings of John Donne, to Poe, Ferlinghetti, Rosetti, Aiken, Plath, Frost… the list could go on. Even the new, viral “short form” poems have a special place in my heart, especially those of Nayyirah Waheed. After all, music has always moved me deeply, and what is poetry but music with prose?

My great-grandmother was a poet, amongst many other roles, and she introduced me to the art at a very young age. I think I was just learning to read when she shared with me the poems that she had written over the years, many published in local magazines and newspapers. Sadly, many of her poems are lost to the ages, and as much as I have scoured the attic, I cannot find any clippings or collections.

Hermie, the mother, poet, model, writer, and avid gardener.

I suppose this combination of genuine love of the art, plus the relativity of it is what would eventually lead me to try my hand at poetry myself. It has been many years, but recently, over the summer, I felt the cadence coming back to me. I wanted to write poetry again, so I did. Very hastily, my first one in over 12 years spilled out onto a Google doc, of all things, as I sat on the beach at Ocracoke Island.

Now, that’s not one of the two poems that I will share tonight, as it isn’t quite finished yet. But what I do have, in the hopes that sharing these two will give me courage to share more as I write, are two poems from my youth. I was a Sophomore at North Carolina State University, taking my first creative writing class. Interestingly enough, I had written the poems prior to the class, but that class would be the first time they were shared with anyone but myself.

In those days, I was heavily influenced by Plath, Poe, Frost, and Donne. I remember shaking as I read them aloud to my peers in the class. They enjoyed them greatly and had little criticism even though I didn’t think they were very good. My instructor, however, looked very serious and pulled me aside after class.

“I need to see you in my office.”

To make a long story short, I followed him, terrified, back to his office right then and there. It was in that cramped little office, filled from floor to ceiling with books, that he told me that I should consider changing my major (then, Elementary Education with a minor in Japanese) to English. He said I had talent as a writer and he’d like to mentor me.

At the time, I was trying to please any and everyone but myself, so I demurred. There was no way that I could ever be a writer, because my mother wanted me to be a teacher. I wish I could go back and tell my 20-year old self to take that path, but alas, that is what hindsight is for. Plus, in my mind, (and even still to this day), I’m not that talented.

So clearly my life didn’t take that route, however the love of poetry and writing in general has never left me.

In that spirit, and without further comment, I present to you 2 poems from a long ago time ago, in the days of my troubled youth:

Strayed

I fell into a rabbit hole
while chasing an eternal sun
that slithered ’round the wrists
and the fingertips of a dream that
was not mine. And oh, how
bright it burned down to the marrow
of my broken bones.

I fell into a rabbit hole
and was bound there by my spine to
sweet lies and sour loves from the
mouths of snakes and swine. And,
oh, how tight they wove the wires,
mired to the marrow
of my broken bones.

A Song Fell Out of My Mouth

and dripped down my shoulders,
slipped past my elbows,
and twisted round my fingers,
to set the keys on fire,
and light up a room long emptied.

it filled the air and,
every breath was sweeter than the last,
warming my soul as it
wrapped itself around my heart,
and died there.

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