Depending On When You Met Me Depending on when you met me, I might have been: A five-year-old sitting alone on a stoop, Tongue stuck out of the corner of her mouth, Brow furrowed in concentration, As she fought to master the art Of shoelace-tying... A ten-year-old grade five, terrified To be starting at her fourth new school, This time in a different province, And enduring the stares of those Who'd all grown up together... A fifteen-year-old writing in a middle-school library, Churning out lunch-time pages for an anxious crowd, The latest installment of a soap opera Starring Duran Duran Taking acceptance where she could get it... A twenty-year-old security guard, doing outside rounds Of a fifty-acre psychiatric hospital property, Swinging a Detex clock and breathing in fog, Silently begging the shadows not to move, and her Fellow guards not to prank... A twenty-five-year-old tour guide, Wearing a mishmash of "historic costume", Biting her tongue behind the wide smile, As those who had just been rude asked, "Can you tell me where to go?" ... A thirty-year-old substitute teacher, Wheeling AV carts through crowded halls, Asking strangers to unlock classroom doors, Ignoring "Don't smile until Christmas," And learning to teach math in French on the fly... A thirty-five-year singing Duranie, In a university stadium in Northern Virginia, Finally seeing the original band members Twenty years after screaming herself hoarse At LiveAid on television... A forty-year-old crisis intervention worker, Answering middle-of-the-night calls At the domestic violence shelter A resource of resources, and Powered by energy drinks... A forty-five-year-old brain injury survivor, Parking in the lot at Walden Pond for the first time, Blinking in disbelief, relief and sheer joy, Having made it there entirely under her own power, And not been squashed like Frogger on the I-95... A fifty-year-old pandemic recluse Staring at a screen full of rectangular strangers, All teacher-writers with words to share, With her feeling like the first day of grade five again, Not knowing that they were all her friends already.
Words in My Head
I go to sleep with headphones on
to keep the brain occupied
and the demons at bay
Those words in my head
fill up any cracks
that would allow the
dark to get in
Went to bed with a
heart so heavy
The breath would barely come
Months of isolation
from people-watching and
from new horizons
Even the fumes were gone
I heard words
A poet blazing his truth
Lighting the dark
My heart stirred
My breathing quickened
And like an old furnace
My own words ignited once more.
The podcast I woke hearing — and which breathed oxygen to that dwindling ember inside — was a rerun of this episode of CBC’s Ideas: The Last Bohemian: Lawrence Ferlinghetti.
This post was created as part of the Poetry Friday challenge, hosted each week by a different poet. Today’s host, Michelle Kogan, is celebrating a birthday this weekend! Please enjoy her lovely poem on her blog and wish her a happy birthday in the comments.
Born in 1970, I am firmly in Generation X, and the 1980s were the years in which I largely became the person I was until 2012. (Long story: Buy a copy of my memoir when I finish writing it and it’s released upon the world. 🙂 )
I began writing in earnest in 1980, as a homesick ten-year-old, and became more and more prolific as the years ticked by. In those days, music was a huge part of my creative process, whether I knew it or not. Songs would set something off inside my head, and I’d be off and writing.
Somewhere along the way (likely around 2012) I forgot about that.
This afternoon I was thinking of something I would like to do, but the finances just aren’t there. I chuckled and said to myself, “All I need is a miracle,” and suddenly the song by Mike + The Mechanics was in my head.
All at once I remembered the short story project I had done in the summer of 1986, when I’d bought that album. Each song on the album had inspired, in parts big or small, a matching short story with the same title. I called it a “literary album,” and I really enjoyed it. I had done something similar with a-ha’s Hunting High and Low the previous spring.
Writing this memoir has been really hard work, for so many reasons. First of all, I primarily write short stories, so a book-length manuscript feels daunting. Secondly, I am not that experienced with writing nonfiction, so pulling together all of the material and organizing it before I even start writing feels like a lot of “hurry up and wait.” And then there’s the topic itself. Relieving what was easily the most difficult period of my life is, well, difficult. But it’s important that it be written, not just for me but for other who find themselves in a similar position, and so I’m not giving up on it.
But I need to remember what it was like to write for fun.
So I am sitting here listening to Mike + The Mechanics, remembering the characters in my short stories from when I was sixteen.
I think I will take myself on a little trip in a musical time machine, and see what a song can bring out of me in the next couple of days.
Just for fun.
My Duran Duran collection will probably be the well from which I draw. You could say I’ve been a fan for a very long time.
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