I truly believe you’re either born a poet or forged into one – but I can’t decide where that leaves me.
I’ve been a poet longer than almost anything else – my love for poetry just barely predates my trauma and the subsequent illnesses it wrought. Poetry was my coping mechanism long before I understood what I had survived. Words just make sense in a way that numbers and figures never quite managed.
April is National Poetry Month, intended to expose the nation to the beauty and calamity of words. Poetry is where I began. My first poem was published in Highlights magazine before I was old enough to type. It was about the wind. There was an owl. That’s all I remember. But I dictated the poem to my mother and I was so proud when she printed it out. Proud, but nervous. Once it was sent to the magazine, it wasn’t my poem anymore. But we have the print in my closet, locked away under other little memories deemed soft enough to treasure.
And so I was a poet.
I won an award at Tattered Covers. It was expected that the winners would read their work aloud but I couldn’t, not in the slightest, so I trembled behind my mother instead. She read about the wind and I shook, face red, my words so separate from myself that I could barely stand to hear them. Then the crowd applauded! And suddenly the fear and dread melted into something different, something I have struggled to define in the years since.
It was like being heard for the first time.
I hope I smiled then, but it’d be true to form if I had cried instead.
They Could’ve Been Dancing
we’re packed into a storage house
past its prime, plastered with graffiti and
band stickers and my friend’s glitter
bombs from five shows ago that never
I don’t know any of the songs but
that boy has my heart in one hand
and my hand in the other and
I’m shouting beneath my skin, eyes open,
watching the men grab each other
as if music, like weeds, grew
around a structure and said
this will be enough.”