Beginning Again

I don’t know a lot of things. I don’t know what I’m doing here, or how this little space has remained empty for so long. I don’t know where to begin again, but I’d like to try. 

I don’t know a lot of things. I don’t know how to drive in the snow, or how I left home with no plans to return. And I don’t know how I feel about any of it. I don’t know how people survive these harsh winters year after year and never think about leaving, how they resist the temptation to give up because it is dreadful in a way I have never known. I don’t know how not to need the sun. 

I don’t know a lot of things, but I know I miss writing poems, though I was never any good at it. I know I miss holding your hand, though it was never completely right. I don’t know how to articulate this tangled mess of feelings, but I know I miss the blueness of you. I miss the parts of you my metaphors can’t touch. I never looked away when your eyes caught me studying you. Even now, I could write about the freckles behind your ears, the neatness of your fingernails, the way you scrunch your nose when you felt like my staring required a show, but not your blue. Maybe this will be my favorite mystery, maybe it’s like the ocean you always seemed to be longing for. Maybe this is the closest I’ll get. 

I don’t know a lot, but I know I’m in the midst of big things. I don’t know where I’ll be living in six months, where I’m headed or what I want, but I think I’m starting to learn who I am. I know I wish the world was a little bit kinder to itself, that I still believe love undesired is the biggest waste. I know that I’m resilient, I just forgot for a little while. 



A Bedtime Story

The air in my room is a little too still, so I crack the window and let the cool November night sing me to sleep. I bury my eyelashes in a soft pillowcase and wish for sleep to come quickly, just this once, a nightly ritual. It doesn’t, as has been the case all week. Despite the restlessness, my eyes are thankful for the rest the nighttime lends. Out the window I can hear cars pass on a highway a few blocks out, a murmur that blends with the breeze.

Clearly, distinctively, the sound of a train interrupts the rhythmic rustling of my body as I kick the sheets away, then pull them back.

I am a little girl again, burying my eyelashes in a soft pillowcase that smells of home, in a blue-walled sanctuary with soccer trophies on a bookshelf across from my bed. A train keeps me awake as it calls in the distance, warning the road of its presence. It’s strange how close it sounds, but it’s not close at all.

I know exactly how long it would take me to pedal there. It’s a long ride, one that takes me around Dead Man’s Curve, down the shaded street with speed bumps every ten yards, past the house with the mean horse, the sometimes-sweet goats, the streets named after flowers, and all the way down the big hill, the really big one with train tracks at the bottom. It’s not close. It’s a long ride, one I’m not allowed to make alone.

And in this new city, far from the room with the blue walls and a bookshelf now empty of childhood trophies, I’m having trouble remembering where I’ve passed a single set of train tracks, where a train could be running close enough I can hear it so clearly, so distinctively, warning the road of its presence.

Maybe it calls to me from the other side of the highway, where I only wander when I’m a little sad and a little lost. Maybe it’s a few blocks out, in a part of this city that remains more foreign to me than the rest. Maybe it’s far from me, past a set of streets named after flowers, at the bottom of a very big hill, a long bike ride away, one I’m still not quite old enough to make alone.



Season Sting

Today I ache for summer, for an open road with only one lane on each side, that weaves and winds and turns and stretches and couldn’t hold onto me if it tried. For time outside of coffee shops, for time with the stack of books beside my bed labeled “To Read When…” For a scratched CD scribbled “Summer 2010″ playing Sublime or Marvin Gaye or anything that sings to me from summers past through the warm wind that tangles my curls and reminds me that the glorious sun can heal everything, but stings a little. And I’ll take the sunburn and the Texas heat if it means I get to race to the lake after work on Friday and bury my toes under murky sandmud and stay up late playing music and eating snow cones because that’s what it means to me to be young and terrified of everything, especially growing up.

And I’m still young and terrified of everything, most certainly growing up, but everything else has changed.



I want a rooftop garden, or a porch with potted petunias, or even a dusty windowsill with tiny succulents to remind me I can keep something alive, to remind me to be thankful for the sun.
I want to make music every day.
I want to feel comfortable with my clumsiness, with my shaky voice.
I want to ask you what you’re thinking instead of guessing.
I want to stop writing about you.
I want to feel like someone worth Saturday mornings, worth sharing secrets, worth sharing silent spaces.
I want to stop pretending.
I want to live with fierce authenticity.
I want to toss away the irony, the apathy, the pretense, the bullshit.
I want to cry every time I hear that Death Cab song and always be terrified of my parents dying.
I want to stay up all night writing terrible poems.
I want to write about you until I understand.
I want to always remember what I love about writing.
I want to never compromise that for a career.
I want to care more but be a little less careful.
I want the questioning and certainty.
I want to settle in the unsettling contradictions.

