God Says Yes To Me by Kaylin Haught

•March 15, 2014 • 8 Comments

Happy birthday, T., you old fool.

Another revolution around the sun is done again. So is three hundred and sixty-five days of worrying about nothing and everything.

Ah, my dear self, have you always been this neurotic? I suppose so. I suppose so.

But: here’s to being twenty-eight, and trying again, and believing again. Love will come, and joy, too, and perhaps things will finally fall into place. If not, well—you’re not alone.

Raising a glass. Staring at the sky.

God Says Yes To Me
Kaylin Haught

I asked God if it was okay to be melodramatic
and she said yes
I asked her if it was okay to be short
and she said it sure is
I asked her if I could wear nail polish
or not wear nail polish
and she said honey
she calls me that sometimes
she said you can do just exactly
what you want to
Thanks God I said
And is it even okay if I don’t paragraph
my letters
Sweetcakes God said
who knows where she picked that up
what I’m telling you is
Yes Yes Yes

(from The Writer’s Almanac)

Untitled by Jonathan Greene

•March 5, 2014 • 1 Comment

1.
Who are we, really, in the grand scheme of things? And is there a grand scheme, even?

2.
We wake up, we go to sleep. Day by day. After a while, the days accumulate. After a while, we start to call it life. But is it worth giving it a name? A context? Can you see the thread holding it all together?

3.
Are you special because you are loved?

4.
I changed rooms but I still sleep on the floor. One night a few months ago, I found a caterpillar trying to crawl up my arm. I freaked out. I killed it. I didn’t think. Just reacted.

5.
I wonder if people arrive at their mistakes in the same way.

6.
Who are you in the dark, I ask myself.

Untitled
Jonathan Greene

Honored when
the butterfly lights
on my shoulder.

Next stop:
a rotting log.

1 This is from American Life in Poetry: Column 464 by Ted Kooser.

2 Here is a complete life cycle of a monarch butterfly.

Other Lives And Dimensions And Finally A Love Poem by Bob Hicok

•February 8, 2014 • 5 Comments

My dearest Y. and B.—

I’ve written and rewritten this letter many times. Didn’t want to sound trite, didn’t want to come off like a cliched greeting card either.

How does one find the right words for joy, for knowing that you’re spending a lifetime with the one person in the whole world that fits you? How can I describe how happy I am to be made part of this, to witness two people turning a page, writing a new chapter together? I take a cue from Nicole Krauss, in her book, The History of Love:

There is no word for everything.

Nevertheless, let me try to say it the best I can:

Y.—we’ve called each other Soulmates for as long as I can remember (senior high school, I think?). I haven’t the slightest idea anymore why—perhaps because we stood in a small room and realised exactly how much we have in common?

Or don’t have in common—because look at how our lives have diverged, the paths we took, the people we met, the changes we went through. And yet some things still stay the same. And yet the universe still made sure that our threads continue to tangle.

There was a meeting of minds (and hearts) the day we forged our friendship. I am crossing my fingers that this bond will always keep. Today though, Y., you will be walking towards your true Soulmate, and how lovely to see you off, to watch him receive you in his arms! I think it will be a beautiful sight—a privilege, really.

B.—one of my memories of you was one afternoon talking about Murakami. You spoke of staying up late in a coffee shop, asking them to let you finish the book before they close for the night. I can’t remember what the book was—was it Norwegian Wood? (It was my favourite, you know. It will always have my heart.)

That image stayed with me, all through these years. I remember thinking, I remember feeling relieved and sure—that you will take care of my friend. That she will be safe with you, and grow with you, and be loved. All because you told me you read a book until the end.

I didn’t know that years later, I would be here, writing this letter. Perhaps you knew. Perhaps both of you knew.

Thank you for showing me that love is real.

Yours,
T.

