It was the first day in May, and the morning air felt static with promise. I was up early. Still sleepy and warm from the shower, I stood at the top of my stairway and watched the first rays of sun break over the peak of the mountains to the east. The sunlight was falling between peaks in veil-like beams. I grabbed my phone from the nightstand and snapped a picture.
Not wanting to wake my girls, I crept downstairs to begin my morning ritual in the usual way, seeking a fresh cup of coffee. I opened the fridge to get creamer, and as I closed it I found remnants of my daughter’s poem she’d made with my magnetic poetry set the night before. It said:
Her smile was a river in the music of her voice.
I paused and read it again, and again, letting the words swirl around inside my head. My eight-year-old did this. She created this and simply left it there. Not worried if it made sense to anyone but her. Not wondering if anyone would accept it as art, or as truth. I remembered feeling that way…a very long time ago.
I poured my coffee and fingered at the small rectangles of words left inside the magnetic poetry box. Not looking at the words, I placed the first two squares I picked up on the fridge. Morning, and joy. I stared for a few minutes at the light shining in through a high window, and then I found the rest of the words I was seeking, or rather, they found me.
Pure, effortless, and serendipitously meant for no-one else but me in that exact second of my life. Poetry.
I felt inspired, empowered. It was a gift, to be able to start the day this way. I remembered all the times in my life when and why I’d written poetry: For heartbreak, for love, for inspiration, to remember, and to forget. Poetry was a part of me even when I had chosen to stop writing it.
In that second, some strange, sure voice from within me made a promise. I would create a new poem every day in May. There would be no rules, except to write without rules, and that it had to be something new—not something I’d ever written before.
In the next second I remembered a discussion Lori and I had about the boundless power behind being vulnerable, and so I decided I was going to share my poems publicly. I’d post them on my Facebook timeline. As I quietly readied myself for the day, there were voices in my head telling me why I couldn’t, shouldn’t do it. But there was one soft, sure voice telling me why I had to. It took me a few days to truly hear her reasons. But eventually, I did:
My writing tends to be overrun by emotion. Sometimes, it’s a good thing, but usually it’s problematic, because simple things tend to get overstated. For so many years, for so many reasons I smothered my desire and ability to write. Shut down by censorship and self-doubt, the emotion built up and bottlenecked, and when I finally led myself back to writing, it came gushing out like a volcano. Poetry is emotion, and writing it every day, without limitation was a way to release the raw veins of it that remained.
It was time. I needed to show myself that I truly wasn’t afraid to be what I was. I wasn’t afraid to be judged or criticized or talked about behind closed doors, or even out in the open. I live in a place where the culture tends to oppress people into sameness. And as much as I told myself I wasn’t affected by it, of course there were parts of me that were.
On the fourth day I wrote about a time in my life when I felt suffocated by this very phenomenon. It was a night that I remembered well, lying sleepless in my bed, overcome with anxiety. I finally could take no more and went running barefoot into the night, not sure whether I was trying to run to…or escape from.
Saturday May 4th
Inside my house
its tight and warm
Inside my heart
a brewing storm
I rush for the door;
a war to end war
unable to breathe
for one second more
Afraid and closed in
for the fear
I might disappear.
I wrote this poem, and it was the first time I realized exactly why I was running. In fact, I learned something new every time I wrote. I learned that I could create amidst the most chaotic days. I learned that sometimes, the creative part of me just needed to sink into the narrows of my mind and hide, and that it was useless to try to force it out. I learned that I could accept criticism as mere publicity, instead of shrink away from it like a wilting flower. I learned that as a writer, my abilities can reach far beyond the recesses of my own experience, channeling others’ emotions and stories into my poems.
Often, it was free verse that came out, but sometimes a rhyme seemed to find its way into the story. Other times it was just one line, serving only one purpose. At one point, a friend who has also long denied herself of her love of writing became compelled to do a week of poetry for herself. I told myself that if nothing else came of my experiment, at least I had reached out to one other doubtful soul.
Sometimes I wrote a poem, shook my head and laughed. Sometimes I wrote something and then closed myself in a room and cried. And a few times I wondered if I was reading someone else’s mind. But I think the most powerful idea that became of my month of poetry hit me as I wrote this poem:
I searched for light
In the darkest of spaces
Finding my Purpose
in all the wrong places:
My parents quiet choices
my teachers’ silk words.
In the arms of lovers
The untamed flight of birds.
I found vines of it
elusive and wild
in the blue of the eyes
of my youngest child.
My yearning for Purpose
Long held captive by fear.
What I thought I had lost
Became suddenly clear:
For all that will be
And for all that had been
What I was without…
Was always within.
I finished the last verse and posted it on my page with my heart pounding. It was uncensored truth, served up in a verse, that I created both by looking both inward and outward at myself. I had rediscovered what I had once known. Poetry was always within. It is the firm, quiet hope that moves me forward into my writing and into my life.
Why did I write and share a poem every day in May? It was my purpose.
Thanks for reading.