A poem of all the poems I haven’t been writing:
The birds that speak to me in a language
I do not speak but wish that I did.
The migraine feeling and the pain that
changes shape just when I’m not looking at it.
The crickets that lay beside me
under the muted color quilt,
singing a song without words.
The mist that sleeps in the valley.
The loneliness that sits on my shoulder
changing words before they enter my ears.
The learning that visits daily and leaves
me reminders of where to check for the light.
The gratitude that places its
gifts right at my fingertips.
The joy that sneaks up on me like
a slow snow, covering the land right at my feet.
Approximately 13 months ago, I moved into my aunt’s home in Santa Barbara. I spent 7 months working at a coffee shop; biking around town; reading and walking on the beach; seeing more of California and the western states; and recovering from the sleep loss of my senior year of high school.
In March, I stayed for a week with my closest friends in a hostel in Chicago. I took an Amtrak train for twelve hours to Mississippi and saw both sets of my grandparents. I traveled to Kenya for two weeks to say goodbye to my once-upon-a-time home and to friends.
At the beginning of April, I settled on an organic dairy farm in the Netherlands. I spent a lovely two months there, and then two too-short weeks on a sweet biodynamic produce farm. I spent those long spring days learning how to muck cow stalls; teach a calf to drink from a bucket; make cheese; say 10 ice cream flavors in Dutch; plant lettuce sprouts; clean onions; eat tayberries; and pick red currants. I met so many kind people and fell in love with the flat, green land of Holland.
Returning to the present: I am back in the US, with my parents and brother in our new condo in our old home, Nashville, Tennessee. It’s such a joy to be in a familiar town with long-time friends.
In a few days, I will start university at a small school outside of Asheville, North Carolina. I will settle into the deep, blue mountains and continue to thank the Universe for my whirlwind of a gap year.
As much as I’d love to, I couldn’t possibly tell you everything. Instead, I’ve compiled a list of all the places I’ve spent at least one night in the past thirteen months and linked is a poem I wrote there. I think it says enough.
It was a journey, folks. Thank you for following along, and thank you for reading.
There are some moments that write themselves
Into a poem by their very occurrence.
The sunrise, for instance.
The air still light with the moon’s chill.
The waking watchers waiting on the rocks and
The blanket over their feet.
The man and his dog panting into the water.
The singular, lucid moment when finally
Once again the Sun slides above the sea.
There are moments such as these:
When you move your body in a dance,
The way it was made to move from the
Very moment you rose from the primordial water.
There are such moments as these that write themselves
Simply by occurring, that write themselves
To tell you what your eyes have forgotten.
This is the way the sun comes up over the Indian Ocean:
A painting erupts
out of the long darkness
of a Kenyan night.
The clouds wait for the sun like
disciples who wait for the Coming.
They face due east, their edges slowly, slowly
turning white then orange with anticipation.
The birds, small white and black creatures,
flit over the low ocean, flipping and diving and flying as if
escaping a monster that has long since given up.
The sand — coarse and forgiving, “a pearly rubble” —
slopes down toward the ever reaching fingers of the waves.
The crabs scuttle back and forth, carefully
and methodically digging a temporary home for themselves,
knowing that the waves will come again and again.
Their eyes are attentive and their legs quick.
The palm trees lean toward the sea.
Always rejoicing, they offer their branches
The baobab tree stands in the shadow
of its own branches, the leaves dark green.
Grandparent of the ages, it is
playground and home to the monkeys.
What I’m saying is this:
We have been made as alive as the
ocean and clouds and sand and crabs
and palm trees and the baobab and monkeys.
Happy as a bratwurst and a German beer.
Happy as a shuka in the shade.
Happy as a shuka by a river.
Happy as a found water bottle.
Happy as an under construction fountain.
Happy as a bridge with locks.
Happy as a free plate of pasta.
Happy as an astronomy student.
Happy as a gin and tonic.
Happy as a game of gin.
Happy as a hand to hold.
Happy as a book to read.
Happy as a football game.
Happy as a drunk man sitting on a table.
Happy as an apple.
Happy as an unbitten fingernail.
Happy as a setting sun on a church.
Happy as a singing rower.
Happy as a forest 50 km outside the city.
Happy as a park on a hill.
Happy as an old cemetery.
Happy as a park to nap in.
Happy as a breath in a church.
Happy as a quiet laugh.
Happy as a comfortable pillow.
Happy as a 7:30 alarm.
Happy as an echo in the valley.
Happy as a crawdad among the stones.
Happy as a wild cherry.
Happy as two kids on a train.
Happy as you and me.
In the early days of my Facebook and my life in Nairobi,
I posted a picture with the caption,
“I found my twin in Africa.”
The picture, taken on my electric blue iPod, shows
my torso reflected in the glass
of the bus window.
My hair is long and wavy and frizzy in a way
that I usually disliked.
I’m wearing a grey v-neck shirt that was always too thin,
but I’m smiling like it had been a good morning and
I’m willing to believe that it was.
A few days ago, wet from lake water,
I stand in front of the bathroom mirror with a
smile on my face, my hair now short.
Someone told me once that we wouldn’t recognize
a clone of ourselves walking down the street.
Our minds are so addled and our vision so blurred that
we cannot see
the material characteristics of our own material bodies.
What I’m meaning to say is this:
One day, I want to see my face
the way I see your face.
A painting and a picture,
just as you are.
Your teeth, just as they are.
Your eyelashes, just as they are.
Your cheeks, just as they are.
Renee walks in and smiles at me, humming,
one sleeve of her dark maroon shirt
rolled up over one shoulder.
Her mouth turns in confusion,
forgetting what she came for, then Ah yes,
As she retrieves a bowl, she says, I’ve begun singing this old activist song, from International Women’s Day.
I look at her, my eyebrows raised,
but she doesn’t say anything more.
She walks out the door, singing, and I hear her
pass through the garden and then
her voice fades.
The cork pot holders, four of them,
lay abandoned on the table and
the pitchers of water are half full.
I finish washing the dishes and laugh a little
at myself, stacking the dripping
pots and plates and plastic precariously.
To be clear,
I don’t know where this poem is going
or where it came from.
Only that Renee began singing and I saw
the words and I
obeyed their call,
like a voice floating through the garden.