I love abstractions, I love
to give them a nouny place to live,
a firm seat in the balcony
of ideas, while music plays.
I love them more than hard evidence
and shapely stones, more than money,
which can buy time, but not enough.

Stephen Dunn

Rainy, Reflection

When the truth is, I’m just getting started.

The potential for a Texas snow day when I was a kiddo was a sacred thing. Everyone knew about even the slightest possibility of wintry weather the night before, and I went to sleep with my fingers crossed, hoping my parents would wake me in the morning and tell me school was cancelled. And when morning inevitably came, I ate my cereal staring at the scrolling list of school closures, willing mine to appear in true Matilda mind-control form. I remember watching every name of the entire list multiple times, just to be sure I didn’t blink for a moment too long. And once or twice a year, the roads would freeze just enough to scare all of us into staying in for the day, or at least until ten when it would warm up enough to melt the ice, but leave the sloshy, frozen mess for us to have snowy/dirt-ball fights and build, let’s be honest, some very, very pathetic snowmen. But to me, those days were perfection.

My freshman year of college, we had an entire week cancelled due to what we melodramatically referred to as Snowpocalypse, a winter storm that covered the roads with ice and didn’t unfreeze for the entire week. I was living in the dorms at the time and we all spent the week watching day-long movie marathons and eating Ramen noodles. My roommate and I made a treacherous afternoon hike across the icy roads and sidewalks to a grocery store nearby, and I learned how to make snow ice-cream with condensed milk and vanilla extract.

I’m particularly clumsy in the rain, let alone the frozen kind. So when I pushed my front door open this morning, fumbling to balance my bicycle and the backpack full of books falling off my shoulder, and saw that my little stoop was covered with a thin layer of snow, I turned around and thought nah, better not. I traded my barely-warm-enough-to-be-considered-gloves for the real deal and spent an extra twenty minutes walking to work, breathing in the quiet morning.

As you may have learned from my post last week, winter and I aren’t exactly closely acquainted. I would happily live in parts of the world where winter is a season that passes  quickly and shows little sign of its presence. Wintertime in Texas means the formerly green and living world blends to a dull beige, which is a lot like summer, but everything feels a little heavier. Like Oskar and his heavy boots. And I feel a little lonelier, which I hate to talk about but maybe you feel the same.  And I say this because we only speak of loneliness when we’re laughing about our Netflix-watching habits, ice cream over-consumption, and late-night cigarettes. But winter is a little lonelier, and maybe Spring is like “the end of missing someone,” or if nothing else, a little more alive.

In any case, we’re not friends, winter and I. And while it was far earlier than I wanted to be awake and out of my cosy (and warm) sanctuary, the beautiful morning felt like a personal peace offering from Mr. Winter himself to this grumpy cold-weather-hating twenty-one-year-old. It felt like my own, however selfish and frivolous, and the snowy morning mostly melted away early before most of this little town was awake.

It was beautiful, and maybe even a bit magical, cliché and all. I was thankful to be reminded that while my love of winter is more of a one-morning stand with snow, it’s something that makes the tiny speck of life I get to call my own feel a little less heavy.


Read, Relevant

Re-reading, Re-writing, Relevant

I didn’t want to come here today and write about her on the anniversary of her death. It’s too easy, too predictable.
But here I am.

I write about Lily all the time, in poems and stories and little notes scribbled in the pages at the back of my calendar. I’ve been living in a world where Lily lives and dies over and over in drafting an essay for my nonfiction workshop, which has been difficult and helpful and altogether frustrating most days. I make myself confront her death all the time in writing because it seems to be the only way I know how to begin dealing and continue to deal with the reality of a world where my friend lived and no longer does.

For just a moment, let’s have an honest conversation about living and dying, one that isn’t blurred by promises of faith and religion, which I understand is an impossible request of me for some of you. But let’s try, okay? Sometimes I wish I had some profound sense of understanding regarding her death. I think that making sense of her death would bring about some kind of peace and closure. But I’m not sold that it’s closure that I want, and I may just be coming to this understanding as I type these words here, so forgive the disjointedness of this post.

