Washed Up

When I started writing, I was fifteen or sixteen years old. I am a huge collector of words. I keep blank books upon blank books with just words or things I’d hear people say that I loved. I also would keep phrases that I heard people say that I misheard, sometimes my mistake at hearing the phrase would lead to something poetic. When I would write, I would go to the journals and sometimes just write. Other times, I’d piece together things from journals until I had a poem or structure I liked. It never occurred to me to put a collection of poems together until much later. When I did eventually do this at maybe twenty four years old, I had a ton of poems. The first three ‘collections,’ really span quite a few years. I do actually really love these collections because they capture a really extraordinary time in my life. They really all have pieces from three of the most important romantic relationships in my life. I was also traveling extensively and learning so much about myself and the world. One of the most interesting thing about writing is that people who know you often infer that you are writing about this relationship or that relationship. It seemed like after I got married, everyone assumed every poem was about my ex-wife. The truth is I have a few very specific poems about her, but a lot the poems ‘assumed’ about her were about someone else I had a relationship or feelings for or about another relationship I heard about. I remember the first time I workshopped a poem. I was so intrigued by what people took out of it. There were details in it that are actual facts, that people assumed to be ‘brilliant metaphors.’ There were metaphors or similes that people took as fact. There were things that I did not connect at all that people connected. I remember thinking, “Wow, they are amazingly generous with the credit they are giving me.” The second collection of poems I put together is called, “A Little Eden.” It’s sort of a joy to read, along with my first collection because there are so many poems that celebrate new things in my life. The poems span this significant time in my life, when I was really trying on new things. I was traveling. I was in love. I was out of love. I discovered Europe and then returned home determined to set out to discover and explore the U.S. I’ve written that I don’t ever read a poem until at least a few weeks after it’s written. I want to make sure that it holds up. There are poems I like after I’ve written them that I like because they are cathartic for me in the moment. The poem I’m sharing today… Well, it sat for years. Then one day I was thumbing through some old poems and there it was. It is a very simple poem. I think during school I had some hesitancy toward these poems. Writing professors were always talking about how a ‘great poem juggles many things’ (sounds, sights, etc.) This is such a simple love poem. Perhaps there is some nostalgia here, but when I read it, I am able to go back to that moment and feel all the pent up feelings of longing that existed. I feel that the narrator is waiting for something magical to happen in this every day moment/experience. (You’ll have to read the poem to see if it does). I think we’ve all been there in that room that is bursting (at least on our side/sometimes both) for ‘that moment,’ to happen. I think a lot of our most memorable experiences of being in love come from that pent up energy in ordinary rooms/moments waiting for their season or time. There are very few poems that I write that exist that truly capture an experience I had. Many of the poems jumble multiple experiences together or I use “I” to tell a story that really moved me. I think when I reread this poem years later, what stuck out to me was that it was not trying to juggle a lot. It really just strived to speak of a situation exactly as it happened. The honesty and the fact that it’s about this very mundane experience, that beneath the surface felt anything but…

Washed Up

It was a moment of intense contrasts.
Seven days of rain; we were washed up.
The document of lost hours, blank pages
Filled with grasps of pencil and poems
I was becoming
Envious of the fake tulips on the wicker table
For holding so much color
In clearly such a dull time.

We had white paint buckets filled with rainwater
Surrounding us. Every so often I’d open up
The patio door and listen to the cadence of rain,
Which to me sounded like the visible leap
From life to death. I thought, “As I fall
From mortal grace into eternal peace,
I hope it sounds like falling water.

I didn’t tell you that. It’s something
You’ll never know about me.
I believe secrets to be
The stability of change.

Earlier in our school bus yellow ponchos, we drove
Down to the lake hoping the spirit of inspiration
Would find us, as light finds winter branches
And intersperses its grace among them.

There in the front seat of the pickup,
We stared at the water and found
Our fear of lost time.

We just watched concentric circle find
Concentric circle on the water,
Ringlets easy to feel as soft baby curls.

You told me there, I want to paint your poems.

I confessed to having dreamed of sequencing your art to words.

I’ve been writing a lot about love,
I confess, look down, and crack my knuckles.

You looked away,
With those eyes could have killed my inner-enemies
By the thousands. Still, I felt myself still on the battlefield
Searching for the angel face of a messenger.
Finding no moon in the sky.
No sun either

We drove home. Seven days of rain and then
The sunlight pawed it’s way into the room and
Laid itself down in the room like a cat.
Spilling itself among the fake flowers
Making their surfaces shine brighter
And appear less real.

I watched you-
The you from the truck by the lake,
The you I sat in this anticipation with for seven days-
Look away……
Pretending nothing had changed.
Pretending we sat in a clear sunny room
For the least seven days.

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