Other Lives And Dimensions And Finally A Love Poem
Bob Hicok

My left hand will live longer than my right. The rivers
           of my palms tell me so.
Never argue with rivers. Never expect your lives to finish
                       at the same time. I think

praying, I think clapping is how hands mourn. I think
           staying up and waiting
for paintings to sigh is science. In another dimension this
                       is exactly what’s happening,

it’s what they write grants about: the chromodynamics
           of mournful Whistlers,
the audible sorrow and beta decay of Old Battersea Bridge.
                       I like the idea of different

theres and elsewheres, an Idaho known for bluegrass,
           a Bronx where people talk
like violets smell. Perhaps I am somewhere patient, somehow
                       kind, perhaps in the nook

of a cousin universe I’ve never defiled or betrayed
           anyone. Here I have
two hands and they are vanishing, the hollow of your back
                       to rest my cheek against,

your voice and little else but my assiduous fear to cherish.
           My hands are webbed
like the wind-torn work of a spider, like they squeezed
                       something in the womb

but couldn’t hang on. One of those other worlds
           or a life I felt
passing through mine, or the ocean inside my mother’s belly
                       she had to scream out.

Here, when I say I never want to be without you,
           somewhere else I am saying
I never want to be without you again. And when I touch you
                       in each of the places we meet,

in all of the lives we are, it’s with hands that are dying
           and resurrected.
When I don’t touch you it’s a mistake in any life,
                       in each place and forever.

1 This is from Plus Shipping by Bob Hicok, published by by BOA Editions, Ltd., 1998.

2 This is a draft of a letter I wrote to Y. on the day of her wedding.

3 Here is Bob Hicok reading his poem, after answering a question about it.

4 I first read this in 2005. Somehow Y. found it, too. I remember when she told me about a poem she loved. Something about hands, she said. I looked at her and asked, “Hicok?” She nodded, and we didn’t need any words after that.

Breakage by Mary Oliver

•January 4, 2014 • 31 Comments

1.
Let’s try this again.

2.
The truth is, I was confronted with the fact that the space I have created for myself is not invincible. It is a thing I had to digest for a while. I had thought myself under the radar, which was foolish. I spent eight years leaving this door open—I should have expected that what happened will happen, in whatever magnitude. I had left myself unprotected, is what I did, is what I’ve overlooked.

The truth is, I allowed it. Who was I kidding, in the end?

3.
So what happens now? I will echo Louise Bourgeois: I do, I undo, I redo.

4.
A quarter of my life was spent believing things I’ve been told I should believe. That was problematic, as I have an unnatural habit of asking questions at a young age. I suppose it was because I am a curious creature, but also because I was a child with an unnatural persistence (read: pesky). The how and why of things is important, and if people can’t tell me the answer, then I will endeavour to find out. I will gnaw at that bone until I am satisfied.

5.
This quest, in the next few years, have brought me necessary grief, but also an unhealthy expectation for answers. Not having answers put me in a spiral of despair when I was in my teens. I was uncomfortable with the not knowing, for a while. It was supposed to be simple and quantitative: here is a question, and here is answer. I accept this, I don’t accept this.

It took me a long time to realise that the reason why I was getting all my answers was because I probably wasn’t asking enough questions. And when I started doing that—ask and ask and ask—my discontent multiplied tenfold. But so did my understanding of myself, my life, the world. (Is this too much to talk about at the beginning of the year?)

It was in the process of asking that I came upon a truth: that the unknown is an answer. That there are answers upon answers, and sometimes no questions at all.

6.
Mostly, these days: I am unlearning and relearning. Mostly, these days: there are things I rely on, and people, too. And then there are things that I don’t know, and probably will never know, and that’s scary, but okay.

7.
I am perhaps everything I’ve done and believed in, and not done and not believed in. You know?

8.
So what happens now? I am thinking if the time for anonymity is over, and if I should start owning everything I’ve written here.

9.
What have I got to be ashamed of, after all? Nothing, probably.

What have I got to lose? Some things. I think.

What am I afraid of? Oh, everything. Still.

10.
There are things to consider, and think about, and it’s taking me some time to make up my mind. I mean: I contradict myself. It’s probably a matter of multiple selves arguing for a better position, a caucus that is difficult to please. So it might be a while before I finally decide what to do with this place (I have some ideas) but I have finally ran out of reasons to not write.

11.
What happens now: I am trying this again. I might also move, but you’ll know about it. Or maybe I’ll bring together all the places where I am currently writing in, and just let you be pleasantly surprised.

(Or unpleasantly surprised, you never know.)

12.
It’s not that I no longer care about keeping quiet in a corner undisturbed. Only I am thinking—perhaps my concerns eight years ago do not matter as much. That maybe—just maybe—I can say hello and you’ll say hello back.

13.
It’s a new year. I have changed and I haven’t changed. Does that make sense?

14.
Mostly: I believe in a lot of things. Poetry. The inside of a wrist. Mostly: I believe in little things. This place. You.