What does closure even offer us, or better yet, what do we think it offers us? Does it make it easier to go about our lives without this person, those people? Do we think it’ll bring about normalcy, will it bring back the easiness of our lives before grief and loss? Even two years after her death, I’m not sure I want the easiness, not because I think closure means forgetting or anything like that. There’s something vital that comes with the unsettledness, something that I hope will challenge me to be a little more alive every day for the rest of my life. Right now, I think that the reality of life can be horrifyingly tragic simply because it is defined by mortality. But it is also precious, beautiful, and significant for exactly those reasons.

I don’t know.

Every day, Lily manages to teach me how to live. She pushes me to work harder, to string words together more beautifully and gracefully. She teaches me to say “I love you” when I mean it, and “I’m sorry” when my pride would otherwise keep me from doing so. I don’t have any words for where I think she is and I don’t know how to answer when Victoria asks me if I ever feel her. I don’t know the answer to that.

But sometimes, when the leaves on the trees turn to copper and orange, the same colors of the sunset she took a picture of in Lima before she died, I like to think of her telling me she hears me through the wind that blows chimes hanging from trees in that sad garden where artificial flowers grow next to her red shoes. And I suppose that’s enough for now.

“I know a planet where there is a certain red-faced gentleman. He has never smelled a flower. He has never looked at a star. He has never loved any one. He has never done anything in his life but add up figures. And all day he says over and over, just like you: ‘I am busy with matters of consequence!’ And that makes him swell up with pride. But he is not a man — he is a mushroom!”

“A what?”

“A mushroom!”

The little prince was now white with rage.

“The flowers have been growing thorns for millions of years. For millions of years the sheep have been eating them just the same. And is it not a matter of consequence to try to understand why the flowers go to so much trouble to grow thorns which are never of any use to them? Is the warfare between the sheep and the flowers not important? Is this not of more consequence than a fat red-faced gentleman’s sums? And if I know — I, myself — one flower which is unique in the world, which grows nowhere but on my planet, but which one little sheep can destroy in a single bite some morning, without even noticing what he is doing — Oh! You think that is not important!”

His face turned from white to red as he continued:

“If some one loves a flower, of which just one single blossom grows in all the millions and millions of stars, it is enough to make him happy just to look at the stars. He can say to himself, ‘Somewhere, my flower is there…’ But if the sheep eats the flower, in one moment all his stars will be darkened… And you think that is not important!”

He could not say anything more. His words were choked by sobbing.

The night had fallen. I had let my tools drop from my hands. Of what moment now was my hammer, my bolt, or thirst, or death? On one star, one planet, my planet, the Earth, there was a little prince to be comforted. I took him in my arms, and rocked him. I said to him:

“The flower that you love is not in danger. I will draw you a muzzle for your sheep. I will draw you a railing to put around your flower. I will — “

I did not know what to say to him. I felt awkward and blundering. I did not know how I could reach him, where I could overtake him and go on hand in hand with him once more.

It is such a secret place, the land of tears.

The Little Prince

Reflection, Relevant

Pep Talk for the In-betweens

Let’s talk about the in-betweens for a moment. About the not yet, not quite, might be, may be, could be, would be, and should be. Let’s talk about the space in between love and not love, and forever and never was at all. Let’s talk about what you might be one day. I’m not sure what that is exactly, but I know you’re not there yet. Maybe you’ll be an artist, an explorer, a lover, or something more than this human-in-training, this intern in life. Unfortunately I can’t tell you when you’ll make it, and I certainly can’t guarantee you ever will, but I guess you’ll have to trust that you’ll know if for sure once you get there, you’ll feel it. Or maybe things will change enough that it’ll be clear. Maybe you’ll wear a ring on your left hand and the women at your Thursday book club will talk about how they feel guilty for hating their monster children sometimes, but never in those words. Then you’ll know. Or maybe your job will pay you more than minimum wage and you’ll use that money to buy life insurance and throw pillows. Congratulations, you adult, you. But, more likely, you continue to wonder when you’ll get somewhere else. I wish I could tell you for sure. Unfortunately, you might just have to learn to take yourself seriously and hope the universe follows suit. You might have to value yourself as a human being with potential, and you just might have to demand others do the same. You might have to make your own rules and roll with the punches when they don’t work out. And chances are they won’t because life is unpredictable and messy, and that’s precisely what you love most about it. If all of this living and breathing was simply working towards an end, I think it’d be pretty grim. But it’s not; it’s a brilliant adventure, one that’s full of clichés but the world doesn’t cross them out in red ink. So don’t trade your dreams for certainty. Call it love after it fails. Make the art that you love. Never stop learning.