Poetry: Communicating With Our Sense of Being
Poetry is the most precise form of expression, providing words to thoughts and feelings in a way that forms a connection with ourselves and others, reminding us all when we read it that we are a collective, that we are not alone, despite the fact that we are individuals. The precision with language in poetry is necessary to capture exactness when describing the world, interior and exterior. That exactness is the thing that makes poetry different from other types of writing. That exactness is the reason it communicates with our sense of being rather than just our intellect.
flowers to your
you were dead.
they died too,
though no one
And had I
before you left,
No. I had to stop
I had to keep
loving the world.
What’s left of you
has no way to
by the horror
as I do. Still,
here you are
at the edge
“When was the last time you visited Elena’s grave?” Julie asks. We’re sitting on the terrace of my small apartment in Zihuatanejo, an open bottle of wine on the table between us.
I don’t know what to say. Why does it matter when I last visited the grave? We’re all allowed to mourn in our own way. Mine was to escape—to start a new life 2,000 miles away.
“I can’t remember,” I say. “I don’t live in the same city as the grave anymore. You do realize how weird it would be for me to fly up to California just to go to the cemetery, right?”
“Don’t you think it’s important?” Julie scolds. “She was your sister, too.”
We often argue about things related to Elena. What would Elena have thought when I quit my fancy academic job to live in this small beach town in Mexico as a freelance writer? What would Elena say about Julie’s new solar panels on her house? Julie projects her own judgments onto Elena now that she’s gone, but Elena was never one to judge.
“Why did you come down here, Julie?”
“I wanted to see you, to make sure you’re happy with, I don’t know, being here. I was reading that depression might be genetic.”
After Elena’s suicide, Julie developed deep lines on her face. She is only 28, but she looks ten years older. I’m older than she is, but no one would guess that anymore.
“I’m happy,” I tell her. “Teaching left me no time to write. My whole life was in a classroom or grading papers.”
Silence. Silence means she's telling herself secrets. Good. I don't want to hear them.
“It is a beautiful town. You’re learning Spanish—that’s really cool. And the sunsets here are incredible. Elena would have loved them.”
“Why don’t you move down here too?” I ask. “You could be my neighbor.”
I know she would never move. She has her house and her job and her garden and her solar panels. She has Elena’s grave to take care of. I nod to the African violet sitting on the bookshelf.
“I keep Elena’s favorite plant by the window. It’s something. A gravestone is just a symbol. She’s not really there anymore. You know that, right?”
Julie ignores me. She checks her phone, and I stare at the wilting violets. They don’t do well in the heat—this isn’t anything like their natural climate. But they’re surviving.
Julie asks, “Why is it so easy for you?”
As she finishes the question, she’s already started sobbing. The waves are crashing loudly into the shore today. I can hear them from here on the terrace. I look out over the bay, my new home, and think, Elena would have loved this. Then I reach over to hug my sister. It’s peaceful, all of it, even her soft sobs.
“It’s not easy,” I say. “Elena is dead. That was her choice. But we are still alive. That can mean something great, if you let it.”
The Lime Trees
The house was falling apart. You know,
shutters hanging, closet door off its tracks,
some wide blinking
brown eyes through the jagged hole
in the middle. Someone kicked it.
Chipping paint shaping a new Pangaea
across the walls. I got lost
peeling it like I would dead
sunburnt skin on my shoulders.
Leaks from where the roof was flat,
a crack curving down the center
of the porcelain tub that we used to
fill with hot water and soak
together in overflowing bubbles
like nothing was
wrong. The end always
us fucking on the damp blue rug
beside us. Once I tried to blame
the hurricanes, but they never came,
only some heavy rain. In truth, the wind
had been calm for a long time. Some nights
were empty, not just the lot
of empty bottles around, beer,
some rum. Part of an old poem was taped
to the fridge. It said
the art of losing isn’t hard to master
before you ripped it down. I learned
about the difference between love
and attachment from a book first
and then from you.
If I could hate, I could hate you
for kicking the closet door
that time you tried to kick my dog,
for that time you kicked my dog.
Then she started hiding in the closet
every time you raised your voice.
