Last week, I swore I would get out of my fucking house and meet some people. For god’s sake, I was merging with my couch!
Which led to yesterday. Yesterday was Poetry Workshop day
Poetry Workshop Day
What better way to know if I am actually good at poetry or not? I asked myself, clicking the RSVP link and adding the event to my calendar.
I woke up bright and early that morning, rolled out of bed, showered and dressed. I chose the hyperlink blue top, black tights, and black & gray sorrel pdx wedges. Why I’m so enraptured by these clothes, I don’t know…
I got into my car and set on the audio-book to play, using GPS to navigate me to the nearby city. Remembering I needed to stop at the bank, I found my way winding through the metropolitan area, sprinkled with areas of construction along the main highway. I soon reached my exit and began winding up and down streets lined with shops, laundry mats, ethnic shops, restaurants, drugstores, and lottery booths.
It reminded me a bit of downtown Birmingham, AL, when I’d visited almost 3 years ago now… The same hip vibe, ethnic people, eclectic shops.
They must have a bunch of coffee shops here, I thought to myself.
When I arrived at my destination, I ran into a familiar problem, where to park. After circling the nearby blocks, I found a spot, small and tight, between a BMW and a Jeep. There I went, squeezing in my Honda Civic with a prayer on my lips, and my foot mashed on the brake. Thank god I knew how to parallel park (practice practice practice). After much reversing and care, I incrementally fit my small car into the space without tapping the neighboring cars.
I’m 18 minutes late.
I locked the doors, grabbed my backpack, and struck off down the sidewalk, counting down to the building number -201- then took the stairs to the second floor. I was pointed down a long hallway, to the last door on the left, where the meetup was held.
I opened the door.
And the vibe was warm, the auras were welcoming, and I didn’t feel uncomfortable.
I will come back, I thought, even before I’d sat down.
I was introduced to everyone, and I was Cole, nice to meet you. It felt like a comfortable cloak I’d never removed. I was Cole again.
Actually, I don’t think I’d stopped being Cole. Cole was always there, I realized as I grabbed a seat at the table. I am Cole.
I’m always Cole. No matter what they call me.
We responded to three writing prompts, taking ten minutes to write, then having the option to share what we read. I shared my poems each time.
I’ll share them here, with you…
Prompt: Break a rule – write about something we are told not to write about (i.e. fatherhood and death by cancer).
I stood there, in trepidation and silence,
A sorrow, stale and worn;
I could not seem to grasp the sounds.
They stood in white before me,
A flock of heartless birds to steal my soul away
With a word, a look, a halfhearted turn-of-phrase.
Wringing out, the eeking keen of disbelief tinged the air green,
A sickly soft syrup slushed through my veins;
I cannot even gesture acquiescence or rejection.
Captured, sliced, and mute.
The room I awake in is white
– Fuck the white.
I HATE the white that had woven the lies that sowed
Hope in my heart.
Why was there no black?
Spiraling down, I land on my knees
In the gravel driveway;
Choking, heaving, listing,
Clutching the last memory that
Slowly sifted away into sand.
Dirt trickles from my frozen fingers,
I find no comfort in the cloying scent
Of jasmines and sunflowers adorning
The gaping hole where my heart lies.
There is nothing I wouldn’t do
To destroy the world, to erase the limits of time,
To turn back those harsh and unsympathetic hands.
To return to her loving arms
Riddled with central lines, pumping
Poison into collapsing veins,
Destroying the smile on her lips.
The shattered glass of her eyes
When she asked when daddy would take her home.
Would he come now? She had been
So good, right mommy?
And I stared at the dirt mounded,
Covering my shame and guilt;
Laying down beside her, I finally —
Daddy is home.
I felt so wrung after reading. The silence in the room made me shy and embarrassed. The complements thereafter were warm. Slightly uncomfortable, I accepted the complements with a smile and thanks in the way I had been taught to do.
Would it kill you to accept a fucking complement, Cole?
The next prompt was tougher, harder for me to write. I started two different sets, thoughts akimbo, until in the last 5 minutes I realized what I was afraid of writing the most.
I didn’t want to write about W.
Prompt: Write about what you are afraid to write about
What he did
I never understood
How a smile could hide
Such a devious mind.
Destroying more that year
Than I knew to be precious.
The truth is,
The cracks within,
Were my own.
The words were never there,
The emotion obliterated.
The past continues to return,
A demon never exorcised.
He planted the seeds,
And I can’t seem to halt the growth.
A muffled silence. I felt raw, thoughts racing. I realized, in hindsight, that the words sounded like the words one would write about an ex.
There were no words to explain I was writing not about an old flame, but an older, pathetic man who once called himself my boss. Ascribing words of another time into the present, where I finally had words to define and describe that which had been sealed behind my lips for so long.
On the page, I looked down on the words, written with anger, large and angular. Cross-outs throughout the page, blots scribbled out angrily. I could feel that anger now, in the silence. I realized my emotion caused me to read the words too fast, out of pace for absorbing the words by the listener…
I took deep breaths. This was turning into a spot of therapy…
After a 15 minute break, the last prompt was more… thoughtful. Approaching another, less harmful memory, I went back to childhood.
Prompt: Address an Entity in Rebellion
Hello. I wonder if you remember me
Please sit down, sir, you’ve spoken quite enough.
Let the oxygen in,
Let us breath for a damn minute
Before you drown us in pontification.
