from years of scraping
my soul through sieves
scoop it into your hands
the screaming from the laughter
The thing that sucks about being alone isn’t so much the solitude or the empty time or the yawning space or the fact that you’re more likely to uncover some personal blemish via reflection. It’s that once you finally do get around people, it fills you til you could burst.
You end up having a million things to say so you either can’t decide what to say first and end up not saying anything at all, or you try saying everything all at once before you forget it all, words tumbling over themselves in an effort to get as far away from your lips as possible. Neither tactic wins you many friends, which would be why you’re alone in the first place.
the dead stay dead forever
and promises are never
more than a bluff
ripped up, stolen and rough
i’d be your teddy bear
with this eternal stare
but you’ve torn out the fluff
maybe’s never enough
yes, i’ve caught the disease
in the battles we seize
hearts are drowned and they freeze
down in dark memories
enemies in the wire
we’ve come under fire
come on take me higher
with every puff
maybe’s never enough
Preamble to this post:
Whereas POETRY, being defined by Merriam-Webster as “writing that formulates a concentrated imaginative awareness of experience in language chosen and arranged to create a specific emotional response through meaning, sound, and rhythm” and by Oxford Dictionary as “literary work in which special intensity is given to the expression of feelings and ideas by the use of distinctive style and rhythm; poems collectively or as a genre of literature”:
And as LITERATURE being defined by Merriam-Webster as “writings having excellence of form or expression and expressing ideas of permanent or universal interest” and by Oxford Dictionary as “written works, especially those considered of superior or lasting artistic merit”:
Therefore, I will commence to perhaps finally introduce myself to POETRY, thereby to determine whether or not my creations are, indeed, to be considered poetry.
Emotion is something I’m good at. Too good at, perhaps, a bit tipsy at, even. I’ve tried to educate the emotional out of me, to view everything through slowly formulated, data-specific stiff, logical answers. But there, did you see that? Even sticking a little word like ‘stiff’ into that sentence makes the whole idea take on a negative tone. Corpses are stiff. Living things are fluid, malleable and adaptive.
Emotion is something I’m good at, at least in myself. I don’t know how the emotions relate to you because I’m not you. Sometimes we’re similar, almost the same. Most times, we’re very different. It’s hit or miss every time I take the keys. Intensity, though, that’s something I have. At least most days, because life has taught me that that, too, is not a venerable trait. Too intense, too deep. These things are not good, people say. Balance. One must always have balance.
Distinctive. Artistic merit. Those are things I struggle with. Do I use up all the big words I used in big-people school or dumb it down for the general consumption of the masses? Is “dumbing down” an insult to humanity or a tool to communicate broad ideas in sweeping brushtrokes? Is there broccoli in my teeth? The choice to be precise and articulate or vague and abstract spins about in my mind like the needle of a compass, wobbly and dependent upon where I am standing.
Expressing ideas of permanent or universal interest. I can do that, right? The brushtrokes. Pain. Death. Love. Creation. These are things all humans understand, but would a thirsting child in a war-torn world be interested in my poetry? Would a hummingbird pause to hear my musicless song? Can poetry ever do such a thing, and is that to be our chief aim?
I think, in the end, then, we are all failures. From nobel laureate to ten-year-old lyricist, Wolf to Shelley to Dickinson and back again.
But maybe we weren’t meant to succeed. Maybe it’s not about succeeding at all, but about stabbing about with emotional intensity for the heart of a thing until it stops beating in our ears.
Sit back and grab a coke because this is going to be a long one.
As many ‘ethnic’ people in the U.S. know, it’s not easy being in two worlds. There’s always a sense of duality and differentness. Do you belong to one people group or another? Are you more American or more [insert racial background here]? Sometimes earlier generations make this decision for us, raising us in a “traditional” style that somewhat alienates children from their current environment, or opting for a more assimilated style of rearing in which cultural ties are slowly decayed until ultimately lost.
I’m pretty sure I’m in the latter group, although the line is fuzzy. My mom, as any devout Hispanic Catholic mother would, often kept my brother and I from doing things that were too American and might, thereby lead us to sin in her mind. She told us that we weren’t American, we were better than American. But we never associated with other often closely-knit Hispanic communities, and she would turn up her nose in disgust whenever people displayed flags indicating their culture of origin. We’re not like THOSE people, she would tell us.
This left me with an inherent moral dilemma. My mother, the one who bore and raised me, who breathed life into my bones and taught me the art of stories had defined my life story as being neither American nor Hispanic. Being a devout Catholic, I also hated myself because every step was a sin, in my naive sense of theology I was sure of it. Thus being so alienated from my peer group and every culture, I convinced myself I would never be loved by anyone and therefore I could not be married. So, at the ripe age of fourteen, I decided I would become a nun.
