to be a poet: part one

is to be fluent in the art of insulting

there are only so many words
to be hand-picked from the ground,
spun around like dirty laundry
in melted glass shapes designed to mean
something to someone

we can write about
the way the tired clown collapses on his bed
after a night spent sweltering in forced laughter,
the way the sunflowers your grandmother planted years ago
continue to bloom outstretched to the sky
countless years after the last time you heard her voice

we can write about
the flutter of first love,
red cheeks and somersaulting stomachs,
the way it burns like a chemical spill on newborn skin
the moment it is stolen away from us

we can write
we can write
we can write

yet we will never fully capture
how the clown sobs tears of loneliness
after a lifetime of painting smiles on painted faces
or the way it still aches to stare out the window in the summer
because the cheerful faces of the flowers remind you of hers

we will never fully understand
how blissful it is to experience the beginnings of love,
how the entire universe ceases to exist anywhere
but in the unfamiliar palms of the one you have fallen hard for;
we will never fully understand
how the cries of the earth can also exist
in the deafening silence
after the one who poured his soul out for you to cradle
decides he wants it back for himself

we will never understand
we will never understand
we will never understand

but perhaps,
when we choose the words,
we choose to try.

COMING UNDONE

Though my hand remains intertwined with yours as we lie perfectly like plastic figurines in the middle of an empty nowhere, I am wondering where you are. You are not here, not really– and by the memorized angle of your brow as it focuses up at the hypnotic veil of heaven enveloping our fragile bodies, I can sense that you have drifted gently, somewhere far away. Perhaps you have already built a comfortable cottage for us within the tiniest crater of the moon, our own little claustrophobic wonderland without envy or indifference. Or perhaps you are sitting upon the most pristine carousel horse at a London carnival with a woman who does not share my name, or my face, or my essence. Maybe, as the song plays its lighthearted melody and the lights create a memory of iridescent dizziness, you find yourself trying to search for fragments of me in her. I am nowhere to be found in the smoothness of her puckered lips or the salsa of her fluttering eyelashes, batting away the only expired yesterdays I exist in. Maybe you have ventured off into the limitless abyss of outer space and have discovered the loveliness of a parallel universe where we do end up together. A place where I am the beautiful woman on the carousel, buried forever in the familiarity of your childish laughter that resonates like rainfall. I have built myself an entire kingdom somewhere within the muddled walls of the heart I taught myself how to adore. Because despite the calmness of the present, love has always felt like sipping down a mug full of chamomile tea while the hot mist still collects upon my cheekbones, yet still biting my tongue the moment I realize it is destined to get burned.

I saw it coming then. I see it now, our figures floating together in the absence of distraction,
two humble souls existing as the tired stems of ripe cherries that have forgotten the taste of eternity.

STRUCK

Even the sturdiest trees in my backyard quiver like mad in the breath of a strong breeze. I am like them, as I panic over the thought of watching you brush effortlessly past my shoulders, the way hurricane wind has the power to sweep a grown man off his feet. I am cautious, tiptoeing around the idea of your absence like fallen power lines in the rain, trembling as I carry the precious moments I have spent with you in the safety of my own coat pockets so they will never feel the agony of electrocution. I am electrified, as I seek shelter from the storm within the comforting warmth of your arms. There are places where the sun flutters her fiery eyelids against waves that kiss shorelines like familiar relatives. There are places where park benches call us by name and ones that long day and night for our feet to grace their unexplored streets. There are words that hang in the atmosphere like hot air balloons waiting to carry us to newborn horizons. It is strange, how there are places where the skies do not bleed threats or cry in languages we cannot understand. How I know that we are metal statues standing embraced in a field during a lightning storm, and yet I would rather get struck with the energy of a thousand prayers if it meant that I could stay, frozen in time, for an eternity we are not guaranteed.

Masked

Even as a young child, I never truly felt my age. Perhaps there was something about me that always felt like a balancing act; a little too young but a little too old at the same time. I juggled between feeling extremely young in comparison to my friends, who were already talking about boyfriends and girlfriends in the fourth grade, but too old for my friends in the eighth grade who still wanted to spend slumber parties playing with Barbie dolls and making immature prank calls at two o’clock in the morning. It was almost as if I played a wide-eyed, innocent child by day and the annoyed motherly figure as my alter ego. I was constantly on the verge of growing up but also still reveling in my childhood. There I was; stranded, half-afraid to grow up and half-ready to bloom.

I started my first year of high school with an undeveloped mindset, my only childish priority being the goal of achieving decent grades, getting people to really like me, and having cute Instagram-worthy outfits every single day. I began my freshman year with a rather large group of friends from middle school, excellent grades, and extremely high expectations for the year. I had ended the eighth grade with flying colors, good memories, and happy years (despite the long bouts of adolescent awkwardness.)

