Welcome

You are a special occasion, darling.

You can sit over there
on that seat that I reserve
for special occasions.
You are a special occasion, darling.

I bought that coffee that you like.
You still like that same coffee, right?
Or maybe you’d prefer something else.
Some tea, perhaps, or hot chocolate.
I can run over to the store and grab something.

Just settle down in that chair,
the one that I reserve
for special occasions.
I’ll be right back with that tea you wanted.

Just please stay.
Please stay.

Please stay.



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Optimism, Pessimism, and Zac Efron: Pen Pal Letter #8

We all end up the same way.

To Whom It May Concern:

My writing always has to have a message. That message most often is “Life is terrible. Be optimistic about it.”

Honestly, that tracks with my personal life. I’ve been described as an “optimistic pessimist” before and when asked for clarification that person said “You’re a pessimist but you’re really happy about it.”

That kind of makes me sound like I’m happy that bad things happen. That is not the case (or is at least a very limited way of understanding my feelings on the matter).

A few months ago, I watched the show Down to Earth with Zac Efron. It’s not good. Not only do the dynamics between Efron and his cohost, Darin Olien, appear a little icy, but there are a ton of inaccurate or unproven claims made about health and wellness. Not only that, but the show presents itself as an optimistic and helpful piece of media, but is truly a depiction of nihilism. There are many times when the show highlights social issues like food insecurity and then just moves on without making a thesis statement about them, leaving the audience with an idea of the problem without any ideas of how to solve it.

I loved every second of watching it.

Obviously, it has some redeeming qualities. Efron is fun and funny and energetic. Some of the guests are quite charming. Still, I would say that the bad in the show far outweighed the good. That said, I didn’t hate-watch it with derision. I did so with a lot of happiness.

The first YouTube video I ever saw from Jenny Nicholson was her review of the movie Beastly. I’m not sure what compelled me to click it at the time. I’ve never seen Beastly nor have I ever felt any desire to see it. Nonetheless, when it popped up as a suggested video, I moved my little curser over the thumbnail for the video, and I clicked.

The thing that I loved so much for that video was Nicholson’s enthusiasm as she described the terrible qualities of the film. I had seen other video essays about and film critiques of objectively bad movies, but they either had a tone of irritation toward the film and its creators or they had an echo of nostalgia like “look at this bad film I used to like before I had taste”. Her video had neither. It was just pure joy at watching and enjoying something not in spite of its flaws but because of them. There is good in the bad. It all just depends on perspective.

I don’t make value judgments on the optimist, pessimist or realist outlooks. No matter how we see the world, we all end up the same way. What I mean by that is that we all will fantasize about Zac Efron at some point in time.

When I feel like I am just writing the same thing over and over again, I try to remember that the thing I keep reiterating is the framework through which I view the world. I don’t know why I hold this point of view, nor do I think it’s good or bad. It is just what I have arrived at after my years of living so far. It’s something that is bound to come up over and over as I look at everything that did happen, everything that is happening, and everything that could happen. I’m still trying to figure out myself and to figure out the world. I am a poet after all. And those current thoughts and that struggle are worth telling y’all about.

Wishing you all the best.

Sincerely,

Joy


Photo by Artem Beliaikin from Pexels

Give Me Your Arm

and I’ll give you mine

Give me your arm;

I will wrap it around me

on nights when I don’t dream,

when my mind has been as blank

as it is in the daytime,

and I want the vibrancy

of knowing I’m safe and warm.

Give me your arm;

use it to reach out to me

like grabbing for the rope

of a boat that is about to start

drifting away from the dock,

and I’ll use mine to reach back to you,

knowing that even with both of us

filling the distance,

we will never feel close enough.

Give me your arm;

I’ll interlace my fingers in yours,

locked together and prepared to face

the rolling wind descending from

the mountainside

when the world threatens to end.

Give me your arm;

you know I’ll use it well.


Photo by Josh Hild from Pexels

When

Loosely stitched and threatening to unravel

“If you want to destroy my sweater/Hold this thread as I walk away/Watch me unravel…/…I’ve come undone” — Undone by Weezer

When did you realize
that everything falls apart
if you just tug at one loose thread?

How did you know
to just let it be,
not to question,
not to pull?

Did that Beatles song
tell you
or is it just a lesson
that each one of us
needs to learn in our time?



Photo by Daria Shevtsova from Pexels

Morning Meditation

clouds stuck in my head

I pay money for a good app,

but I don’t use it as much as I should.

Rather, I find solace in the quiet moments,

watching the other buildings of my apartment complex

as the sun does his best to peek his light

above their roofs.

This is the alone time that I cherish,

when it feels like a choice and not a punishment.

That feeling doesn’t always last.

Stuck in my head too long, the world tries

to convince me that I am better off

without solace.

When I think things like that,

I try my best to come back to the light,

but it’s hard on mornings like these

when the sun’s gleam is swallowed by clouds

and the trees in the distance look spindly

and winter-dead.

