Writing, sharing, friendship and the ocean

So I have this friend I send pretty much everything I write to. A decent portion of our texts are my sending him links to google docs and his sending me screen shots of lyrics or videos of music he’s working on (hey you, finish your EP! also, everyone else, he’s super talented: go check out his youtube and pester him to make more videos).

We have this delightful creative semi-collaboration going on, and it’s one of my favorite things. It’s nice having someone who’s opinion I trust and who genuinely cares about reading things.

Anyways, I’m not sure if he remembers this, but I sent him a link to something I wrote a few weeks ago. He called me in response and said, “Michelle, do you ever send any of this to anyone but me? Because it’s really good. You could connect with a lot of people.”

“Sometimes Brenna and sometimes my mom, but mostly just you,” I said.

I rarely think about the things I write being able to resonate with others because they’re often about rather specific situations and deeply personal. It takes a lot of vulnerability for me to share things most of the time, hence why I only send it to my best friend.

But Zach and I made a pact to kick each other in the ass to do more with our creative passions so I started thinking more about sharing.

The night after we had that conversation, I went through my google docs and discovered I have nearly 50 pages of poetry just sitting there, collecting virtual dust. That doesn’t count the notebooks I scribble into for weeks then shove onto a shelf.

I have a library of material I’m doing nothing with, and that’s stupid.

So I think i’m going to start trying to share things more regularly. Maybe a poem a week. (Someone hold me to that. Zach, I’m lookin at you, dude).

Today you get three pieces that I wrote pretty much simultaneously. They’re all on the same subject matter and very similar but also wholly separate, at least in my brain. Maybe they’re all pieces of a larger poem? I don’t know. I’d been blocked for weeks so I was just happy to be writing again.

They don’t have titles yet so my creative self decided to call them ‘1,’ 2,’ and ‘3.’ I’m a creative genius, I know. Hold your applause, please.

Anyways. Read. Enjoy. Let me know your thoughts, feelings, etc. even if you hate it.

we are sitting on the beach
in complete silence
except for the sound of the mesmerizing waves
and the song i don’t know
blasting through the speaker he put between us.

in my head i’m taken to the last time we were on a beach together
we were together,
on paper at least,
laying on the most gorgeous beach
on the edge of a grecian island deep in the mediterranean.

and we were silent.

i tried to ramble
about the thoughts inside my head,
but you never wanted to hear them.
i tried to play a song to fit the moment
but you didn’t like my music
until it was the only connection you had to me.

so we sat in silence in the most beautiful place in the world
both wishing we were with people we liked better
because we were so obviously wrong for each other,
but too scared to admit it.

clinging to this idea we built
that was never our reality.

i escaped to the ocean alone
because being alone was less lonely than being with you.

i floated along
and thought the ocean was going to take me away
and i wished it would.

because anywhere was better
than with you.

and now here we are,
on a beach in the silence
and i ran to the ocean alone
because you still don’t care about me
only how much you can control me.

but i, much like the ocean,
will never be a force anyone can control.

you say that makes me unlovable,
and maybe it does,
but i’d rather be alone than with anyone who wishes to suffocate my spirit.

2

i’m circling a drain
that leads to a deep pit of depression and anxiety.

i used to call that place home,
but not since i left you.

i packed up and moved out of it
with no intentions of returning.

you wanted to spend three weeks riding the nostalgia train
and drug me along even though i didn’t buy a ticket.

you never cared much for what i wanted
because you never cared much for me.

i deserve more from this life
than to feel a pit in my stomach
and a weight in my chest
and like i’m worthless.

i was your emotional punching bag,
around to boost your ego and fill a void.

i was never someone worthy of love
or even to hold a place of sincere importance.

i know you are wrong
and the picture you have of me is not reality.

the facts may be true,
but the way i am with you is far from the best example of my character.

i am the girl with the heart that’s too big for her chest,
that loves with no expectation of anything in return.

you never believed in me
or my strength or my words
so you took them away any chance you found.

you say the truths i hold close to my heart
are nothing but lies
because in your world, i’m cold-hearted and cruel.
you cannot wrap your head around the fact that i’m easy to please.

you ask about him,
and i tell you that being friends with me is easy
if you don’t treat me like a piece of shit.