The transition from middle school to high school proved to be an extremely difficult one. I was used to having multiple classes with all of my best friends, who were always around no matter what.. But at that time, we had all been split up into different classes and I, a budding introvert, was forced to meet and talk with new faces and increasing amounts of unfamiliar people. Despite my desire to gain acceptance from my peers, I was still so held back and haunted by the idea of judgment.

Because of my all-consuming desire to be known and thought of as spectacular, I began to devote my time and energy desperately trying to impress the more popular and beautiful kids in my classes because that’s exactly what I wanted to be. Soon, I had devised a mask that screamed “Look at me! Look at how interesting I am! Look!” But that was not the case. A mask was a mask, and this false persona of longing had begun to deteriorate the person I was under the mask; a fragile, self-conscious girl who never felt beautiful no matter what circle of people she was able to fight her way into.

Unlike my old friends, these people were different. They were, like myself, so consumed with their ideas of status and social hierarchy that they had lost a true grip on their true identities and image. Blinded by the idea of notoriety and high school fame, it was almost as if I had sensed from the beginning that they were truly just afraid. Terrified of their own vulnerability. And because of this, I became terrified too.

This was the year I truly lost myself. There were so many unfulfilled expectations that I felt incapable of living up to. To be liked, you had to be pretty. To be loved, you had to be skinny. To be adored, you had to look like a Victoria’s Secret model in a skin-tight dress. To be considered perfect, you had to be clumsy so that guys would think you were cute. I was pretty, even beautiful, but the fourteen year old version of me couldn’t see this because she was so blinded by the twisted ideas the other girls her age would talk about during lunch. How important it was to have curves in all the right places so that boys would look at you. To have perfect eyebrows, long legs, eyelashes like plastic brooms. Because of this, I fell into a devastating cycle of depression that always seemed to destroy everything understandable the second I could actually begin to understand it.

It was weird, how the idea of perfection began to eat me alive. Once so academically gifted, bubbly, and full of life, I had turned into someone I couldn’t even recognize in the mirror. The straight A student who took home her first D in math class and shrugged it off. The girl who ran to her phone the second she got home so she could post angsty tweets about how much she hated fake people. But she was becoming one, because the second she clicked send was the moment she realized that she didn’t want to always have to be a puppet to her darkest thoughts anymore.

I am mid-second year in high school now, and although I still have intense moments of despair and insecurity, I can honestly say that I feel pride and acceptance when it comes to the idea of the person I am and the person I am going to be. I am just one year older, but I feel as if I have aged significantly in terms of maturity. Sixteen and bright-eyed, I have come to terms with the knowledge that I will never be anyone but myself. I still have yet to know what I am going to do, but I am going to make it great nevertheless. I do not need the popularity or a large amount of followers. I need people who want to see me grow, who motivate me to become the best version of myself possible- and those people alone.

I’ve changed my mind a thousand times about what I want to be when I’m older. As a child, I desired to be an author and illustrator of children’s books, which then turned into a professional ballerina. An actress, a forensic anthropologist, a pediatric surgeon, a mother, and a traveler- and yet I still haven’t decided where to incorporate my passions.

This year was the year I realized that it is all okay. It is, and it will be. I am young, bursting with energy, and I am not supposed to have it all figured out. For now, I am going to focus on spreading the happiness I have just recently revisited for the first time in eternity, and I am going to spread bursts of it everywhere I go. I am going to be myself, and not the crazed version of myself that society craves me to be, and I am not going to be fearless.

That’s the thing. The world is large, terrifying, and confusing. I am going to have a collection of fears that I will only learn how to overcome with time. But will I let these fears eat me alive and force me to live with my mask, my façade exposed to the world?

No. I am going to conquer them with both of my hands, even if they cannot help but shake, and declare to the entire world that I am strong enough. These two small yet powerful hands have the power to shape the path of where my journey will begin.

THE ACHE OF ADOLESCENCE

On the evening of my sixteenth birthday
I remember curling my hair with an iron and
burning the tips of my fingers pink,
mumbling pained words under my breath
that I probably shouldn’t ever repeat
unless I desire to live beneath the shadows
of adult eyebrows being raised so high
they might never come back down

as if they had never said something like that
before

that night I put on a silver dress,
and lipstick so red it almost gave the illusion
that I had been bleeding from the mouth
but I felt unstoppable, so why not?

“why not” was the question
that was always replaced with stone-cold silence
and the shrug of a shoulder
instead of an answer

that night, I blew out sixteen flaming candles
and felt beautiful,
surrounded by the smiles of friends I had met in high school
and ones I had known since the days when our only worries
revolved around who had the prettier Barbie doll
and who held hands during recess in the fourth grade
and these thoughts caused my stomach to somersault because,
now that we were illuminated by candlelight and the brightness of celebration,
everything had changed.

