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

Again Today – Guest Post by Leon Stevens

I saw that guy again on my walk today

I saw that guy again on my walk today

We are at the point when we pass

That a pursed lip smile

Will suffice

Or a nod

When, I wonder, will the relationship progress

To where I have to say hello

I saw that woman with the cart today

Wearing all that she owns (clothes that is)

Tattered coat, even though it’s warm outside

Worn out shoes

On tired feet

When will I feel obliged

To offer…anything

I saw that child with the others today

With matching daycare vests

Tugging dandelions off to the side

With a smile

Only he knows

Why he is

The center of his own attention

I saw that girl with the dog today

We often pass each other

Today I was running

When I passed her she was crying

Only I kept going

Was none of my business I told myself

Though I wonder.


Photo by Leon Stevens


Leon Stevens is an author, composer, guitarist, and an artist with a Bachelor of Music and Education. He published his first book of poetry Lines by Leon: Poems, Prose, and Pictures in January 2020, followed by a book of original classical guitar compositions, Journeysand a short story collection of science fiction/post-apocalyptic tales called The Knot at the End of the Rope and Other Short Stories.

His current projects include a second collection of poems called, A Wonder of Words, and two novellas based on a short story from The Knot at the End of the Rope. Visit his website at: www.linesbyleon.com


To read “Passersby”, a poem by Joy also about strangers walking past, click here.


If you are interested in writing a guest post for The Yellow Brick Ave, please reach out through the Contact page!

Reverse Planning New Years Resolutions: Pen Pal Letter #5

new years and resolutions

To Whom It May Concern:

I think the “New year, new me” mindset is rather silly, given the slim chances of sticking with any resolutions longer than just a few weeks. I say it about myself every year regardless.

In fact, I will take any chance I get to have a fresh start. It might be why I like mornings and sunrises so much. Every dawn washes away the dark from the night before and gives light in an unprecedented way. And with that light, we have a chance to right wrongs of the past, look to the future, but most importantly find elation in the moments of that day.

My resolution for 2022 is to document my life, which is just a slightly more complex version of what I already do. I already write in a journal semi-regularly. These “pen pal letters” already kind of read like diary entries. I do take pictures and videos, just not very often. And I save just about every paper scrap that contains evidence of activities, whether that is a map of a museum or a movie ticket or a wristband for a concert.

Specifically, I am going to be documenting my life in a memory keeping “planner” (which is to say that I will be using a planner for more or less the opposite of what its name implies). Each day, I can add any of those pieces of paper that I already keep. I can write. I can print out and glue down pictures to make it like a scrapbook. I don’t care if I make a mess and it looks entirely random by the end, provided that I document at least one thing from each day in there.

I really have to resist the urge to put additional resolutions on my list. I would like to be more active. I want to keep in better contact with family and friends. I have specific goals about writing that I would like to achieve. In a way, though, I think it is dramatically better to just have the one. For one thing, it gives me only one goal to focus on. For another, it will likely be attainable because, as I said, it is just an extension of things I already do. And lastly, I can still incorporate these other ideas into it. If I go on a hike or try a yoga class or something, I can make a note of it in the “planner”. If I have a nice phone call with a friend, I can write about it. If I hit a milestone in my writing, I can show it on the page. And if I don’t do these things as often as I would like, it doesn’t matter. I don’t have keep up any sort of streak. I just have to show pride in the days that I do complete them.

I doubt that I will show the pages of this “planner” anywhere online. With any luck, the contents of it will show a year of intensely personal memories that I want to reflect on with a select few people.

Regardless, this pen pal series is one that I plan to keep up. It’s my way as an intensely private person to show a little bit more of myself to you, and I have a lot of fun doing it.

I truly hope that this new year is treating you well. Wishing you resilience and peace.

Sincerely,

Joy


Photo by freestocks.org from Pexels

Of the New Year

awake and alive

When I think of the new year,

I think of early morning walks

when the sun is just about

to send streamers of peach and delicate rose

across the sky

to celebrate the beginning of the day.

I think of how I will be awake and alive

to join in the gaieties,

how I will conduct an orchestra of songbirds

as they first begin to tell of each dawn–

the poetry of their whistles

stating their trust that it is always worth rejoicing

in a beginning.

When I think of the new year,

I think of saving memories,

of sealing them to pages of a book with glue,

of scratching down words so as to never forget,

of decorating the days with doodles and stickers.

I think of living life in a memorable way

and making sure those memories stick

and learning to be content with the small things

by proclaiming them noteworthy, too.


Photo by Binti Malu from Pexels

That Belongs to the Children

when the moon comes crashing

I’m usually awake before the moon falls down,

crashing into the horizon

and splintering into billions of different pieces.

I don’t participate in the collection of its fragments–

that usually belongs to the children,

laughing jovially as they sprint toward the dispersion of moon rock,

lifting the bottom of their shirts to form little baskets

so that they might carry those pieces close to their bellies

as they race to the place where it comes back together.

I don’t participate in the reassembly–

that also belongs to the children.

They stack the pieces and squish them together

and sometimes use just a little bit of glue

until the moon is whole and healthy and round once more.

And I don’t participate in setting the moon aloft in evening time–

that too belongs to the children.

They let it float up like a helium balloon that gets lost

except that they are rooting for this rising,

watching it with wonder-filled eyes,

though they see the same moon night after night,

just in different phases.


Photo by Brian Lazo from Pexels

Image to Imagination: Pen Pal Letter #4

seeing things for what they are

To Whom It May Concern:

A picture is worth a thousand words, and I usually record a few hundred of them.

I am never more inspired to write than when I’m looking at things. And by that, I mean really seeing things for what they are. Seeing the longing on the faces of those strangers whose paths I cross on the sidewalk. Seeing the rain speckling my window and the way the blinds divide up that view. Seeing the stardust cascading to the ground as a meteor shoots overhead.

Okay, not all of those sights are true.

I would not claim to be a visual person. Sounds are far more likely to catch my attention than sights, but they don’t inspire me to write the way that images do. So much so that two pen pal letters in a row are all about pictures.

I was scrolling through Pexels once again this morning, and poetic snippets kept coming to me one after another. These snippets have yet to be fleshed out into full poems and there is no guarantee that the final poems that build themselves around those words, phrases, and lines will have anything to do with the pictures that originally inspired them, but they have their roots in those images nonetheless.

I went to an art museum yesterday. I didn’t go there for the art, I went for an event that they were having, but I stayed to look at some of the art anyway. Just three rooms total. I definitely would have liked to see more, but I was so tired or under-caffeinated or both and I really could not see myself being able to give the art the attention that it deserved.

So I left. Got some food. Came home. Spent a tired evening on the couch. And I finally went to bed.

Today, I woke up and found myself inspired by images, but none of that inspiration can fully make up for what I missed out on yesterday. What I miss out on every day when I am too tired or inattentive to really see the world around me.

What I write will never be complete, but then again, neither will any photograph. I can’t see the eyes light up and soften. A video isn’t really complete either. I can’t touch or taste or smell. Nor is an in-person view. I can never know the whole story.

But that doesn’t mean that these things are not worth capturing and worth saving.

I am but a saver of sights. And words are my medium.

Wishing you all the best.

Sincerely,

-Joy


photo by me