Maybe if I write the clouds a thousand love letters,

they will part for me,

or maybe someone will give me the power to part them myself

in an attempt to set my emotions free–

emotions that have been trapped inside of me

for so long that they don’t remember

their home in my voice

or coursing through my body.

Once more I try to come back to the light,

but it is hard to see,

so I focus back on the clouds.

There is some sunrise color reflecting off them,

and I realize they don’t block the light,

they provide me with a different way

to see it.


Photo by Alesia Kozik from Pexels

How to Clickbait: Pen Pal Letter #6

Going to TACKLE a new subject.

To Whom It May Concern:

How to clickbait? For one, use this title.

As a longtime purveyor of the internet, I have spent quite a lot of time thinking about clickbait as a concept. Up until recently, I approached the topic mostly as a consumer, but over the past few years, I have had to reckon with it as a creator.

I was born at the tail end of the millennial generation, which means I had a childhood before social media was such a large part of life, but my teenage and adult years have been defined by its presence. Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter became widely used in the general population while I was in middle school. Instagram and Snapchat took off while I was in high school. There were so many things to consume online and my peers were creators.

I said my peers there because I didn’t have any social media accounts until I graduated high school. I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing overall. I do know that some of the less-informed beliefs that I held as a teenager were never documented anywhere online, but my consumption of online media was still rather high.

I watched a ton of YouTube, for instance. And I watched YouTube at a time before the site cracked down on clickbait-y titles and thumbnails. It was not only common for video titles not to match their content, it was borderline expected. Honestly, that era of YouTube probably did more than anything else to desensitize me to clickbait. Once again, I am unsure whether I can make a judgement call on if that is a good or a bad thing. All I know is that I have a lot of skepticism when approaching content online, and that I still do sometimes click on things that draw me in with fascinating titles and images as if I am compelled to do so, though I know that I am being clickbaited while I’m doing it.

When it comes to producing content on the internet, each platform has its own method of getting discovered. With Twitter, it is hashtags and participating in prompts and trends. With Instagram, it is hashtags once again and vying to get featured, whether on an account that reposts content or on Instagram’s own Explore Page. With a blog or other type of website, it is SEO.

I’ve read a lot of articles about SEO, but I am far from an expert. Because most of the content I put online is creative writing, I pay little mind to what I have learned from those articles. In a lot of ways, it feels like those articles are suggesting clickbait in order to grow your blog, though I will admit that this is a gut reaction based on a huge oversimplification of what SEO is. Nevertheless, while I would love for as many people as possible to read and enjoy and engage with the things I write, the prospect of writing things in such a way to encourage that feels wrong.

Artistic integrity is a weird concept that I don’t have any stable views about. Each time I think that I have made up my mind about it, something happens or I am presented with new information that causes a shift in the way I think about it.

I have more information and thoughts on all of this than what I am choosing to say here, but I can’t give it all away in a single blog post! I have to milk this type of content for all that it’s worth to keep you coming back for more, right? And that’s neither clickbait or SEO, it’s an entirely different ploy to gain success in online writing. Like a cliffhanger, but with a capitalist intention. So that’s all I’ll say about any of this for now.

Wishing you all the best. I hope the title of this and the last paragraph don’t lead you to doubt my sincerity in that wish.

Sincerely,

Joy


Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

Light and Truth and Life

the candle feeds the flame

A candle is melting into nothing–

wax becoming air and wick becoming

singed

and maybe becoming air, too.

And what is air, really,

other than a way for us to describe

all the space that is around us

that we don’t really know the contents of

unless we deliberately hone in

with measuring instruments?

The candle still burns brightly.

And what is god, really,

other than a way for us to describe

all the power that is around us

that we don’t really know the face of

unless we deliberately hone in

with our thoughts and our breath?

There is a small amount of wax left.

And what is truth really

other than a way for us to describe

all the fervor that is around us

that we don’t really know the meaning of

unless we hone in

with the best of intentions

and a willingness to be wrong?

The wick runs out and the flame ceases.


Photo by George Becker from Pexels

Lover, Here Are My Words

Then wear the gold hat, if that will move her;
If you can bounce high, bounce for her too,
Till she cry “Lover, gold-hatted, high-bouncing lover,
I must have you!”

—Thomas Parke D’Invilliers

A million secrets whispered

muffled by that which is crystallized

and my mouth a swollen, sullen thing

that cannot produce any heat

nor passionate verses

when surrounded by such chill and char.

But, lover,

look at the frost–

how it glistens.

The whole world is melting

and I let tears stream down my face

to match the damp outdoors–

dripping off my nose and onto my lips

so I can taste the brine within me

when I part those lips to speak.

But, lover,

look at the sun–

how it radiates.

And I just let all these words flow out of me–

no, fall out of me–

when I opened my jaw in this heat.

I uncapped my pen

and left an inky, blobby mess on the page

with scribbled words nearly indecipherable.

But, lover,

look at the bounty–

how it is.


Photo by Andreea Diana Sintean from Pexels