15.
Hello.

Breakage
Mary Oliver

I go down to the edge of the sea.
How everything shines in the morning light!
The cusp of the whelk,
the broken cupboard of the clam,
the opened, blue mussels,
moon snails, pale pink and barnacle scarred—
and nothing at all whole or shut, but tattered, split,
dropped by the gulls onto the gray rocks and all the moisture gone.
It’s like a schoolhouse
of little words,
thousands of words.
First you figure out what each one means by itself,
the jingle, the periwinkle, the scallop
       full of moonlight.

Then you begin, slowly, to read the whole story.

from Why I Wake Early: New Poems by Mary Oliver, published by Beacon Press, 2005.

The Arrowhead by Mary Oliver

•September 4, 2013 • 38 Comments

1.
What happened is, I sat on my desk yesterday and found that bits and pieces of my life were stolen.

I know no other way to say it except that. It feels a lot like someone is stealing my life, I wrote afterward to my friends, after an hour of leaning against the wall and trying to steady my breathing. Shaken, yes, that’s what I was. Words—all of this, here—this is who I am. Never mind the body, never mind the skin and bones and muscle—words, I am made of words. That’s my life, too, my whole fucking life: words.

2.
What happened is, someone sent me a letter asking me to come back. Someone wrote me and said, your blog changed my life. He also said, I think you should know about this.

I know no other way to do it, and believe me I have spent the entire day mulling over what to do. I know no other way, do you see, except to reveal who you are, even if you might not have meant for things to happen the way they did, even if you did things with good intentions (I am trying to understand your actions when I say that).

I know no other way, and it is going to be painful for the both of us—it already is

3.
What happened is, this blog—returntolive—copied a lot of what I have written here. And by ‘a lot’ I mean a lot. Try thirty entries. No, try more than that. Try entries written as far back as 2005. Try almost everything.

4.
Let me be clear: the poems are yours as much as they are mine.

What I mean is, take them. What I mean is, read them, and read them again. What I mean is, hold them close to you, let them live under your skin. I have found these poems when I needed them. Your arrival here, your discovery of things that speak to you, that speak of who you are—who am I to deny such meeting?

Let me be clear: I have created this space to find myself. But you are here, dear reader, and you have stayed through all these years, and I recognise that. I recognise that this space is now yours, too, that we can be alone together here, that somehow we know each other even if we haven’t met, because poetry does that.

What I mean is: these poems have saved me. What I mean is, if they are going to save you, too, who am I to deny such opportunity? I want them to find their way to you, to your hands, by chance or choice. I want these poems to arrive at your life with bells ringing; I want you to feel alive, alive again. But I want these poems to sit quietly by your bed as well, and hold your hand when you feel you can’t get up, when you feel there is no meaning left in the world; I want you to know that you are not entirely by yourself, that someone loves you, that I love you, because what else is there to do in this life but love strangers who understand what it is to be utterly bereft?

These poems have saved me, and if they are going to save someone else—if they are going to save you—then take them. Let me be clear: I don’t care if you put them in your own blog, I don’t care if you send them to your lover, I don’t care if you share them with a friend, I don’t care if you tell them, I found this. Because you did. That’s the truth: I found them, but you found them, too.

5.
What is important: to remember who wrote it. To remember who said those words that you now carry in your heart. To remember their names, and to remember them correctly. You have a responsibility now to get it right.

This is the least we can do: to remember who these poets are, to know that they wrote these words, so that the next time we speak of their work, their name would pass our lips as if a prayer of thanks.

I say Creeley, and I remember that pain is a flower. I say Walcott, and this comes back to me: You will love again the stranger who was your self. Reading someone else’s poems is, after all, all we’ve ever done, and I whisper, Light. Light.

6.
But this person who kept that blog, is still keeping it—it’s protected now, “marked private by its owner”—also took my words.

Let me repeat what was written in the About page: “This blog is a collection of poems that speak to me, quotes that take my breath away, and my own writings/thoughts/poems.” Took them, collected them—it’s all semantics at this point, isn’t it. So let me say, took them, because that is what happened. My own words were taken, held in someone else’s possession, and were made to look like someone else wrote them.

My words, my thoughts, my sense of truth, my life. The things I wrote to accompany each poem were taken and made to fit someone else’s life. At least, that’s what it looked like, that’s what it felt like. I mean—it’s incredible.

