and i feel the pleasant swell
of all i don’t understand swirling inside me
that mysterious mixture that becomes my reality
and i stand poised at the edge of the night
astonished by the secrets she holds just out of reach
glimmering with unknown hope
along with all the stars in the sky
Towards the end of 2018, my mother gave me a dream journal.
My sister didn’t want it, as she preferred to hold us captive with the long, winding tales of her half-sensical dreams, so I decided to take it and give it a new purpose.
A poetry notebook.
For most of my life, I didn’t “get” poetry. I thought it was hard to understand, tried too hard and barely made sense. That was, until I spent my junior year bored in a literature class, slyly scrolling through the Poetry Foundation’s website and transcribing my favorites into my journal. Gradually, I began to “get it.” I began to see that poetry is more diverse than stuffy old romantics — no shade to anyone who loves Wordsworth or Shelley.
The first time my pen touched paper on the dream-turned-poetry notebook, it was to transcribe a poem: “Hug O’ War” by Shel Silverstein. The second time, however, it was a shoddy attempt at writing my own, and from that point on the notebook gained new life. I’ve journaled regularly since I was 13 years old, but poetry provided a new space for exploration. Exploration of my life, my emotions, things I had known and things I had only dreamed of. As a young girl, or a girl of any age in this world, beauty is a precious commodity too often exploited by companies or romantic partners seeking their own gain. Here was a space of my own, where I could make my life feel beautiful with pen and paper in my hand. Where I could create without fear of judgment.
Now, closing in on four years later, I am one poem away from filling a second notebook. I have covered each page with scraps, musings, doodles, emotions, 108 poems and a living record of the person I was, and the one I am becoming.
Here lies the record of my dreams of love before I’d done anything more than hold someone’s hand:
I couldn’t sleep last night / so I thought of you
Traversing the twisted time-torn / plateaus of burnt hedge maze
garden swing I ended / lost in your eyes and in my mind
(Treatise on Insomnia (1), written September 2018)
Here lies my anxiety for the terrible potential of an uncontrollable world:
how do I live with no end?
how can I cope with loss
that hasn’t yet begun?
(Lilies on the table, written Oct. 15, 2019)
Here lies my attempt to understand the various forms love can take:
the memory of spring ties me to you
spiraling stems clutch wire and spin toward open sky
shadowed umbrella leaves drip cool, unfiltered water
daydreams cloud my reality
like the burgeoning clouds darken the sky
(to evergreen, written July 26, 2020)
Here lies the memory of wildfires running rampant through Oregon, the weekend I left for college in a world already ravaged by disease:
I wake to hazy sun and sky I cannot see
ash falls with no instruction, no direction
like fresh snow drifting slowly
celebrating this apocalypse world
(A message from the end of the world, written Aug. 22, 2020)
Here lies the first poem I wrote about a boy far away from me, who I had only met once but couldn’t stop thinking about:
I hope you hold my hand again / when at last we get to meet
I’ll hug you on my tiptoes then / I’ll float right off my feet
(KA, written March 15, 2021)
Here lies my joy almost eight months later when we celebrated six months of dating:
The aspens shake and I can hear their golden coin leaves dance
a shimmering, quivering, tumbling sound
I hear your voice and I take your hand
blinded by the sun we have created
(Bright, written Nov. 4, 2021)
I love to write poetry because, no matter how good or bad I think it is, I have created something that didn’t exist before me. The words I put down on the page are a celebration of my life, my flaws, my joys, my confusion and my celebration.
As a freshman at BYU-Idaho I attended a poetry workshop, the same poetry workshop I now teach each week. In it, the student running the workshop said something that I immediately immortalized in scrawled handwriting in the corner of my notebook.
When I wrote Lilies on the table in 2019, I didn’t know my dad would be diagnosed with cancer and I’d have to face my fear of loss firsthand. When I wrote Treatise on Insomnia (1) in 2018, I had no idea what romantic love felt like or that I would get to experience it myself within the next three years.
I am just a person among billions of people, each living our separate lives with our own meaning and unknown storylines. Yet, through poetry, I have found a way to celebrate and memorialize the moments that pass so quickly. I am no longer the same person I was when I started writing poetry, yet every poem I have ever written and every version of myself I have ever been lives within me to this day.
With every word I write I strive to be authentic and honest. To embrace the beauty of every terrible, blessed moment. To do as Ellen Bass says in her poem The Thing Is: “To hold life like a face between my palms, a plain face, no charming smile, no violet eyes, and say, ‘Yes, I will take you. I will love you, again.'”
and I know my life may be mundane
but each day I find myself in awe
the smell of the rain as I open the door
and moody brilliance of the freshly emptied sky
reminding me of all that’s waiting to be discovered
(untitled, written January 2021)