After a briefly zealous induction into a Southern Baptist church and an equally zealous reversal into agnosticism, the fact that I ever considered becoming a nun is absurd to me now. However, somewhere in my troubled teen life where I was both dealing with societal exile, an incurable and embarrassing skin disorder and an as of yet undiagnosed mood disorder, music breathed a world of relief and hope into my battered mind.
I can still remember first hearing the song on the radio, in the days before Youtube and iPods, back when MTV and VH1 still played music on the air. There was an opening wail of an electric guitar gliding above a driving drumbeat. The guitar waned in and out accompanied by a piano playing a series of chords I can play with my eyes shut, the harmonic progression of my people. The only word for this sense that comes about when you hear the voice of your people is “orgullo.” It translates into “pride” but feels so much more powerful to me in my mother tongue.
When the chorus of this riveting, tantalizing song came in, I was swept away. The voice, a very much American and non-Hispanic man went on about the beauty and complexities of moody, volatile Hispanic women. I could have died. Here, here were the words that understood me so well! And not only did it give me a small sense of identity and belonging, something which I so desperately needed, but it painted us beautiful. Not the shallow kind of solely sex-driven beautiful that is always all over the media, pressuring the many of us who don’t fit the stereotype in the least, but the lyrics of this song reached into the soul and heart of Hispanic nature. And it made me feel, for the first time, like I could be something beautiful.
The song I’m talking about, of course, is “Smooth” where Carlos Santana* showcased and aided the career of a very young Rob Thomas. The latter musician then went on with his bandmates at Matchbox Twenty to produce album after album after album, even to this day. However, at the time, that honestly didn’t matter much to me.
Then she gave me the cd. We were sitting in anatomy class, and I can’t remember why she decided to give it to me in the first place. Maybe I had been talking about how much I love the song “Smooth,” even if I didn’t entirely understand why at the time. The case was cracked, but the cd wasn’t scratched and still ran well in my stereo. If it were a book, I would say I read it cover to cover. Something about the words, the words understood me more than people did.
I ended up buying every album they had. I was never much of a fan girl, wanting to be a nun and all, but something about Matchbox Twenty’s music spoke so deeply to my core that I couldn’t let it go. They were with me through nights of prayer. They were with me through studying for exams and reading for classes. They were with my before my first car crash- in fact, my radio refused to play the next track about ten minutes before my poor little silver 2000 Volkswagen Beetle was crushed like a bug. They’ve been with me through every crush, every break up, every piano performance, every day of teaching, through everything.
Naturally, when my brother told me late last year that they’d be coming to Savannah as part of their North Winter Tour, I about hatched an egg. Through decades of rigid piano rehearsal, choral rehearsals, classical concerts, jazz concerts and general musical study, I had never, EVER been to a rock concert. And I never, EVER thought they’d come down here. Ever. I immediately bought a ticket for myself and my brother [an outstanding musician in his own right], and surprised him with the news later.
When it came to the actual night of the concert, I was a complete wreck. Relationships were getting strained at work, I had been through no less than six suicidal bouts, and my brother was super anxious over his master’s composition recital. In fact, there is absolutely no way I would have even made it to the concert without my brother. Downtown Savannah was already crowded with tourists getting ready for St. Patrick’s day celebrations, and all of my fears about being seen in public by people I know, getting into car crashes and being around strangers were in full force. Somehow, despite all my anxieties [both rational and irrational], we wound up in our seats.
That’s when Matt Hires took the stage. I immediately picked out which two bandmates were brothers, something which soothed and calmed me because I had also grown up in a family of musicians. Being able to create music with kin is an indescribably wonderful experience, so I prodded my brother on the knee and pointed out the brothers. Then we shared one of our quiet grins, the kind where we don’t have to talk because we’ve known each other our whole lives. That, too, is indescribably wonderful, and I was proud to have been able to share this moment with my little brother.
The music which Matt Hire’s band played was hauntingly familiar, and at points I found myself already memorizing choruses and softly singing along- even harmonizing. Prior to the start of the concert, their bassist had taken the stage and practiced a few runs on his instrument. I could sympathize with the pre-concert excitement, the need to get everything just right.
They also came across to me as a relatively young band. Though members were fluent in several instruments, I could tell [by my own training] that they weren’t always masters of them. Part of that may be from the self-admitted pre-St. Paddy’s day celebrations, but the eyes-glued-to-where-fingers-are-going thing kind of gave it away. Did they play wrong notes, bad chords or sing out of key? Absolutely not. Their songs were elegantly lyrical in a singer-songwriter kind of way and, had the crowd had a more confident sense of who was actually performing, I think many listeners would have been spell-bound.
