sludge (poem)

Ernest Hemingway, one of my longtime literary heroes, once said “write drunk, edit sober.” It’s one of my favorites of his many quotable one-liners, and one I take to heart possibly too often. 

write drunk edit sober

The following is a poem I wrote drunk, edited sober. I’m not entirely certain it’s finished, but I wanted to share it. Is a poem really ever finished? That’s a question I may never be able to answer. 

Sludge

it’s like sludge
the way the words build up in my bloodstream.
i feel them in my body,
but i can’t get them out.

i sit down with a notebook
and another
a third for good measure, and a word document
a pen between my trembling fingers,
ready to bleed.

but little comes out.

i down a shot of whiskey
then another
and another
and another and another and another

and another
until i lose count.

when i stop,
the bottle is lighter,
and my body is warm,
my cheeks flushed.

i hope the alcohol will melt the thick, gooey substance
lodged in my veins
so i can be free.

but it doesn’t.

it loosens the words so they run frantically
around my mind
searching for the exit
suffocating each other when they can’t find it.

they’re fighting over
which gets to escape the prison of my mind first.
which do i speak?
which do i keep locked away in hopes of a perfect moment
to facilitate their escape?

it’s deafening silence:
a blank page and a busy mind.

i drink more.
in attempt to silence the screaming
and avoid telling the stories that long to get out
but i cannot yet articulate.

unfortunately, whiskey is their liquid courage, too,

so I drag on
heavy
filled with words I cannot speak
and a mind I cannot silence.

write drunk edit sober 2
A more accurate depiction of 98% of my writing time.

The why behind my words

My notebooks read like an ode to all the boys (and girls) who’ve broken my heart. Not a single one of them deserve it, but neither do I deserve to live with all of this hurt eating away at my insides.

So I sum up whole relationships, quick love affairs and broken friendships in a series of lines that cut people to their core –that give them that heart-dropping, gut-wrenching feeling we all crave but never admit.

I write it out, cry it out and move on.

My words will break your heart.

I’m the girl who will write you a three page love letter. I’ll write you lines about how beautiful things could be, even if they never end up that way. I’ll show you how wonderful I think you are, because I think everyone deserves to feel good about themselves. I’ll mean every word because I don’t see much point in writing something if it isn’t the truth.

I’ll write it even if I’m certain you’ll never read it because it isn’t for you, it’s for me. There isn’t room in my body for all of the words that come through my brain in a single day. So I write it down.

I write because when he asked me how I felt, what I wanted and what he could do to make me happy, I couldn’t tell him. All that came out of my mouth were broken phrases, a series of I don’t know’s (even though I did) and some inaudible noises.

There he was, willing to listen to me word vomit and ramble as long as I needed, and I couldn’t get it out.

But it’s on paper. I wrote pages explaining what I wanted, what I needed, what I craved. I do know, I’m just afraid to say things out loud because then I can’t take them back. If it’s on paper, I can rip it to shreds, burn it or lock it away and pretend it never happened.

If it’s only on paper you never read, you can’t break my heart. That, I think, is what I’m most afraid of.

I write because on paper is the only place I’m not afraid to say how I feel. I feel invincible instead of fragile.

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I write because my heart is a strong and fragile as a wild flower. If I don’t get the feelings out, they’ll destroy me.

I write because I thought I’d said it all. I thought I’d told him everything on my mind, but my words and feelings still caught him by surprise.

Some people write to remember. They pen their stories so they are committed to paper and won’t leave them.

I write to forget.

I write because there are images planted in my mind that won’t go away. I write because I’ll replay the same story or line in my mind on a repeating reel for days until I write it down. I write because if not I get obsessive. I’m easily consumed by thoughts and words and feelings, and if I don’t get them out of me in some way I’m certain they’ll drown me one day.

An overabundance of words or my caffeine addiction will be the death of me, I swear.

I write because if I don’t my words are written across my face.

I write because I don’t want perfect strangers to read me like a book. Mostly because they’re usually right, and I’d like to think I can keep some air of mystery about me, even if it is the ever so slightest bit.

I occupy this strange space of not having anything to hide but also not wanting to be so easy to figure out.

I write because it hurts when I don’t.

Physically. My hands get fidgety, and my throat feels like it’s closing and there’s a pit at the bottom of my stomach and a fist clenching my heart.

I write because nothing beats that high. Not alcohol. Not drugs. Not anything. Nothing can compare to the way it feels when I get in the zone and the words come out, and I know I’m on to something.

If not on to something, at least releasing something that has gotten far to comfortable existing within my mind.

Beyond that, nothing beats when someone connects with my words. I love knowing when people read my work. The stats on wordpress let me know that my word vomit reaches a lot of people, but only a select few let me know they’ve read it. Nothing beats getting a comment or a message that something I wrote resonated with someone. I want people to realize they aren’t alone, and we all deal with the same shit day in and day out.

I write because it makes me feel like an unstoppable force.

I write because I don’t know how to cope with life without it. It’s the only thing that keeps me standing on my own two feet when the world feels like it’s collapsing in on me.

Because it’s the only way I’m ever able to figure out what I want.

Flannery O’Connor once said “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”

I write it all down because I know I’m an intense person. I feel things deeply, which is both a blessing and a curse because the people around me rarely do.

