Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Poem: "Last Thoughts"

This is a poem I wrote senior year of college.  In real life, I have a great relationship with my parents. The conflict that the speaker expresses with her parents is a conflict I had with most members of the Colby community. For the sake of the poem, I thought it was more effective for the speaker to have this issue with her parents. Aside from that variation, this poem was pretty much true. 

TW: Suicide

"Last Thoughts"

I always wanted to go bungee jumping.
I always thought I’d do it with a cord. 
I thought I’d be screaming
like a fetal leaf pried open,
but gravity steals my voice,
pulls me closer to its embrace. 
Every lit window makes me wonder
who’s inside, what they’re doing up at 3 a.m.
I know where I would be.
I remember a time when
I would have been sleeping,
when Dad and I would
chase the moon home. 
I wanted to believe it –
I never told him I knew. 

Lego brick walls were
cemented together with
the frosting from my
seventh birthday cake. 
Strawberry was my favorite. 
But trust and deceit are intertwined
like the streamers of a candy cane. 
The red disappears with three licks.

It was something we never learned
in school, where we were told
it would never get better. 
I still see the chalk warning
on the first grade blackboard:
A+B = C. 
You’ll have to simplify that
someday, our teacher said. 
Now you have it easy. 
Now was always the best we’d have. 

But simple is for friends who think
love = hot chocolate,
and I’d be cured if they held
my head down in that bowl of
melted marshmallows and I’d
have no choice but to swallow. 
And with the years I spent translating
my dislike for cocoa powder,
I should have just inhaled
the boiling water.

Some consider that a choice,
like Mom’s bookshelf that
collapsed.  I listened to the music
of her anger on the phone –
she deserved a refund,
the box said fifty pounds,
it was one book she added,
it was practically empty.
Dad paced the room like
a mop that wipes a flood from
a pipe that continues to leak. 

It never stopped –
the saltwater broke through my walls.
I know which part of the candy cane is red. 
People should need a license to
act warm and fuzzy, to give
the you-can-tell-me-anything vibe. 
Why stick around when
that will never happen,
when frosting will never
work as cement? 
When hot chocolate will become
an intravenous injection
and bookshelves must collapse
when they don’t want to hold all they can 
and conditions are the pillars
our bridges are built on. 
Gravity has no conditions,
only laws of physics,
laws that know A + B = C
was the answer, there was never
anything to simplify. 
I hope gravity loves me
more than you ever did. 
And Mom –

I hope you get your refund.



** Note: In this poetry class, we all wrote each other letters critiquing our poems. This is the letter that I got from my professor on this poem (keep in mind that this is supposed to be a critique of the writing): 
Nikki, I think this poem scares me for you. I'm not sure why it would feel different than the others, but let's talk after class. I'm not sure talking about how your poems are made is the best thing for you - you seem to be using your poetry to communicate with the world in a way that's somewhat unusual.

Okay, I can understand my professor being concerned about my welfare and that that would be more important than actually discussing the writing with me. The problems with this theory are:
1. We hand in our poems a full WEEK before we discuss them in class, so if my professor was really worried, she would have contacted me before class, or at least tried to catch me after class. The fact that it was up to me to see her in her office meant that she probably wasn't seriously worried, in which case she should have just treated the poem like a poem.
2. When we did talk, I told her basically what I told you - that I don't have a conflict with my parents, that I was not literally planning to jump off a building (not like I could tell her - I was in trouble with the dean's office already and my professor KNEW it), but other than that, everything in the poem was pretty much true. Her response was, "Oh, okay" and that was the end of it. The funny thing is that even though she didn't seem to care about the conflicts in the poem being true for me, she clung to this parental conflict which I told her was actually a peer conflict and later told me to call my entire poetry collection "Dear Mom" no matter how many times I told her that none of these poems had anything to do with my mom. 

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