Let’s just start with the reality that my relationship with poetry is complicated. On the surface, I can identify when I am connecting with a poem. It touches me in a way that difficult to articulate– it is visceral and familiar. It’s usually painful, or validating to a previously felt pain, at least in my experience. My question to you is, have you ever had a person in your life that has changed the experience of something for you? What I more directly mean is, my admiration for poetry was built upon by the influence of another person; a person with whom I am no longer connected with, leaving me feeling utterly conflicted about my relationship with poetry.
This collection of poems, in particular– Helium by Rudy Francisco… These poems on their own are enough to leave you in tears. Talk about a visceral experience. Rudy paints pain in a way that makes me feel like I’ve lived through it myself, in that moment, regardless of my own experience. His words coloring my perspective in ways I didn’t know possible. Rudy has the capacity to bring about that feeling– you know the feeling — like a cold sweat all through your body, but not sweat. Emotion. Feeling. Most closely feels like goosebumps, and yet, that doesn’t quite encapsulate the depth of the experience. The power in his words, his voice– you can feel him. That friend introduced me to Rudy Francisco, and in my opinion, utilized a similar approach when presenting their own poetry in front of an audience. I found myself absorbed in the words, cautious of their weight, and fearful of the depth at which this person could feel. Scared because I knew I felt feelings with similar depth, and felt this impending doom, like what kind of tumultuous storm would we inevitably face together?
Don’t let me fool you, while this loss falls on both sides of blame, I would be lying if I said I didn’t hold more of it. Life is strange. One moment you think you’ve found one of the only humans on the planet you can trust your whole self with, and the next you find yourself dissociated on a long drive home, contemplating how things got to this point. Shouldn’t I have seen this coming? I never let myself lean into the reality of our experiences. Never wanted to acknowledge the intensity of any moment. Was afraid to let go of all that I knew for something so unknown, so risky, and just as erratic and unpredictable as myself. Sometimes I watch their poetry as a reminder of the things I’ve done, or maybe should have. Sometimes I watch it when I’m angry– to let myself feel it. Sit in it. Stew in it. And then let it all go. Sometimes I watch it when I miss them.
While none of this is the fault of the poetry, I can’t help but wonder what role it had in encouraging me to trust myself. Trust them. Give in to what will happen. Allow myself to get swept up in the whimsy of it all. Let myself daydream. Feel it all. Lean in to my truth. To what could be.
Do these words really carry that much meaning? Or are they simply words? Is this just another form of entertainment? Meant to evoke all the daydream-able feelings about relationships, love, loss, life, etc? Is it just meant to numb my mind enough to escape the present moment? Or is it all real? These questions felt too much to hold, and letting go felt like the safest, reasonable, and realistic option. And isn’t that just me? Always go with the realistic plan. Risk is for the things that only impact me. I couldn’t possibly allow someone else to get swept up in the violent storm that is me, my mind, and my choices. Though, that’s not what poetry would have told me.
Please Don’t Go Before I Get Better. What a fitting title. This collection encapsulated every element of angst that I have been looking for. I had found myself in words again. A similar full body experience, with the realness of trauma, family, life, love, friends, change, self. That self reflection piece is what keeps me coming back to poetry. What keeps me leaning into the discomfort that has been left behind. This collection by Madisen Kuhn reminds me how much I do, in fact, need to get better. That all the shame, rage, and inferiority I feel in regards to my past are real, and that I can move on from them.
The thing is, I know it all. I’m not a good friend. I can be, sure. And I’m not. I’m a flake. Plans are the bane of my existence. I struggle to be the one to initiate real plans. I almost never reach out to start something. A conversation. An invitation. Anything. I open up in a way that gives an illusion of depth, and never really gives up my whole, true self. While I’m always honest, I’m skillful in omitting the all the ugly parts. I’ll make you laugh. Make some self deprecating remark to redirect what is happening. I’ll give you pieces, and never the whole.
And yet, I think about people all the time. I wonder if their plans worked out. I worry about what is happening with them, if they’re happy, etc. Make up stories in my head. Weave poetic elements from what I read into my mind and give myself the illusion of this beautiful experience that only exists there. The only individuals exempt from such curse are the people I’ve held close for so long. The few friends I’ve had since high school that know me enough to hold my boundaries with me. I’ve always said I’m striving to do better, and now I know that was also a story I was telling myself, and letting those close to me believe and tell with me. My most familiar performance was in aligning the perfect apologetic words to result in this false sense of confidence in our connection. Leaving you feeling like the risk is worth taking. Like emotions are real. Like poetry is worth listening to. While I’m still off floating in my head. Worried about the next time I’ll have to pick up all the pieces I just shattered and haphazardly glue them together. Wondering at what point the pieces stop sticking, leaving me in the rubble.
I’ve been in the rubble for a while. And to be honest, I needed to be there. If I’m being truly honest, the cost wasn’t worth it. I’ve forever lost that friend. And while I have worked to accept it, I’ve also hurt many people, a few in particular that stand out, and I’m not willing to put anyone through that experience again. All this time I thought the small gestures of healing I allowed myself were enough to maintain an effective connection to people I care about most. They weren’t. I’ve spent a long while processing the events that led me here. Accepting such events. And now I’m ready to let them go and grow. And I’m sorry.
I’ve accepted the justice of my decisions. And I’m going to continue reading poetry. Someday soon the words won’t be painful. They’ll just be real.
Until next time,