I’ve been trying to write poetry for maybe 17 years or more, but only in the last year do I feel like I’ve started to write with real honesty: vulnerable, necessary, unedited (in the sense that I’ve written exactly how it is to be me now without pulling back oh the reigns).
I never intended to become the next W.S. Merwin or Walt Whitman or Anne Sexton, but I did recognize in the best poets a revelation of self that resonated with me and seemed to call out to all human beings, as if saying over and over “pay attention now. Don’t wait for the suffering to subside. Shout now. Cry out your pain now. Make it beautiful, like the pregnant silence of a winter lake, weakly frozen.”
I’m not concerned with changing the course of poetry as Whitman did or gain the recognition like Merwin or Sexton (probably wasn’t their intentions either). In the beginning I didn’t know what I was writing for.
In fact, it wasn’t until December 2015, admitted into the mental health wing of a hospital in St. George Utah, that poetry began talking to me. I was somewhat suicidal. My sense of self contained no benhe of self-worth. I felt alien. Like Earth wasn’t my Earth. That I wasn’t human like everyone else. But, then, in the hospital, I began writing to myself from somewhere in me I had to invent at first. A self who was kind to me. Kind, but also honest.
I had just gotten a divorce and discovered I was transgender and I was captioning phone calls at work for the hearing impaired and had to repeat the dozen daily deaths and hatreds. I remember doubting the value of poetry in the face of so much painful reality. I questioned my own value as a person who writes – an activity that was beginning to feel like drawing faces on the foreheads of the dying. I thought “we are all starving and I’m passing out sketchings of potatoes.”
But this “invented” person I began to write from, steered me around such thinking. she called me “Lovely” and pointed out that the value I felt for others could be the value I felt for myself. She reminded me of Mary Oliver’s poem “wild Geese” in which she writes “Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.” I’d always thought she was addressing the reader, but I soon realized the lines could easily be interpreted as the poet trying to connect with and heal herself.
I’ve cried a lot since then. Violently. Without breathing, nearly blind, the body colapsing into itself. And months later I’d spend more time in the hospital where I began having visions of suicide – where I would suddenly see myself taking every last pill I kept in the desk drawer, anxiety pills first, then pills for sleep, then everything else whatever they were.
I never wanted to die. Too many things had died already and too fast. I was to angry to die. Angry because it seemed no one cared. Between work, the kids, retirement, school, and finding a few hours to sleep, no one had any time to feel anything for anyone. Often not even for there own family.
At first I felt I couldn’t bear to live in such a callous world. Almost at the same time, the anger in me just wanted to scream at everyone. I wanted to comandeer all of the news channels and start reading off the names of the dead, the dying, the murdered, the cardboard architects. Especially now I want to take control of every media outlet all over the world and just scream until everyone was listening. Then after a brief silence I would ask between clenched teeth, “what have we done with our love stories? Have we gotten so preoccupied with oppinion and “fact” that we’ve forgotten what we even live for? We talk healthcare, war, poverty, abuse of power, minorities, boarders. We’ve been marching for our civil and human rights for millenia. MILLENIA GODS DAMN IT! And has it occurred to anyone how infuriating, maddening, it is that we are still arguing over such easily answered questions?
I want to scream so loud it drowns out the car sounds and crowd sounds, the bells on Wall Street, trains, air traffic, even wind and birds. “WE WILL ALL DIE. SOON. By the thousands, millions, but also each death it’s own single lonely event.”
“We’ll die, we’ll suffer. Everything does. Naturally. And it’s enough anguish without us adding any more to it. It’s enough already. Why is compassion so fucking hard? Why is it so impossible to value anything outside our three mile economic boundaries?”
I’ve wanted to die, but I want to scream more. I want to prove myself wrong. I can’t die. Not now. Not until I’ve said and found my peace.