“if only they knew what the worst of you was like,”
you say in regard to anyone i let close to me or hint might be important
as if you have the power to destroy the good things i’ve worked hard to build.

you cannot fathom
that there was far to me than you ever saw.
i shut you out
long before i told you i did
and you were far too busy with anything but me to notice.

to you, i’m unlovable.
to you, i’m walls of defenses three layers deep,
and i never want anyone else to have fight so hard to get in
because who i am with you
is not me.

3

you took away my voice
silenced me
siphoned all the ink from my pens
and robbed me of my words –my only solace.

i sat quietly while you belittled me,
every jab cutting deeper.

you used to live in my dark place, too,
so you know how to appease my demons
and drop one liners
that drop me to my knees in emotional agony.

sometimes i think you don’t really mean what you say,
you just want me to hurt as badly as you do.

then you say, “i’m just being honest, michelle,”
and i look at you in disgust
the person i once loved.

it’s worse, though, because you don’t seem like a stranger to me.
you seem like a familiar hell.
a place i’ve been time and time before,
because in some fucked up way i’m a sucker for people who treat me like shit.
you made it clear, though, that i deserve no better.

it disgusts me that you are who i put so much effort into loving.

i left because neither of us should feel as awful as we do together,
but you insist on keeping us in turmoil
growing angry whether i hand you your power back
and let you tear me down
or if i stand up and say no more,
allowing my inner warrior to rear her head –the part of me that always scared you
because that’s the part that left you
alone
when you thought you had all your pawns in order.

we are a losing battle,
and one i don’t have an inkling of desire to fight.

our war is long over
and neither of us were the winner,
but if it means that much to you,
you can have a crown, a trophy, the grand title:
anything you want,

except for me.

because someone like you
doesn’t deserve someone like me.

i deserve someone who thinks the world of me
the way i would of them
if i decided to let anyone that close again
but you may have ruined me for anyone else.

i’m far from indestructible,
but i’ll never let you, or another, be my downfall.

 

 

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.

Forgetting Lane (Poem)

There are some people who come into your life, and your heart, with little intention of staying.

Yet somehow, people like me don’t know when to let go.

Forgetting Lane

I had forgotten.
Maybe not completely,
but I had traveled far enough down forgetting lane to know it wasn’t easy,
but it was a road I could navigate
if I had to.

Then there you were.
You jumped out from behind a curve
when I was least expecting it.

“Remember me?”

You said you felt it was time
to come out of hiding —
you didn’t like running from me anyways.
You said you missed me and you were sorry.

No excuses,
just an honest apology,
and I could see the remorse behind those blue eyes
that make my heart melt and my knees weak
everytime I see them.

Oh how easily you can suck me right in
and put me under your spell.

Then there we were
sitting in your car laughing and holding hands.
You wouldn’t let go
even when you struggled to shift gears.
You held me tightly,
the smile I love never fading from your face.

We bonded over the smallest things —
a love of road trips with the windows down and the music turned up,
mountain time and our matching cameras.

I fell into your bed,
plush with pillows,
as if I’d been there a thousand times before.

You laid there with me
kissing me,
holding me,
nestling your head between my shoulder and my neck,
arms draped over me as if we were always meant to be there.

I traced the outline of the tattoo over your heart
wondering if you knew I never wanted to hurt you,
only be there for you.
But the walls you built to guard it
are damn near indestructible
and I’ve been chiseling away at them for so long.
Everytime I get close,
you shut me out again,
building them higher and higher.

We are miles and miles apart now,
I the one who ran away this time,
but forgetting lane has gotten tougher to navigate,
and I can’t shake the way I feel about you.

Gentleman (Poem)

Despite the fact that I have notebooks and notebooks full of material, I rarely post poetry on here. I usually keep it to word vomit/life updates, but lately I’ve been feeling the urge to publish other things.

I’m used to getting personal on here, but this is a different kind of personal. Here is a poem about the time I learned to confuse sex with love. About how people aren’t always who we think they are. About when I learned that not everyone values transparency and honesty the way I do.

Anyhow, I’ll stop rambling and let the poem speak for itself.

Gentleman

She called you a gentleman,
but I didn’t get that side of you
when you fucked me on the driver’s’ seat of your car.
You moaned my name
and told me I was the best you ever had.

Your hands traced my skin and gripped my body
As we moved together.
The tight space between my back and the steering wheel
Forced us to be closer,
Breathing the same air.
Our respective moans swirled together in a
Steamy fog of passion and lust.

You told me you wanted all of me, but
You only wanted my body.
I gave it to you easily,
Crawling out of my bed and into the shower
In the middle of the night
To get in your car
For a quicky and a heart to heart
In a nearby parking lot.