You even kicked
the two baby lime trees
which I bought just before you moved in
and perched with sticks until they were strong
enough to hold themselves up. You never kicked me,
because as much as it might seem like I mentioned
the lime trees to serve as a metaphor for me, they’re not.
I left the day you threw a glass jar of coconut oil
at my face, which was only a day after you started
all the kicking. I can’t say I didn’t
cry a lot, or that it wasn’t excruciating
to walk away and so fast.
I did, and it was.
But the way memory works
is not so easy.
I still remember how you'd
hold me in your metal arms
like a magnet.
Pascal Said Always Keep Something Beautiful In Your Mind
Raindrops on roses, Angels on MDMA, to feel the boundaries of your skin, you know who you are, expansiveness, singing nothing lasts forever while knowing full well everything we are is at every moment alive in us, thanks Arthur Miller, who is thanking California, and I’m thanking Barcelona.
Did I ever think Guns N Roses would find in me the honest questions? No, I didn’t. But that’s the magic, like the sunrise, all there alone, just the new light and me, walking to the metro in a big red backpack to catch a flight to somewhere, a window seat, close my eyes.
When I discover that DMT is the same chemical as dreaming, when I hear four-hundred-thirty-two is the frequency that can heal you, when I find light conversations about semicolons and the emotional impact of pauses, when I know for sure that transparency really works, so keep trying, I’ll keep trying. I’ve been making myself say all the hard things. Music enters me like walking into a church, I have a center it can find so easy easy.
Do you know how often I sit among the clouds? Once I saw moonlight flashing through them like a flame. When I say I love you, what else does it mean? Living with all the transluscents is ok, let them go. Don’t think about them every day.
Keep something beautiful in your mind, the way of swaying in the dark on a stowed bed beneath the wooden planks of a sailboat, out there, the big smell of water, Chaos, that’s real, too, every minor wind a gate ajar. More honest and it’s quieter, it’s July, you fell asleep in my lap, your feet were touching mine.
In a previous life, someone says what the fuck is this between us, a face so disgusted by it like it was ugly instead of one of the great wonders of the universe. It killed me inside, bombed one of my rooms. Confession and confession and still so much is secret. I dream in sliding, muffled, mythic electric guitar on my best nights, me quedo enamorado del mundo en español, falsetto, emoji corazones, el vino (ya sabes), el mar, the bag of teeth that materialized after Maria’s hijo realized the tooth fairy isn’t real.
Barcelona, I cried for the first time today since I arrived. Do you know how often I record the silence? This is all there is. This. Do you know I’ve photographed the teeth marks you left on me? That I’ve let my fingers rest there falling into sleep? Do you know how I’ve been afraid? Pascal said always keep something beautiful in your mind. The moon is full in this moment, and night makes me feel alive, I’m going to sit on my balcony and drink Rioja, and you know, I like being alone, I’d even call it loneliness.
I remember when we met, my soul and me. Now it’s easier to see everyone.
The bank of mud and shells, the white bog lilies gently adrift, breathing, a frog,
not a prince, but a nightmare of hiccupping echoes, sobs, its long song from a hollow throat, and a hollower hollow, an empty house, each room where someone used to sleep, and a pond in a cemetery where they would feed the geese, the children sneaking pieces of bread meant for the animals into their little mouths.
What is it like at first, sleeping in her bed with her husband? I can't answer, or I won't. Some wife without a face, someone’s daughter, or someone's mother. In fact, all the faces are faceless, missing details a dream would. I am wading into a bog. He gives me a sunflower, a heavy and tall one that towers over me. I hold its stem in my hand until it slumps over and smacks my head, sending yellow petals drifting to the thick peaty surface.
The moon disappears behind a cottony cloud. We are in their kitchen now. It's late. He whispers, almost inaudibly, Can you keep a secret? Not a question, but an invitation. My smile is slow and mischievous. Not guilty, not that I know of, not yet.
A woman is crying in a room lit golden and dim. She is holding her sons while they stare off blankly into the walls. I am alone in an adjacent room, the lights fluorescent and harsh buzzing like drowned out voices, like bees knocked out of their hive.