Poetry and Prose are probably the two writing forms that I’ve been at the longest, but see the least light of day. People just don’t read poetry anymore, not with any great ferocity. We can all quote our favorite poet (shout out to T.S. Eliot!) and a few of Shakespeare’s more prominent works, but we don’t rush to buy the newest book of poetry and devour it like mad things. I was lucky enough to see one of my sheroes, Alice Walker, give a talk at the Morton Theatre last year, and afterward, she gave the entire audience a copy of one of her books of poetry. Since then, I’ve been inspired to try and write more of it – to revisit that part of my mind and delve into an artform I hadn’t really explored fully since high school.
I plan to devote Thursdays on this blog to poetry. Mine, mostly, but maybe others’, too. It may not be every week. It may be sporadic. But the best poetry thrives on spontaneity and taking the reader by surprise.
The loss of David Bowie back in January floored me. It sounds silly, but he was and is my artistic touchstone. We all have that one artist who just breaks through and shines a light on us, and he’s been that artist for me since I was very young. I was so devastated when he died that I haven’t even brought myself to write about it. For me, this is a very odd thing. I can write essays about Dwight Yoakam concerts and create sexy heroes out of thin air for my fiction, but I find myself tongue tied when it comes to my muse with the two different colored eyes. It’s just too hard. That, or I haven’t found my footing among the words yet.
You’ll find I talk about music almost as much as writing. To me, they are forever intertwined.
This poem, written after Bowie’s death, is the closest thing I’ve gotten to it. Go easy on me – I haven’t flexed these muscles in a while.
On Drinking Tea
(a thing I now do)
I think on steeping.
To concentrate yourself, to become an essence,
more powerful when more palatable, is that right?
I never knew. Your charm lies in your taste
cups and cups
we serve ourselves up,
we wait for someone’s licking lips
for them to say,
I’ve spent years
looking ahead, waiting for the taste
to improve. To become sweet.
For all my looking-forward-tos,
I woke one day groggy, undressed, undone
(I knew in my sleep)
that looking forward
wasted all my past.
The brew was bitter.
It could not last.
In short, I was afraid.
(See what I did there?
What an imposter.
Poser, inspired phony,
never the one to inspire.)
Tea can be very lonely.
I told myself bitter things like that,
bit down on the bad taste.
Sipped on my pain.
Drank until I bloated,
drank until I hated.
Drank to cry, or split, or die.
Self-indulgence dances a tightrope
puffy little harlequin, it is, dressed and unrepressed,
At any time could float down
and crack its head on the floor
But enough about me.
You – you were a mime.
Lips unnaturally red, curved lines,
you made art out of your skin,
(your life and death, your everything).
But about tea –
people like you, and people like me.
The steeping of delicate earl grey into a royal blue glass cup,
dainty and sparkling
(vs clotting begging to bleed into cracked ceramic, every ugly mug from every Grandma’s 70s kitchen the sight of so much repression and ugly self expression)
My memories always at a window.
The hurts – no, the interruptions –
stunting. They stunt.
My head is so loud. Was so loud.
having bitten off my lips,
Crusted-over voice like day old bread.
But even if I could,
I wouldn’t talk.
(a weak brew
sings no songs)
I never knew,
you stood behind me the whole time.
Your hand gentle, elegant, graceful
the paint so fine (you made your hands art)
you held my knotted shoulders, my seized neck.
And loved me.
“Give me yourself, if you will,”
you said in an invisible voice,
disguised as a whiskey and cigarette croon.
“And I will give you something that tastes better.”
My head is still loud.
Louder all the time.
And those years have gone, awash with dust, with grime.
You’ve run dry. My tears have not.
But we’ll always have a window in front of us somewhere,
I’ll pour another cuppa tea,
but a piss-poor substitute,
(no substitute at all, you see)
It will be.
Copyright 2016 Lillah Lawson