To find a single, standalone post titled, “What brought you here?”, and know that I have written the exact same thing almost two years ago. To find another, titled “Not listening”, and know that I have written it almost eight years ago.

7.
This hurts me, I told my friends. This hurts me terribly.

The wounds are deepest for things I have written when I was finally coming back to myself again, or when a great love broke my heart. Even my letters to all of you—like this one, or this one, or this one, or this one. All of it and more, taken.

All of it and more, copied and placed in a blog with no link back to where they were found. This person took and took and took, and in a matter of days, amassed a collection—and what a collection it is—of not only poems but life. My life. It almost felt like a dream, until it wasn’t.

8.
Eight years I’ve been here. That’s a long time to be in one place. And yet, I admit, I confess, that the first question I asked myself as soon as I found out about all of this was not how did this happen?, but: is it time to leave?

I know I have thought about leaving a lot of times. Of packing up, of moving on somewhere else, of taking all of this with me, of emptying this place. You know this. You’ve witnessed it, how I turned inward, time and time again, how I wrote in the dark, in private, when it became too much. But then I always come back. Because it seems this is the one anchor I have that has never let me down. Because I have met versions of myself here, because it is proof that strangers who live on opposite sides of the world can become great friends, because one day in August, eight years ago, I posted the very first poem that spoke the truth of who I was: My heart had become very small; it took very little to fill it.

Nevertheless, when I read, I think you should know about this and consequently found out—I thought, I must leave.

9.
I am thinking, who am I to be hurt over this? Do I even have the right to?

10.
I am thinking, but what if I left and end up regretting it? And what happens now to you, to all of you, to all of this?

11.
A friend said, the trouble is that this could always happen. And I know that, I absolutely know that. Because this is not the first time, and it will not be the last. But—things are different for me now. I’m more protective of what I write than when I was much younger, if that makes sense.

The magnitude of this—this incident, the scale of it—worries me. Eight years of reading and writing, and all it took to produce a mirror of this place was a few days.

Is it worth the risk of staying?

12.
I am thinking, maybe nothing is ever mine.

I am thinking, isn’t everything borrowed? Certainly this time. Certainly my life. We are all of us borrowed, and when I say my life, I know it really means, this life that I was given, was allowed to have, for a little while. Even language, even words, even the mouth I use to speak my thoughts, even the hands I use to write what I feel. All of it lent to me, the moment I opened my eyes and started my journey in this world.

So what right have I to make a claim?

What right have I to say, this is mine, and you took it?

13.
Return to live—that is what you have named your blog. Isn’t it funny that I have stayed quiet since June (writing here still, but where no one else can see), yet returned and resurfaced because of what you did?

If you must know, my friends wanted me to make a report, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet. Report—such an unpleasant word to me now. To give an account of what happened. To share the results of an investigation, a finding. To have you known, to expose you, to have someone shut you down, is what they tell me I should do, but in the process, I’ll have to announce my presence, too.

All night I pondered over this, what to do. Tested its weight, asking myself if it’s the only thing there is, and if it’s cruel. Asking myself if I can be kinder, if I can find another way to resolve it. I slept fitfully. And when I woke up, your blog has turned its back to the world.

Do I feel foolish, worrying all this time, only to be met with this today? Yes. Do I feel hurt still? Yes. Do I want to hear from you, hear your side of things? Yes, of course, yes. Do I think writing about this, writing about you, is difficult? Yes. Do I feel bad about it? God, yes. More than you’ll ever know.

But here we are. You led us here; you’ve got to admit that, at least. I know no other way to do it, because it all started here. I don’t even know your name.

14.
I am thinking, maybe I’ve set myself up for all of this.

I am thinking, maybe nothing is ever mine.

The Arrowhead
Mary Oliver

The arrowhead,
which I found beside the river,
was glittering and pointed.
I picked it up, and said,
“Now, it’s mine.”
I thought of showing it to friends.
I thought of putting it—such an imposing trinket—
in a little box, on my desk.
Halfway home, past the cut fields,
the old ghost
stood under the hickories.
“I would rather drink the wind,” he said,
“I would rather eat mud and die
than steal as you steal,
than lie as you lie.”

From Wild Geese: Selected Poems by Mary Oliver, published by Bloodaxe Books, 2006.

 
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