 

I blew out my candles and did not wish
for a car, or a new wardrobe, or for more
faces to call my friends, but rather,

I wished to be taken seriously.

I knew there was a deep-rooted problem
when I became acquainted with real love for the first time
And everyone said that I was too young, too incompetent to understand
What that word even meant,
That I was silly for believing that such a concept could exist
When you’re sixteen and five and a half feet tall
and not that great at chemistry or parallel parking
and can barely even hold up a strapless dress
as if somehow that dictated
that I was too small, too stupid to realize that
love was something much bigger than I am
but I did.
I do.

And there is something so contagiously twisted
That lurks in our society like a epidemic
The idea when your age lies between thirteen and eighteen
you are not really a person
that instead, you are a shadow of ignorance that sleeps all day
and clothes yourself in different shades of apathy
and that the only things you care about are
alcohol-induced parties on Friday nights and
losing morals and hours of sleep while gaining temporary highs
as if that is the highest I will ever go in life

you have to be kidding me.

because you might look at someone like me
and snarkily remark that I never look up from the screen of my phone
and you might think that my taste in music is repulsive or that
I’m only holding his hand because I love the thrill of letting it go,
and you might think that people my age have brains
that contain only a spoonful of intellect and the rest is just
empty space filled up with disease
but maybe it is time that your pedestal falls
and you realize that the older the wiser
is hardly ever true at all

I have witnessed lives spiraling out of control

the truth is not that we are dirt
and no, I am not taking pictures of myself unclothed
or chatting with strangers in online rooms
maybe the reason why I’m on my phone
is because I’m talking my best friend out of killing herself
and I’m researching time travel and why the happiest people hurt the most
and a cure for my own depression
and better words to fit my poetry
I am not equal to the garbage you see kicked to the curb of the street
Or scenery while you ride on by in your horse and carriage

I am just as great
As someone who has spent 80 years of their life achieving
And if time is uncontrollable
Then why am I being treated like somehow,
I have not chosen to be here long enough to know anything at all

And one day I dream of having my words praised for the truth that they are
Rather than having eyes roll back in guilty judgment
Because I have not lived as long as you have
And yet I am the one writing the words

Because yes, I am sixteen.
I haven’t even been here for two decades
but I do not search for happiness in empty glass bottles and clouds of smoke like you think I do
and I do not play with hearts like they’re made of matches
because I know that they burn
and when I tell him that I love him
I am not doing it to kill time
and I know that life is sacred and
impossible to retrieve once it’s gone and I am not going to waste
the precious seconds of my own aching until someone decides
that maybe, I am worth listening to.

Because I know that I am.
And on my sixteenth birthday,
as I smiled scarlet in every photograph
I was right–
I am unstoppable.

I AM THE WAR

I do not wish to be
an emerald, pressed firmly against
the flesh of someone else’s finger,
to be marveled upon by eyes
that only see beauty disguised beneath layers
of self-inflicted ignorance.
I do not wish for a life
sitting gracefully upon its pedestal,
or a striking face behind a glass display
that has never tasted the sweat
of reality.
I refuse to pass days behind
white picket fences trapping me
from seeking out scarlet horizons
or to live by the shout
of a clock that is running out of words
to tell me that I mean
nothing.
I am not going to sit, confined within
the peeling floral paper
that embraces the same walls that suffocate me
nor will I let my heart sleep
within the cavern walls of a chest
that is starving to set it free.

I want to crawl towards comfort
with scraped knees that do not bleed apologies
and earth trapped underneath my fingernails
like a joke no one ever broke silence to laugh at
I want to harvest gratification
with these same hands that have taught themselves
how to let go of the ones
who have tried to set it on a silver plate
for me to eat.

I desire to be dizzy
on the last day I will ever grace the air
with my breath,
blinded by joy I had spent a lifetime pursuing
with shadows cast beneath these hungry eyes
that have realized–

that it takes a revolution
to be able to say that I did more
than just exist,
I conquered.

youth

there are still words knotted in her stomach,
tangled cherry stems waiting
for shy hands to unravel them,
the pungent scent of fear dancing slowly
in a dimly lit room where you
cannot see her

but you feel her,
innocent, blameless—

a soul with runs always sneaking
down the sheerness of her tights,
the one who revolved her days
around messy diary entries crammed underneath
the mattress she grew up dreaming on

and right now,
you can feel the weight of her eyelashes
fluttering against the warmth of your cheek
the desperate wings of an injured butterfly that knows
that there still exists something called love
drifting soundly down a river of juvenile apathy

it is at this particular moment in passing time
that she decides to dedicate her youth
to the one with enough courage to hide it
in the pocket of his brown overcoat

tell her you love her
before you grow old