On Touch

Fires may receive their fuel
Daisy petals may be counted
Sandcastles may be built and destroyed
Branches may break
Clay may transform to an urn
Thunderous chords may be played
Delicate chains may be repaired
Fortune may be uncovered
Children may be soothed
Inky pages may smear
Plants may be pruned
Knots may be tied
Candles may be snuffed out
Lemonade may be sweetened
Water may be cupped and flow through cracks in fingers
Chocolate may melt
Needles may make gorgeous embroidery
Paths may be blazed
Bones may be set
Goosebumps may appear and disappear

But there’s only so much that touch can do.

Photo by Jasmine Carter from Pexels

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I do not find comfort in taking up space in the world,
but I was not made to be comfortable.
I was not made to ford rivers,
I was made to swim across their widest parts
and emerge dripping and shivering,
full of energy and tenacity,
ready and excited to do it again and again
and again.

Photo by Andrew Neel from Pexels

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I watched my mother pull the stem through the honeysuckle flower
and put the petals up to her lips to taste the sweetness.
She was always so cautious,
and as kids she taught us to be so careful.
My brother and I never would have deigned
to pick a flower off a random bush
and taste it.
Who knows what other passersby have done to those
saccharine beauties?
But in that moment, she was too caught up in the nostalgia of her childhood.
She threw caution to the wind
and tasted that luscious liquid,
remembering what it was like
to be youthful and free.

Image by bernswaelz from Pixabay

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Schrodinger’s Pepper

When I moved into my first apartment, there was a dried pepper in one of the drawers in the kitchen. I thought it was bizarre. It wasn’t like it was tucked way back in the drawer. It was up near the front, fully visible. So strange. I remember deciding to get rid of it before filling that drawer with silverware.

When I moved out of my first apartment, there was a dried pepper in that same drawer in the kitchen. I had never removed it. I don’t know what I was thinking leaving it in there for those two years, if I left it in for a profound reason or maybe as a prank on my later self. Perhaps I was just lazy or I simply forgot. My memory of tossing it was probably just wrong.

I did throw it out then before saying goodbye to that space. I didn’t want them to see it during our security deposit check (though obviously they had missed it before we moved in).

But now I have a new theory about the appearance of that pepper. Maybe, just maybe, I did throw it away when we first moved in. Maybe that particular drawer just generates dried peppers. And if that’s true, that means that the next people to live there had the same baffling experience that I did. I kind of like the idea of that space forcing people into a unifying discovery. I kind of like the idea that my memories may happen once again.

So cheers to Schrodinger’s pepper that may or may not be in that drawer. I’ve decided which option I want to believe in, and it’s the unlikely one, full of whimsy and universality.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

I Am No Expert

Pinpricks of light slip through the mesh screen of the window,
but they aggregate to appear as a strong, steady beam.

I can describe the human understanding of photons–
how those packets of energy are influenced by our observation of them,
and there is beauty and poetry in that,
but I am no expert, and though it is an important role,
it is not mine.

My role is to experience the universe
as the sun continues to beam through the window
and as it goes down
and is replaced in the sky
by things that offer less light to our planet.

Stars appear as pinpricks of light,
staying separate in their celestial appearance
unless drowned out by the overwhelming sun.

I could tell you all about the redshift of starlight–
how it lets us know that the universe is expanding–,
and there is a beauty and a poetry in that,
but I am no expert, and though it is an important role,
it is not mine.

My role is to transform my experiences
into written words
and to release those words with the world
so that others can share in my perception
of the mysteries of light.

There is an undeniable beauty
in perceiving
and in showing others what is perceived,
in understanding
and in making others understand.

The astronomer is doing no different
from me as a poet
or you as an observer;
we take in everything around us
and everything we already know
and make beauty from it,
whether in our own minds
or in the minds of others.

Photo by Lucas Pezeta from Pexels

I adore Walt Whitman, and I really like “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer”for its repetition, imagery, and even its call to enjoy the stars, but I disagree with some of its implications. Learning about something in a lecture or reading about something in a book can be beautiful and wonderful, just as much as experiencing that thing first-hand can be.

Growing up, I felt very much like an outsider to both the analytical and creative worlds, dipping my toes into both but never fully belonging in either. It seemed like those things were often presented as a dichotomy–that the scientific and the fanciful were depicted almost as a binary with the hard sciences existing on one side and fictitious writings existing on the other. I was very much a right-brained kid raised in a left-brained bubble (a concept that has itself been debunked by science, but can be helpful in describing the world nonetheless), and I had no concept for how to express what felt like an inherent trait of mine while honoring my upbringing.

I don’t know enough about a lot of things to integrate my scientific and poetic understandings of them, but I have now seen examples where it is done beautifully. This poem by Prasanta called “Love is Chaos,” comes to mind in particular. The poem makes a love language out of scientific jargon. It makes mystery out of the discovered. There is still so much enigma and artistry within scientific fields, just waiting to be poeticized. That was not my role for this poem, but that doesn’t mean it will never be my role.

And who knows, maybe my role will one day change to solely be a relayer of scientific facts, and if that does happen, there will be a beauty and a poetry in that.

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Voice and Reason

In college, I had a summer where I taught English to some grad students and their families a few nights per week. The gig was done on a volunteer basis and was fairly informal overall, which is good because I did not have any experience teaching adults. Additionally, most of my students already spoke English with a fair amount of fluency; they were mostly there to brush up on some grammar, to be able to ask a teacher questions from their day-to-day experiences in English, and for social interaction.