You weren’t a gentleman when you flicked your lights off
Before pulling into my driveway.
A condom in your glove box
Ready to take what you wanted
Knowing I was willing to give you my heart.

There was nothing gentle about you
When you pulled my hair
And claimed me as your own
Before disappearing for weeks at a time
Tossing me to the side like I was nothing.

You weren’t a gentleman
when you said we would go out
And never had the decency to call and cancel.
I waited by the phone,
Desperate for your name to pop up and give me something
When I’d given you everything.
How gentlemanly of you to lie to my face
Time and time again
When all I asked for was a bit of honesty
Even if it wasn’t what I wanted to hear.

How stupid of me
To make excuses for you
Time and time again.

You weren’t a gentleman
When you let me hand you my heart —
Words scrawled out across a page as neatly as I could manage
Then folded into thirds
And handed to you as I hugged you goodbye.

You, the gentleman,
Couldn’t even be bothered to read it.
You’ve left it crumpled in a box under your bed
To make friends with dust bunnies and other forgotten things.

She called you a gentleman,
But you were anything but gentle with my heart.

History’s Footsteps (Poem)

A few weeks ago, I went to visit Flossenburg concentration camp which is about 45 minutes away from where we live in Germany. We’ve been a lot of places thus far in our time in Europe, but this was by far one of the most profound travel experiences I’ve had.

IMG_0752
The S.S. Guards’ quarters

 

It was one of those experiences that takes your breath away, that makes you drop to your knees in prayer to whatever God will listen. I studied the holocaust quite a bit in school, but I don’t think there is any amount of study that can prepare you for the feeling of actually visiting a place. It was real. It happened. And it was absolutely horrible.

The thing that struck me the most about visiting the camp, other than what I have detailed in the following poem, is the number of houses that now surround the camp. Some even have large picture windows overlooking the camp. I just…I can’t comprehend how you can go about your day to day life living so close to where such tragedy occurred. Cheap land, I guess.

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The “Valley of Death” at the camp.

Anyhow, I wrote the following poem about my experience visiting the camp.

History’s Footsteps 

I shut off the ignition,

Closed the GPS that led me here to this place.

A knot formed in my throat as I realized

I came here intentionally,

But thousands longed to escape.

I am disgusted with myself

For having set this as a destination.

 

I notice they’ve added tour bus parking

So people can come by the masses

To see where other masses lost their lives.

 

We cross through the entrance,

An archway underneath the brick building where the S.S. guards sat,

Orchestrating the horror.

 

We are following their footsteps,

But we can come and go as we please.

 

We pass through the camp,

See the kitchens and the laundry where prisoners lived and worked.

They’re shabby buildings with chipped white paint,

Obviously worn and overused

And you can tell it’s not just from age.

 

There’s another white building,

This one shaped like the Star of David.

The same stars marks the door.

I go inside and am immediately

Consumed by the stale stench of death

Lingering after all these years.

It saturates my clothing,

Fills my lungs until I think they might burst.

 

I cannot go in any further.

I know this is where it happened,

Where 30,000 bodies were burned

Inside the same shape that acted as a symbol of their faith.

 

I’m longing for fresh air

As I’m sure they were.

But I can leave whenever I want

With my body still in tact,

Still housing my soul.

 

I lean over a railing trying to ease the queasiness in my gut

And look down into what was once the quarry

“The Valley of Death”

It was so warmly nick-named.

The lump in my throat grows,

The queasy feeling in my gut becomes turbulent.

 

The quarry is now a memorial,

A giant cemetery of unmarked graves honoring those

Who are long gone.

Flowers are left, the grass is neatly mowed.

The grounds well-maintained.

They’re given a level of respect in death

They weren’t deemed worthy of in life.

 

The rest of us flock to this place

In hopes of understanding how such cruelty is possible.

Instead we leave, hearts aching

Remembering their cruel, avoidable death.

IMG_0788
The entirety of the grounds is now a memorial to the 30,000 people killed here. 

Shine

For years I knew I wanted to be a writer. I took all the advanced English classes I could in high school. I was rarely seen without a book or journal in my bag, frequently both. I was the girl who would get called out for reading a book not for class in the middle of class because it was just that good.

I majored in English in college and took numerous creative writing classes with some really awesome professors. I was an editor for the school news paper. My class notes were half bits of poems or stories half notes.