Opinion and bluster to erase
Every independent thought, as you spoke
With the arrogance of the morning star.
Did you ever stop to think about
The impact of your words?
Or were you so drunk on power
– Inebriated by greed and jealousy –
That you couldn’t spare a single thought for your victims?
The innocent wide brown eyes,
Disregarded by prying words.
Crowbars clattering against the locks.
Did you see me standing there?
Watching your desperation and triumphal
Entry? No, for all that you could see
Were earthly treasures.
Stacks of green paper mark you
A liar, sir, for heaven was not
To be found in the darkened
Maw of the safe.
Machinations, silver tongued
And multilingual, I watched you
Sway the multitude like
Wheat bowing to the wind
Waves of majesty before you
Could you see me standing there?
When the votes were tallied
Thy will, not my will, be done
In church as it may never be done
Above. The steeple mocked
In the shadow of the cross
Judas put forth his hand for
Did you know, sir, that the
Value of all you covet that day
Was not even worth fifteen cents?
Did you see me standing there
Watching you froth at the lips
The only words chanting from your lips
“Where is the money?”
I dropped my book with a thud of finality. Again, silence.
“This actually happened,” I said, shying from looking anyone in the eye, bouncing my eyeballs at the empty spaces just beyond eye level.
“I’m sorry,” my neighbor said softly.
“It’s okay,” I said. “I was just a kid.”
I don’t know why I said that. I felt stupid for saying that.
The members shared what they wrote as they had done for each prompt. I closed my eyes to listen, grounding in the moment away from my turbulent thoughts to focus on their spoken words in the moment.
Stay in the moment, Cole.
Talent was in that room. I know it. Beauty woven in those words, I felt the peace descend. I was where I was supposed to be.
At the end, as I packed up and headed out the door, a member said, “I liked what you wrote.”
“Thank you.” I smiled into his eyes. “I liked your poems too, you have a beautiful sense of humor.”
We smiled at each other, and I continued out the doorway
Put the Pieces Back Together
I sat in my car. I just wanted… a break.
I felt flimsy, like a stiff breeze would blow me away and I’d cease to exist.
Wiggling out of the parking spot I’d wedged into, I pulled away into traffic, GPS charted for the 2nd Coffee shop I’d found almost 2 months ago that I hadn’t yet visited. I left the city and entered the suburbs, winding down more familiar roads until I arrived at the Maywood Pancake House.
Again, parking was hard to find. I ended up far away, but the sunshine was beautiful on my face, the air fresh and clean, I strutted up the sidewalk with a smile and entered in through the door into a
Mouth agape, I looked around in amazement. Did they actually serve vegan food here? And this many people came to eat?
“Sorry for the wait, how many?” the hostess asked, pulling me from my blatant staring.
“One,” I replied.
“Would you like to sit in the booth or at the counter?” She asked. I followed her gesture at the booth parked in the far corner. It looked dark and claustrophobic. The counter was open, well lit and inviting.
“The counter please.”
I followed her to the counter facing the coffee machines, the presses, and the sorcery where baristas flitted like busy bees, assembling all kinds of breakfast beverages. The hostess placed a menu and a napkin wrapped fork and knife on the table in front of the last chair at the end of the counter. “Here okay?”
“That’s fine.” I smiled reflexively.
She smiled in return, and left me to awkwardly perch on the chair, wiggling out of my coat and backpack which I stubbornly refused to leave behind in the car. I put the coat over the back of my stool, and perched the backpack under the counter lip to rest on the brass foot railing my legs couldn’t reach. I hooked my heels over the stool rungs and opened the menu.
“Hi, can I get you anything?”
I looked up at the waiter, whose words were spoken in an accent that reminded me of western Europe. Was it Russian? No, maybe Polish? Czech? It was lovely, all the same.
“Mmm,” I scanned the menu, “can I get a glass of soy milk?”
“A glass of soy milk?” I nodded. “Coming right up.”
He grabbed a glass and a straw, poured the milk up to the rim, and set the glass down before me without spilling a drop. I was impressed.
“Thanks!” I said, then sucked it down, surprising myself with my thirst.
I eventually ordered vegan pancakes -duh, right? -with chocolate chips and coconut shavings on top. I wondered if they served chai tea, but didn’t see it on the menu. Oh well…
As I waited for the food, I wrote in my notebook:
Such an onslaught of emotion. Both tired and shell-shocked, I await my vegan pancakes w/chocolate chips and coconut atop.
Emotionally wrung dry… I feel weary with eyelids heavy w/ sleep. Suddenly exhausted. The hot air balloon collapses upon itself and my facade is no more.
Weary, almost fragile. At the counter I alternate between writing and glancing at the cc of the TV spewing news reports. I can’t keep up. I remember why I hate the news.
After 4 pancakes and 2 milk glasses, I feel finally human. Shell intact.
I wonder what to do next. It’s only 2:30ish, perhaps travel to B&N? No… somewhere peaceful and quiet.
Or, maybe, just drive…
I wanted to ask Leo, my waiter, where his accent was from, but the opportunity did not arise.
Stuffed and craving a spot of exercise – shocking, I know – I decided walking was next on the menu. But not outside… inside would be preferable -ah-hah! The mall!
Parking again was illusive. I circled for 15 minutes with fellow cars, wheeling circles like birds of prey in the sky. I finally found a spot at the Target parking lot.
I walked for over an hour before my feet screamed their exhaustion. I turned my car home.
Thus ended my day..