However, when Matchbox Twenty came on the stage, the crowd immediately leaped to its feet. This was somewhat unfortunate for my brother and I, as well as the eleven year old girl who wound up sitting next to me, because we are all incredibly tiny. I don’t even clear five feet. All things considered, though, we WERE in the seventh row [starting after the VIP section] and if I held my camera high enough and used the zoom, I could see everything clearly. And what I saw was amazing.
I hadn’t realized until that night how many other people Matchbox Twenty had affected, or even how much they had impacted my own life. I knew every single word to all but four songs they performed over two and a half hours. A college-aged girl a few rows behind me also commented that this was her first concert ever. There were teenagers and older adults bopping around alike.
Yet the band’s reach, like their lyrics, goes a few levels deeper than surface value. They truly sang through their instruments, literally conversing with one another with both excellent showmanship and great respect. You could tell that this was a group of musicians that had listened to each other and grown with each other, experimenting with new sounds rather than stagnating- all without losing their identity.
Identity. There’s that word again. At the beginning of the concert, above roars and screams, Rob Thomas described the tone he wanted to set for the concert. We were there to share a moment. As people. As human beings. And we were there to celebrate life. As someone, again, who struggles often with mood disorders and suicidal thoughts, this call to celebrate life rather than give in to it was a phenomenal thought for me to take in. Not only that, but you could tell, here, too, was a man who had been changed by his music, his wife and his fans over time. There is something almost reverent about the way we sang, danced and generally, in every sense of the word, celebrated- and I was at times taken back to my short stint as an evangelical Christian. It had every fiber of excitement of a worship service, but not in a heretical sense. We were praising joy, music and life itself.
Both Kyle Cook and Rob Thomas commented on the fact that Savannah was their first official southern concert and proudly described themselves as southern boys. This, of course, elicited a roar of applause, but it gave me a sense of pride, as well. Perhaps after all these years, despite the many moves all over the world, I, too, have become a southerner. Though this is an idea I am still wrestling with, the sense of emerging identity is one filled with warmth and celebration.
Exuding that warmth, the band has reached out to their fans through various social media outlets, inviting them to share pictures and experiences. This, of course, meant that many a cell phone was waved in the air, grabbing as much footage as it could.
At one point during one of Kyle Cook’s solos, Rob Thomas reached down into the VIP section and took somebody’s cellphone, recording all around Kyle as he played as well as the entire band and audience from the stage’s viewpoint. Paul Doucette would often strut onto the side stairs while playing a stringed instrument, or he’d bang the toms as flamboyantly as my ex-boyfriend played the bongos- hands reacting to rebound by bounding well up to the shoulders before crashing down again. This juxtaposition of harmony and anger, quirkiness and mastery is part of what makes them so lovable.
After multiple standing ovations, Matchbox Twenty decided to close with a nod to Georgia’s musical heritage. They broke into the opening strains of a familiar REM song, (“from back when they were good, as my musically astute brother noted”) when the music jerkingly ground to a halt as Rob Thomas let loose a slew of harsh words. Though I, and other fans who have exchanged stories over Twitter, are still not entirely certain as to what happened, it seems that an inebriated audience member had begun causing trouble- and perhaps harm to fellow audience members.
After the tense moment was cleared and the offender taken safely away by security, Rob Thomas did something that most artists wouldn’t even think about doing. He apologized to the many little ears in the audience for the profanity. I think that says a great deal about Matchbox Twenty as a group: a true musician makes every effort to respect the listener’s ears whether in harmony or in silence, in music or in words.
Much peace to each of the band members, technicians and families involved. I hope you have a safe tour and that the album “North” continues to garnish success.
* See first few comments for a discussion on this. 🙂
I’m the queen of good intentions when my kingdom turns to dust
ancient pallisades and bastiens sinking in the molten crust
dazed reflections of tomorrow in the shadows left before
knotted hands are left to borrow until there is no more
infection sinking deeper than all else ever will
the climb gets only steeper until I am eternally still
Stayed at work from 7:40 am until 9:40 pm with a fifteen minute dinner break. The concert last night went off better than expected. The superintendent was there and didn’t even pretend I existed but exchanged congratulatory words with my coworker.
When planning the seating, three seats were saved for my coworkers who were playing a trio together, and I had to sit in the back behind the kids even though I was playing a piece, as well.
My coworker left before cleaning was done, and I arrived at work at 6:40 am today to make sure the piano was picked up safely.
I’m cradling a 2 liter bottle of Dr. Pepper and desperately waiting for the caffeine to kick in.
My coworker told me to bring my class of twenty something hyperactive freshmen down to pick up the food from last night’s reception, of which they would not be able to partake. They responded by briskly breaking one of the glass jar lids a parent had graciously let us borrow.
Today marks the beginning of the sequester.
Tiny injustices. Real pain.
I’ve embarked upon a new project.
