Thank you Yo-land-ah.
(You are a beacon; we are disciples.)
It was going to take eight stanzas of choreographed
to truly put to page what I wanted to say,
but then I was like:
Jesus Tits, that’s a lot of work.
I mean, one minute and 30 seconds—
or even two and a half—
to tell you where I am from
with only one night to stammer: damn.
I need a 60-degree,
uninfested by mosquitoes, body-of-water
day to do that—
or at least a moment
unencumbered by the fantasy
of my sugar daddy Ryan Gosling giving me basketball babies.
You should know that free writing puts me in a space to be honest
—and not dream.
For I am a working class vagabond
in the heat of July, searching for ice and fireflies.
So your homework Miss Yolanda, wasn’t going to happen yet,
despite anyone's best intentions.
Instead, I went to the library and talked to strangers
telling them the story of a girly tomboy who picks up gold in every town
and who is just trying to write a poem
despite the jostled music and the open road.
A night exploring seemed more true.
So I wrote this for you.
I am a white woman humanist, who takes pictures of shoes,
and I am a multi-disciplined person, who writes a metaphor
like it is an insulting joke (that you want to tell your brother)
but can’t keep from laughing.
And if you want to keep it real, come to my home,
where there is a bed that begs you to stay in it,
and the only way out of that chasm (that keeps you from being on time)
is to push your feet step by step
until the sheet crawls down and the cold slips in.
A warning for you, the guest:
Don’t be surprised to find a photocopied Times article from last week
or twice-worn clothes snuggled up to you.
And there are a couple half drunk beers on the desk to your right.
I guess the poetic way to say it is...
that last night I was toasting a badass rockabilly twice-named Billy
who told me that he just wanted me to understand that God laughs and plays
while I am sleeping.
Really though, I am just a fucking mess
who is too tired at night
to even take care of herself,
let alone her dishes or discards.
See, the most organized I have ever been is when I ran away
from 5-4-0-9 W. Diana,
the land of burnt feet lemonade stands,
plastic instrument parades
and newly barred-in playgrounds.
Where somehow young adult administrators forgot that those are the places
where you kiss Lance under the big tire,
where you make up dance routines to raunchy Paula Abdul songs,
where you get hit by Brian Lakey because he likes you,
where you invent seatbelts for the swings,
where you gather all your friends to watch you fail,
where you beat a boy at a game and then stop playing,
and where you inadvertently bounce your best friend off the teeter totter
only to earn a check on the outdoor chalkboard host of demerits.
But I digress, please politely and assertively remind me when I interrupt myself.
In that My Little Pony paradise, I strategically planned to abandon it all,
whether it was because Mom made me turn off The Monkeys
or because Dad wanted me to cut down the string
that I had tied to every light fixture in the living room.
In that house, I spent significant amounts of time folding and unfolding my outfits
in order to press them down into the red-ridged curves
of my Going to Grandma’s suitcase.
They smelled distinctly of the tables and linens at my great grandma’s house.
When everything fit, it’d shut that carryall and clasp it,
then reopen it,
then clasp it and reopen it, again and again,
like the click clack of boots meant to walk down carpeted hall.
Even though I was in a rush, I never forgot to snap on a hot pink fanny pack.
I would stuff it with the nourishment
of a cellophane tower of cookies:
a means of thrival in the dangerous neighborhoods
of a city ending with -Ville or -Dale.
Where was I going?
The jumpstreet odyssey
seems too tame to be wild, so I’ll tell you another time.
My hair is not my mind
It is a wavy ocean
where sensitive seagulls find solace
in the ebb and flow of up and down.
Is that bad?
Before I ever left my room, I'd pick her up: that ragged doll,
I’d have to find her first.
She often hides under the blanket
or peeks out from behind the post of a bed,
with white slick fur,
matted to a pale, tanned, fabric frame.
Each of her eyes and belly buttons—whether pink or purple or blue and holey—
were switched and stitched back on
after one childish accident or another.
She always came back home though,
tucked under my arm and slumbering in peace.
And I am tired of being asked,
How are you so happy?
That is simple.
Just be a hybrid of Spock and Gandhi without thinking twice.
Ah shit, it’s 3:30 in the morning,
and I did the assignment.
I wrote you an eight-stanza poem
yet sloppily collaged lines
that truly put to page what I wanted to say.
I had to tuck our pinky promise under the covers of a swampy dorm room
because I was afraid that lightning would sneak through the screen,
and turn me into Frankenstein's wife,
but it didn’t, so let us celebrate.
So meet me at the library or on a terrace.
It’ll sound like dialogue, not a poem.
—Sarabeth Leitch, Portland, OR