Why I Started Writing Poetry, or, Ode to a Basketball in the Summer

Everyone always tells you to write what you know
but honestly why can’t I just write
what I don’t know
don’t see
can’t understand
because I truly believe that’s what makes us honorable
as poets
as human beings
and indistinguishable
among gods

In the summer of 2009 i had the job of babysitting
for a family friend
who was barely 6 years old and had the prettiest smile
that dripped with sucralose and blue raspberry popsicles
on one of the hottest days of the year
when we’d pluck earthworms from their muddy home
and feed them our cinnamon crumbs
sugary and sweet
between the mud and the cement
and i remembered thinking
as the basketball rolled down the driveway
and into the street
how i just couldn’t think in intelligible phrases
as she ran into oncoming traffic
with an earthworm on her left shoulder

I will never understand
I think
why I’m supposed to compose truth
in a world of panic and instinct
when structured, synthesized sentences fail us
i write
i must.


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