Somewhere between junior year and graduation, I became disenchanted. I thought “I’m not cut out for this.” The stresses of Chris’s military career getting kicked off and all of the changes our family was facing got to me and rather than write through it all, I abandoned what I had once loved so much. I lost my dedication. Somewhere in there I lost my faith in myself to be able to do anything other than to play my role of wife and mom and figure myself out later.

Later, later, later.

The past six months have been about “later.” First it was “when we get to Virginia.” Then, “Once Sophie remembers how to nap again.” Then, “Once we get settled in Germany.”

Now became changing diapers, going for walks and dreaming about this “later” that seemed would never come. This “later” that just kept getting pushed, you guessed it, later and later. Now became sad. Now became feeling like everything I did was for everyone else. It felt like any time I was given to myself was wasted because I wasn’t working toward anything. I wasn’t concerned with a career or a financial contribution, just something. Something that would make me a better person, a better mom, a better wife and make my soul shine. Something that could make me feel like I accomplished something.

Motherhood is demanding and oh so rewarding, but it’s often impossible to see the effects of your love and nurturing when your child is refusing to nap, pulling your hair and eating the dog’s food AGAIN. I can’t see how Sophie is better because I built a block tower she got to knock over or that I submitted to another hour of being the “mama gym.”

I needed something for myself that wouldn’t interfere with my important job of full time mommy. It took me a while to be okay with that. It took me a while to be okay with the fact that I’m not the type of mother who can be all diapers and bottles and sensory play activities all the time. I’m not super mom. I’m not a picture perfect stay at home mom, no matter what my social media accounts will lead you to believe.

That was never anything that I thought I expected of myself. I always said I wouldn’t be that, that I wasn’t cut out for it the way some women are. I always said that I was OK with that, but deep down I don’t think I was. I think I wanted to be the kind of mom who only needs her kids, but there’s been this energy stirring inside of me that I’ve felt like I need to get out.

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So I started writing again.

By started writing again, I mean I started a new journal on the 2nd, it is now the 13th  and that journal is almost full.

By started writing again, I mean that I put some hard revising work into some old poems to the point that I felt like they were worthy of being submitted to the Asheville Poetry Review for their William Matthews Poetry Prize. The first contest I’ve ever entered, despite the fact that I have filled many a page of an old journal with contest deadlines and goals I wanted to meet. The pages yellowed and the journals got boxed up. The deadlines came and went.

I never saw myself as worthy. I was so petrified of failing that I didn’t even try. I didn’t think I could take the inevitable rejection letter.

It’s not that I somehow think I’m such a better writer than I was a year or two ago, although I’d like to think I’ve improved with time. It’s not that I’m so sure I’m going to win that failure it isn’t even a thought that occupies any space in my mind.

I probably won’t win. I’ll probably lose, but I’m not afraid of that anymore. If I get a rejection letter or an email, I’m gonna go out and buy a frame for it. Maybe I’ll hang it on the fridge with a gold star sticker. I’ll wear it like a badge of honor because it isn’t about the poems. It isn’t about being the best or winning a contest. I still don’t know if writing is what I want to do for a career, or if I’d ever be successful enough to call myself a writer or make a career out of it.

It isn’t about any of those things.

contestenvelope.jpg

For me, the image of that priority envelope I carefully placed my poems in means that I tried. That I took a chance on myself. That I beat self doubt and believed in myself. That I finally see myself as worthy.

Sure, it’s just one contest of surely many more to come (I hope). But for me, it’s bigger than that. You might think me silly, but this is my first step. This is my step toward healing, toward building something for myself. To believing in my words and my craft and believing that I have something to say that someone might want to hear. That might spark something in someone the way that so many other people’s words and art have sparked something in me.

After I sent my poems off, I headed to Books a Million to pick up the new copy of Poets and Writers. They always have a great list of upcoming contest deadlines, and I wanted more options. I was honestly on some sort of euphoria, halfway between tears and grinning so hard my face could’ve split open. Anyways, I was reading the editor’s letter and he said something that I loved.

Whether thousands, hundreds or dozens of people might read what we’ve written, or even if we reach just one single soul, we are being given an opportunity to create something bright in all this darkness. Shine.

So if you are reading this, thank you. If you’ve read anything I’ve written, thank you. If you’re my grandma, thank you. You may not get your novel, but you might get a book of poems, I hope that will suffice.

I’m choosing to shine. I’m choosing to do something for myself because I finally, finally think I’m worthy.

I hope you do the same. I hope you, beautiful reader, decide to shine.

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.