Saturday, April 30, 2016

NaPoWriMo 2016: Day 29 - Journeys a patchwork of things remembered, many of which I'm setting down to paper for the first time. It's kind of cathartic, surprisingly, but also scary because it left me feeling oddly vulnerable. But. Poets must be brave right. The last line is from John Ashbery's 'The Young Prince and the Young Princess', a poem I've always loved and remembered from the first time I read it at age 12. Oddly, it's the only line I remembered out of the whole poem, except for the name.

#29: Journeys
Prompt: Write a poem about things you remember, concentrating on as much of the details as you can

Mother never wept but I saw her cry the day
My exam results were out. She never meant for me to see:
That I know. Grandmother told her my poor grades
Were a result of her being too involved in her church work
Her strident voice loud enough I heard from abovestairs.

I closed my room door and I wept too
A clenched fist of a body, emotions tangled like river weeds
Around the huge rock of regret sunk deep
Into my insides. I gave up on studying because
I hated school, because I didn't understand the subjects
But I never meant
For my mother to pay the price of my rebellion.

Cold milk is a heaven of smooth and sleek
Silk to the throat. I never had any till I was ten.
I remember the taste to this day, my first cup of it.
I had allergies to certain things, the doctors said
And dairy might be one of them. They didn't know for sure.
I outgrew the scratching, the persistent itch of my skin
So unbearable I would tear at it with my fingernails
Until it bled.

I remember my first dance - Graz, Austria
Where four of us had come to compete in the World Choir Games.
My partner, a Brazilian baritone, tall and lanky
Swept me across the floor while his group and mine
Were waiting to go on stage, the strains of jazz music
Coming through the closed doors of the competition hall.
Mismatched couple, the pair of us - him gliding feather-light
Like a dragonfly on the wing, and me, this weighty stone
Dragging around in his wake.
For the first time I realised happiness
Felt like golden bubbles rising from a molten sea
Of music and joy.

The first time I saw the Australian outback
Was from the window of a plane flying between clouds.
I didn't know what to make of it: this place
I had read about so many times and would be landing at in
Several hours more. Wild, beautiful, severe
It felt like a kind of awe.

The first time I saw New York I don't remember much.
The second time, coming back over more than ten years
I felt as if I'd walked into a dream. Unreal.
I'd heard about these streets all my life and now
There I was, walking through them
Breathing the energy of the city like air
Tasting its lifeblood through subways and train tracks.

I didn't die, though I tried.
Vietnam rescued me. Danang, city of bridges
The harbour sidewalks filled with marble sculptures
And the women who line-danced every night
Like joyous, earthy nymphs, and pulled me in
To join them as well
The old schoolteacher who took me across the city
On her motorscooter - a stranger
I would probably never meet again, but who knew
The power of kindness, like a spark of light.

I didn't die. I lived
And all these are now part of the pages of the story
I tell through these words, to be able to say
This is how we lived, you and I.

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