My first attempts to write poetry ended the same—with me propped up in an iron bed at the old family farmhouse as I counted thirty-four college-ruled lines on a recycled blank page. Unaided by the chewed-to-bits pen in my hand, I felt utter defeat. An invisible rival conquered me for weeks, each time I tried to unravel the paradox of writing a poem.
Armed with a finance degree, I tackled poetry like an equation to be solved. I wrote a checklist of skills I thought necessary to create a verse and compared them to my own abilities. On paper, I listed familiar poetic devices such as simile and metaphor, imagery and symbols, meter and rhyme. My artistic repertoire lacked nothing, and yet, I sat on a notebook-strewn bed at the mercy of an empty page.
A breakthrough occurred at an unlikely place, a desk in my father’s office as I paid stacks of bills. I calculated an incantation of numbers and fell into a trance-like state where I daydreamed a poem about a paperweight with wings. Not a prizewinner (or even publishable) but one I liked. It began: “Fly, fly paperweight / off the desk and away / from the calculator and numbers.”
The words resonated with me because I understood that I was the weight with wings—bogged down by a lifelong fear of change and the dark (I still sleep with a light on!). I had the ability to escape an office job I hated, but I wouldn’t. The metaphor’s wings proved useless in my real life, and the poem ended with a “thump.” Paperweight and poet plunged into darkness—the place I have always feared.
Once there, I found a person much darker and sadder than I ever knew. But I also discovered that exploration plus self-examination equals a silhouette of truth. So I’ve returned to the inner regions to fill notebooks with words, in my struggle to solve—through poetry—the unworkable puzzle of being alive…
Waiting on a bed with etched flowers,
I smell lavender sleep on your pillowcase.
And uncover a reason to dream.
Photo by Steve H. Creative Commons, via Flickr. Post by Zachary Saloom.
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