I adored teaching in this context. Interacting with (and learning from) people all over the world led to some very deep, complex, and nuanced conversations, and it was really fulfilling to problem-solve and simplify the vocabulary within these really complex issues without watering down the topic itself.

Nonetheless, I had one situation where I was at a complete loss for what to tell my students. One student was asked by another where she was from. “Taiwan,” she responded, at which point the question asker turned to me and asked, “Where is Taiwan?”

I don’t remember who began to answer that question, whether it was me or the Taiwanese woman herself (she was more than capable of doing so, but the inquiry was directed at me and in my memory she and I locked eyes and it seemed like she wanted me to answer, though that portion of the memory may be false). Regardless of who did the speaking, all that was said was “Taiwan is a country that–“

“No, it not,” another lady chimed in. “Taiwan is not a country.” She was one of the three students from China seated at the far end of our longish table, listening the conversation that had been going on. She was very matter-of-fact about her statement, and I don’t think she truly realized the hurtfulness in her words.

The original question asker, unaware of the deep-rooted issues behind this disagreement, looked very confused. “Taiwan is not a country?”

“The US recognizes Taiwan as a country,” I hurriedly explained. “And it’s located in the Pacific Ocean near China.”

I left the topic there. The question asker was still clearly confused, all of the people from China were tense, the woman from Taiwan was upset, but I did not know as a 21-year-old college student how to mediate such a conflict. I didn’t know if it could be mediated at all. These places were their homes; I was not going to be able to change any of their minds.

I also knew that I had some biases when it came to this topic. Growing up, I had friends who lived just a few houses over from me who were Taiwanese, and I’m pretty sure that I had more Taiwanese classmates than Chinese classmates in school. It’s entirely possible that I was aware of Taiwan as a country before I became aware of China. I obviously take Taiwan’s side.

Now that I am no longer a child, I know that those childhood experiences influenced my thinking on the matter, but I also know more about the conflict now, and I am pretty sure that I would still stand with Taiwan. Those biases, though, as well as my dislike of conflict and my fear of losing respect from some of my students, made me doubt whether my voice was worth raising on the topic. So I just stuck to the facts and didn’t add my opinion. I still don’t know if that was the correct choice.

Photo by Yaroslav Shuraev from Pexels

I’d like to thank everyone for being so kind in response to my last post. I may have been a tad dramatic in some of my wording of it. I was sincerely just trying to gauge whether the people who read my poetry would be interested in reading other things, too. The great thing about writing as a hobby is that I get to write whatever I want. Whether (or at what point) I publish that writing to the internet is an entirely different consideration.

I know that back before I narrowed the focus of this blog, my poetry seemed to be preferred over anything else I published, which is how I found myself in the niche I’m in. I don’t regret that; in fact, I feel like having a narrow range of content has helped me to grow and find fellow bloggers with a similar interest.

With all that said, you can consider this post as part of a trial run of posting a greater variety of content to this platform. If it goes well, I’ll continue to post other things. If it doesn’t, I’ll either keep my prose in draft-form or make a new blog to contain it.

Thanks again, everyone! Peace out!

The Heart is a Muscle

The following poem is unfinished. I tend to take a long time to write any given poem, but this one has been an ongoing project for about 8 months, which is about half the lifetime of this blog. At this point, continuing to make tiny changes without the satisfaction of feeling like it is fully finished is getting ridiculous. I need to get it out there, either to get some feedback on it or to have it stop rattling around in my brain. One day, I will return to the piece and finish it, but now is simply not the time. Nevertheless, I hope that you enjoy reading a draft of “The Heart is a Muscle.”

The heart is a muscle,
and the nerves are electric.
Through this ongoing bustle,
the world skews geometric,

painting lovers as circles
and their worries as squares,
giving curves to their pulses
and angles to their cares.

They will start just as always
with both passion and thrill
with vibrant hues that amaze
as the moments hold still.

With a touch of their fingers
or the brush of their hands,
the sensation will linger
like a divine command,

but cloud nine’s not forever.
No, all love must evolve,
for life is too clever
with its problems to solve.

Their lives will become busy,
but still they will try
to ride out that tizzy,
let their love edify,

and hope to get through this–
as we’ll cheer for them, too–
all wishing for pure bliss
when they’re circles anew.

Now, this lovers’ tribute
must come to an end,
though their story continues
past the upcoming fin.

We sadly cannot wait here;
our own lives need attending.
We must address our own fears;
we have souls that need mending.

But we’ll all repeat this puzzle
and its painting in metric
’cause the heart is a muscle,
and the nerves are electric.

Photo by Oleg Magni from Pexels

As I said at the top of this post, this poem is still a draft. There are parts of the middle that I don’t think flow very well. It also needs to be much longer for the ending to make sense. Despite all of my work on it, I have not been able to get it to a point where it felt like I was done with it.

This brings me to a question: How do you feel about me posting drafts on here? In fact, how do you feel about me posting content that is not poetry at all?

I would like to be able to post content more consistently, but lately I’ve been feeling held back by the niche that I have created for myself. Poetry is a slow process for me. I can’t put one up every day (not even a short one) and be happy with its quality. If I were to also post ideas, discoveries, and stories from my life, would you want to read them? Or are you okay with my current slow and inconsistent schedule because it means that I can devote the blog solely to poetry?

I have written and rewritten a blog post all about my experience with posting a poem to the internet every day during NaPoWriMo, but I have been unsure whether people would actually want to read that, or would rather I just get right back into posting more poems.

Regardless of your answer, I very much appreciate the time you have taken to read this blog. I hope you’re having a wonderful day!

Peace out!

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