I’m not a poet, I thought.
I can write short stories
and I can write novels
(I tried to write novels, never finished)
but I’m not a poet.
I’ve tried, and I don’t like it.
Don’t like reading it, don’t like writing it.
It’s too hard.
(And writing-not-finishing a novel was easy, obviously.)
Of course, it starts with an assignment.
Write a place poem
Write an occasion poem
Write a poem that rhymes
And please, at least try to write a sonnet
Fine, Mrs. Staed. I’ll write you a poem.
My first poems were ungainly,
all lower-case, left-aligned
expressions of my bitterness at the world.
(I mean, I was 15)
But they got me published in the school literary magazine
With other 15-year-olds, bitter at the world.
They’re all good friends of mine, now.
Because I went out on a limb
And put a few poems into a purple box marked “SUBMISSIONS.”
“summer brought kindness
autumn came, and i was betrayed,” I wrote.
I have no idea what that meant
I know I needed to write it, at the time.
Someone else must have felt it too
Because it got published.
That feeling existed in words now, which made it real and true.
And when it was real and true, I could conquer it.
It’s an inexpensive form of therapy.
I don’t have a diary.
Instead, I keep these poems as an ongoing time capsule.
Reading them inspires in me so much tenderness
for a version of me that doesn’t exist anymore.
I don’t miss her.
I don’t envy her.
But I’m glad to learn from her.