the memory of words which remain

Years ago, I put on borrowed cap and gown and gathered on the manicured lawn of local high school with the other graduates as we said goodbye to one chapter of our lives and welcomed in another. Most of my friends already had their dorm room furniture picked out, excited to heading straight to university. I sat, with poorly bleached and butchered hair completely unaware of what my next steps would look like.

On this day when we each got our names called out by the principal, shook hand, and grabbed rolled-up document promising we were done, I received a book.

Actually, I received two. One was from my sister and one was from my creative writing teacher who inspired me to become a poet.

My teacher gave me Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet. A tiny, pocket-sized book that I have carried with me through many apartments and states and lives. Last summer, I dusted it off and read it as though it were a bible. Underlining words of wisdom as I nursed a broken heart and found my way toward love again.

My sister gave me Maya Angelou’s Phenomenal Woman. This became my favorite poem, as I was captivated by the way she celebrated bodies through language. Perhaps this is what led me toward writing so much about the body.

Maya Angelou passed away a few days ago and I immediately felt sadness that I never got to be in the same room with her all of the times she spoke her words out loud.

But the words still exist. She will forever be archived and remembered because our bookshelves are a reminder of all that she gave us.

This is why we (must) write.

I wasn’t supposed to still be here. But I stuck around and read a bunch of books and wrote a bunch of poems and I’ve got ISBN’s in my skin and now there is so much love saturating my muscles that I cannot believe I was so adamant about leaving here.

Dear Maya Angelou.
We rise from the weight of your words. 
We rise from the courage of realizing that we are all drafts; we are all survivors surviving.
We rise from the ink of your tongue reminding us that we are all poems; we are all poets.

how to be alone.

Thank you, Rebel, for reminding me the beauty of one’s own strength that comes from being alone.

“Society is afraid of alone. Like lonely hearts are wasting away in basements. Like people must have problems if, after awhile, nobody is dating them. But lonely is a freedom that breathes easy and weightless and lonely is healing if you make it.”   –Tanya Davis.

Wherever you may find yourself: in a town of less than 8,000 where breaths freeze against windows into oxygenated icicles or one in 8.3 million where the buildings are so tall, you can barely see beyond the door frames. Loneliness exists in crowds and in rooms full of only you. Loneliness exists underground and flying above clouds. Shared meals can be lonely and so can celebrations.

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and books written in a foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers which cannot be given you, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then, gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” –Rainer Maria Rilke

Why must I exist like this?
Can’t I just ignore the bother of my bones?
If I stop looking into my reflection, will I forget about the stranger living inside?
What makes me a poet?
What if I’m not the poet I told you I am?
How can I lift weights to grow muscles in my heart and strengthen my scars into fierce survivors?
Have I lost one more chance at love because of because of all those times I pushed it away?
Will I ever accept my gender?
Now that I’ve spoken on the discombobulation of my body, how do I proceed?
Even though it’s clean, I still fear my blood as though it is an enemy; why?
How do I trust another to accept the disrobe of my body?
How do I trust myself to accept the disrobe of my body?
Does this ever get easier? Or will I ever understand why/how I have remained so long?

If I can just hold onto these words, like hands, keeping me safe and balanced. This language will help me to cross the street. These letters will dine with me at night and read alongside me. This dialect will be my guide. My musical accompaniment. This loneliness is my band-aid, preparing every part of me to heal so that when another enters, I will be ready.