What I Do:
Why I’m Doing This:
Have you ever accidentally touched a live wire and gotten shocked?
I have, and I remember having a hard time deciphering that the electrical impulse, though painful, was coming from an outside source. Has anybody else experienced this?
The news I’ve been listening to lately sounds like it’s trying to really oversensationlize Pope Benedict’s decision to resign. Yes, it’s the first time this has happened in about six hundred years. That is shocking. Ok. I get it. But we also don’t have the same political climate we did some six hundred years ago. Benedict isn’t choosing kings or hiding illegitimate children. He’s just doing something that makes sense. There’s no conspiracy theory here. It is what it is, and though I’m no longer Catholic nor even a pro-Benedict supporter, let the poor man live in peace. Anybody deserves that right.
Education is one of the first things that we cut. Let me show you exactly what that looks like.
As I was walking around in the cold this morning, a gentleman exited one of the wings with his lunch pail in his hand. Curious, he asked me what I was taking pictures of. I shrugged and replied, “Oh, random things.” He nodded, continued walking, then stopped and called out over his shoulder that I should make sure our superintendent sees it. Not sure he will or even if there’s much that could be changed without a stronger economy. But to any politicians and big banks out there, behold the work of your hands.
I am quite grateful to have faded back into some level of relative obscurity over the past week or so, which was part of the rationale behind posting short, provocatively nonsensical poems once a day. I knew those of you who mattered would stick around, and those who came looking for the sheer novelty rather than the soul of this blog would have lost interest long ago. When pressed to categorize the theme or purpose of this blog, it’s difficult for me to come up with any single answer. It began years ago to track my pianistic studies and evolved over time [and with the loss of access to an actual instrument] to a place where I showcased my poetry or, rather, my struggle with poetry. As I came to the conclusion of my writing degree, it became a testing ground, a place to practice prose, description and scene. Occasionally bits of myself burst onto the scene, but for the most part it was, as much as I possibly could, a dumping ground for whatever thoughts resounded in my head. My many attempts to convert the character of this blog to a humor, thriller, comic or even marketing ground seem to have layered themselves over onto the other.
This is by no means my first blog, and blogging from the very beginning was a tool I used to discover my thoughts and shortcomings. Now, I suppose, this blog is more about me practicing being myself both through my own experiences and through my reactions to the fictitious scenarios I concoct on the fly. None of this writing, as is probably blaringly apparent, is highly edited so perhaps this is my own personal think-tank. What value that may have for you as a reader [and most likely, fellow blogger], I’m not entirely certain. Maybe it is all polite reciprocation, which isn’t inherently good or bad. Either way, I don’t really dwell on it all that much. My goal for blogging in 2013 has been twofold: to post every day, and to write posts relevant enough to the world to solicit at least 20 views a day. So far the stratagem has succeeded in making me feel not so isolated or guilty about forgetting to write. Yet it’s this inherent need to share and expose my innermost self and this underlying need for approval that has recently clouded my life until it almost very near broke.
Childishness. When I gingerly stepped over into adulthood, I promised myself I would maintain the innocence and innovative wonder that child-like creators sustain. Note the difference in terms: child-like and childish. As I eased, or perhaps uneased, further into adulthood, it became quickly apparent that I was not structured mentally and emotionally at the same level as my peers. Aware of this imbalance in thought processes, I quickly sought aid and treatment, but it never once occurred to me that I lacked emotional maturity. I felt people’s pain more deeply and more fully than I could describe, and it wore me down, but in no way did I interpret that severe level of empathy with an inability to properly process and filter emotions at an adult level. In fact, if someone had suggested the notion, I surely would have either vehemently denied it or broken down crying about it later.
Instead, I continued to take on more work and responsibilities in one of the most stressful professions, education, where emotional objectivity is absolutely essential. Now, after a near collapse of my entire paradigm, I find myself struggling with the pieces of my mind that are left, trying to engineer new ways to organize them and their many disparate thoughts without losing that child-like spark that has made my life so worth living. It is an extremely difficult balance to manage, especially for someone who suffers from mental/mood disorders, but I don’t feel it is impossible. I suppose time, alone, will truly tell.
Today I uncovered a betrayal. A betrayal of trust, confidence, decency and professionalism. My own mentor, someone in whom I confided my doubts and fears, thoughts, ideas and struggles fell for the bait tossed out by petty, lawless musicians about town. The actual betrayal began a long time ago, slowly. I sensed it seeping into my bones until, in one instant, I looked around only to find myself completely alone in the cold, cruel world, shards of ice dripping from my nose. A bureaucracy a vehicle constructed to make the world a better place, to educate and grow has done nothing but cripple and harden me to the only honest truth. There is no one on my side in the whole wide world, and my little cardboard walls will soon come a crumblin’ down.