Cherry Vanilla Soda, Haikus I Keep Under My Pillow and the Now/Then Conundrum

Cherry Vanilla Soda

They say that to preserve a memory,

you must tie a red ribbon around

its picture frame, red mixed with wood;

once the glue holding the ribbon flat

has come undone, you must bury the picture

in the place you made your memory.

I have taken all our photographs

off the walls, burying them underneath

my bed instead of underground,

and braiding the memories

into my hair. I have never been one

to follow traditions. In truth,

you and I were refracting magnets,

pushing back and forth until

the very end. My nostalgia

is irresponsible and if you ask me,

I think it has overstayed its welcome

because I can still feel the angel’s kiss

of August morning’s heat in my hair,

the tangy teal toothpaste lingering

on your lips, the starlight smiles

and sadness as black as my hair that

I can now watch only through pictures.

Perhaps I may start burying.

 

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Haikus I Keep Under My Pillow

Glass jar in the sky-

its stars inhibit moonshine,

charred cosmic escape.

A sailboat, clockwork

soaring through clouds of the sea,

minute hand ticking.

Wooden corn contains

whispered secrets on our lips

while we lie in rest.

Dark eyes, a landscape;

melodic melancholy,

celestial sleep.

 

The Now/Then Conundrum

Here’s what I used to do.

I used to look at you and see heavy billows of mist blown along by autumn winds through sprouting trees. I used to look at you and see wintergreen air kissing frosted windows, the dark wooden panes burned by your embers. I used to sit on mountaintops with you and watch sunshadows dance across the sky in kaleidoscopic bursts of wistful violets, dazzling empty teal, burnt orange charcoal. I used to collect the shaved damp bark of dying willow trees and keep it in my pocket because they it was your favorite tree. I used to wake up to your body folded into me, the flawless shape of a fragile dahlia — sunlit morning honey running its gingery finger down your collarbone. I used to pick you snapdragons and waxflowers, climbing nightshades and rosemary so you could tuck them in your pocket for good luck. I used to tell you outlandish superstitions about the way people used to love under those tempestuous December skies, watch your mouth curl up into the whisper of a smile.

Now, though. Now is now is not then is only today is now. I wake up at six am when the obsidian blankets of night fall away and leave blooming clouds of soft blue in their wake and reach for you, my brain stuck on the idea that you never left, grabbing empty air instead. I now watch you kiss rosy-cheeked girls like you used to kiss the rose on my arm. I now learn to braid moonshine and joy into my hair to absorb their radiance. I now become a teacher to my own heart, lessons and lessons of how to feel okay alone again. I now feel aware of my body’s every move, the pulse in my chest, the subtle tremble of my fingertips, the flush in my face. I now feel you everywhere and nowhere. I now breathe in April air through cupped hands and throw out handfuls of light. I now watch your life in pictures and remember how your heart used to beat like a slow, steady drum: you were, you were, you were. What was once is no longer breathing.

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What’s in a Poem?

A few weeks ago I asked a friend of mine what her favorite season was. She told me summer, because in the lazy heat of the season she felt more secure stepping outside; to her, cold weather was like an invader chilling her to the bones. There was an apparent association between snow and fear. When asked, I’ve always said that winter is my favorite season (Christmas, snow, warm nostalgia by the fireplace, what’s not to love?), but just recently I’ve realized that I despise winter, much for the same reason my friend does. Rather, I am more in love with the concept of winter. I told my friend about this, and she said, “That’s why I don’t trust poetry. It unabashedly romanticizes everything. Though miraculously structured and made savory through choice diction… poetry is a lie.” I thought about this for a while. Do I agree? Not quite. I think that poets are experts at taking the mundane and turning it into the extraordinary. Though guilty of viewing the world through “rose-colored lenses,” I would not go as far as to say that writing is a lie.

Webster’s Dictionary defines poetry as “Writing that formulates a concentrated imaginative awareness of experience in language chosen and arranged to create a specific emotional response through meaning, sound and rhythm.” Simply put, poetry practices digging deeper into ordinary language, essentially “painting a picture with words.” From Keats-style romance to Japanese tankas whispered on the lips of lovers to Ars Poetica, a detailed twenty-four-line poem about poetry itself, this unique style of writing manifests in colorful variety. Poets carry within us this deep, instinctive urge to convey our thoughts through words rather than pictures, in metaphors rather than concrete terms. It isn’t about applying a simple rhyme scheme and some line breaks to words — that’s not what a poem is. Sure, rhyming is used in many types of poetry, but I have surveyed dozens of non-writers from around my school, and nearly everyone defined a poem in the Shakespearean sense, which does not encompass all poetry. My personal favorite is free-verse, for example. There are no rules, no syllable counts to follow. To me, writing a poem free-verse feels like picking out words and feeling them, tasting them on your tongue, allowing them to absorb your thoughts with gentle hands and then flow from your fingertips. Or perhaps stealing the sun from the sky just for a moment so that everything goes black except for the grandiose, blinding light illuminating only your words on the paper.

Poems are spontaneous and strong-willed, often taking on a mind of their own. I typically find it hard to stay on subject when I sit down to start writing, because my brain takes an idea and runs with it, and the end product is hardly recognizable. One of my favorite things to compare, though possibly banal, is seasons with moods. Living with Bipolar II, my moods are often correlated directly with seasonal changes, so this makes sense. When I think of winter, I think of steel and ice, headaches from the brisk, unforgiving wind, morning cigarettes leaving an acrid taste in your mouth, fitful sleep, dawn coming down through violet clouds. Summer, to me, is hazy white, fading in and out of lucidity, manic bursts of my soul on fire, fainting from the heat, blurred melancholy. Spring and autumn are sisters in hand, twin souls, two maple trees with their leaves kissed to ash by lightning. In spring, snapdragons, waxflowers, climbing nightshades and baby’s-breath come to life, peek out from underneath thawing leaves to make sure it is safe to bloom. In autumn, that same life is taken away by whistling winds from the north; burnt orange and charcoal clouds.

There is an endless list of things to be said about poetry. It is the deadly calm before the storm and the falling asleep in the wreckage after it has passed. It is scribbling down racing thoughts on a torn napkin because you forgot to bring your notebook that day but couldn’t bear to let the idea float away. It is telling the truth in raw imagery; tranquil yet rageful, standing ceasefire yet waging war. My only hope is that one day I find the words to give back to poetry what it has given me, this beautiful gift of expression.