I write because I know I’ll scare people away if it all comes out out loud. Worse than that, I’ll push them away if I leave it all inside.

I write because I think I’ll fall over and die if I ever stop.

Poetry, dates and coming home

I took myself on a date tonight. Make up, clean pants, brushed hair, favorite lipstick color and all.

It is part of my effort to be more comfortable doing things alone. Too often I skip out on things because I don’t have anyone to go with, and I don’t have anyone to drag begrudgingly along anymore.

I’m learning to enjoy my own company. It is uncomfortable don’t get me wrong, but I’m actually really glad I went out by myself tonight.

N.C. poet laureate Shelby Stephenson was speaking at the coffee shop downtown so I figured I would go listen to what he had to say and hear him read some of his poetry.

There is something magical about listening to a poet read their own work. He read with such enthusiasm and confidence. I hope one day to write things I am that proud of.

I’m not used to doing things alone so I assumed I would end up a wall flower among the gallery portraits in the crowded cafe. Attendees included groups of old friends, fellow writers and creative writing students from local university, obviously there out of a class obligation judging by their discussion of ‘the assignment’ on the evening.

Right before the event began, a table in the very center opened up. Quite the juxtaposition from the position I thought I would occupy. I sat down and was shortly joined by an older couple rushing to snag a table before Stephenson began to speak.

The husband was a fiction writer and an old friend of Stephenson’s. Ironically enough, my table mate wrote fiction because he couldn’t find his rhythm in poetry. I told him that I gravitated toward poetry because I couldn’t find my voice in fiction.

We chatted for just a few minutes, but it was nice. It was interesting having to define myself to a stranger. This person knew nothing about me, had simply sat down with me for lack of another option.

I didn’t quite know what to say when they asked even the most basic of questions. I have spent the past few months rebuilding and regaining my sense of self, but this might have been the first time I had to introduce myself to and make small talk with someone who had no background knowledge of me.

It was fun being able to tell them I write. Maybe if I say it enough times to enough people I will start to really believe it’s true. Lord knows I’ve been working hard at it, submitting all over the place and surely developing a case of carpal tunnel due to my incessant need to write everything by hand the first go round.

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The woods will always be my happy place. 

Stephenson started out talking about the idea of “home” or where you come from. He stumbled over his words as he tried to sum it up, and I couldn’t help but nod my head in response. How does one sum up where they come from in a meaningful way?

I have no idea. The concept of home is one I mull over quite often in my writing but don’t know if I share often.

I was struck by his words, or lack thereof, in that moment. All I really knew was that I felt a strong connection to this place. This tiny little town that we all couldn’t wait to leave, yet many of us returned to even after we spread our wings a little.

There is a force as strong as gravity that pulls us back. Maybe it’s toxic, and we are all just crazy, as one of my friends so often says. Or maybe there really is something magical about this place, something deeper than the surface that can’t quite be explained.

My heart hurt as I thought about leaving it. Hickory was the only place I wanted to come back to when I left Germany. I couldn’t imagine finding myself and rebuilding anywhere else. There was a pull to this place I couldn’t deny even though my family left years ago.

I’ve been back for a few months now, and despite the love I have for this strange place, I know it is time to go.

I rediscovered myself. I cut ties. I picked up the pieces of myself that I left here, and I claimed them as my own. I learned how to be defined by my values, strengths, weaknesses and interests rather than by my ties to another.

I cultivated friendships with people who were quick to remind me that I don’t need them. That while there is a lot of love, it isn’t a love of necessity. It is a love that is not conditional to my geographic location.

I needed to come back here to collect myself, but that doesn’t mean I have to stay.

Sophie and I are off to the next adventure in a few weeks. Packing up and moving and uprooting our lives yet again is terrifying, but it is the right thing to do. The sunshine state is calling us, and good things are coming.

I can feel it.

Oblivion, a poem

I sit in a dull waiting room where racks of magazines line the walls.

I flip through an old issue of Time. 

 

A dark green couch fills the endless void

of an otherwise all beige room.

 

The pages flash before me, like images on a TV screen —

A news network whose ratings keep dropping.

Dropping.

 

A swirl of feathery brush strokes flap against a Carolina blue sky.

Destination: unknown.

 

I flip faster, hungry for information.

There is still so much I don’t know.

 

Brown boots with heavy soles

crunch across the dusty, rocky ground,

hoping to bring stability

to an unstable terrain.

 

They point, aim, fire,

with the risk of sacrificing their lives

for me. For you.

For a freedom they may never get to experience.

 

A sharp tremor quakes the town

waking a tiny babe, stirring even the heaviest of sleepers,

and setting off an unforeseen wave of destruction.

 

I see a photograph of a collapsed house,

roof turned to walls, walls to floor.

Someone’s home.

 

I think of my tiny apartment,

so stable. so comfortable.

Unshaken.

 

Two hunks of metal intertwine

around the base of an old lamp post.

Separating spirit from body

in their unity.

 

Lives so violently and abruptly ended

before they really even began.

Tears shed and flowers left in their memory.

I notice they get a brief, but nothing more.

 

Out the window, an ordinary man walks down the busy city street,

rushing to his 9 to 5 office job,

past a news stand,

completely oblivious.