“Just Once -“

In response to this article.

Maybe it wasn’t love, then.
Maybe it had nothing to do with that warm,
heavy, slightly scented night, our first
night on campus, and nothing to do
with the curls of her warm, heavy,
slightly scented hair, darker than 
the grass under our feet.

Of course if it wasn’t love
the other things
have to go too, like our
first date at the soup kitchen,
her oniony hand touching 
my shoulder for the smallest instant
before she turned back to chopping

It was not my intention
to offend. I am not a diamond
but an agate, small and layered,
circled with red and white,
and maybe this is all my fault
because I chose to be an agate,
I chose to grate my shell
against the beach.

Maybe I cannot love
at all. Some people
have mistreated homosexuals
in the past, and after all, to differ
is not to hate. Some 
people look at the moonlight
and see darkness.


“Not Horses” – Natalie Shapero

What I adore is not horses, with their modern
domestic life span of 25 years. What I adore
is a bug that lives only one day, especially if
it’s a terrible day, a day of train derailment or
chemical lake or cop admits to cover-up, a day
when no one thinks of anything else, least of all
that bug. I know how it feels, born as I’ve been
into these rotting times, as into sin. Everybody’s
busy, so distraught they forget to kill me,
and even that won’t keep me alive. I share
my home not with horses, but with a little dog
who sees poorly at dusk and menaces stumps,
makes her muscle known to every statue.
I wish she could have a single day of   language,
so that I might reassure her don’t be afraid —
our whole world is dead and so can do you no harm.


Each of the fourteen letters I did not send you
has evolved into something different, and
they turn up in unexpected ways. The first
crumpled up in my backpack. The fourth full
of molecular structures in the margins. The
eleventh a coaster for my cup of tea.
Three of them are paper cranes, two
are boxes, one I found blown up against
the tree outside. The bird nest on the windowsill
has suspicious white triangles. One day
you will peel off a piece of paper
from your shoe, a paper with your name
on it, a paper with a sentence complete
in itself, a paper with a sentence true from
this day to that. Dear you, it will say,
I am writing.

Life in the Nice Zone

I am not a selfless person.  In fact, the older I get, the more I realize that I am a very, very selfish and vain person.

In psychology today, we learned that most people have an overly optimistic view of themselves – they think of themselves as smarter, more talented, and better looking than everyone else, and, in fact, a realistic or pessimistic view of oneself is very rare in healthy people and quite a bit more common in those who are depressed.

I have depression, and although it is well controlled now, it will never be cured, exactly.  One of the examples my professor provided hit me straight in the gut because it was so reminiscent of my darker days:

A person who is depressed might not dress well or put effort into looking good, because they realize that no one is going to pay much attention to how they look.  That’s a true fact, but incredibly depressing.

I was also reminded of one of my favorite quotes by Oscar Wilde (it’s about drinking but can apply to many different scenarios as well):

After the first glass, you see things as you wish they were. After the second, you see things as they are not. Finally, you see things as they really are, and that is the most horrible thing in the world.

Sometimes I feel like everyone has a role they play in everyday life.  My role, which is one that I picked up early on, is that of Nice Girl (or, now that I’m entering my twenties, Nice Lady.)  A Nice Girl puts other people ahead of herself.  She dresses modestly, does not raise her voice, and is unfailingly kind.  She does not care about discrimination or the approval of others because she has a very strong sense of self, and she knows that the act of giving is in itself its greatest reward.

So that’s what I try to be.  However, since I am but mortal, I am always falling short of my goal.  Let’s face it, it’s nice to feel appreciated for your efforts, especially if you feel like you’re constantly putting in over 100%.  And even if you are unfailingly kind to everyone, and are always there for people whether they’re your friends or complete strangers, there will always be people who are put off by that.  You can’t make everyone like you.  And that hurt me a lot when I was younger, because I tried so very hard to make everyone like me that I forgot to like myself.

Selflessness is an art, and it requires a lot of practice.  I will never be perfect at it, just like I will never be perfect at a lot of other things.  I learned this recently when a friend of mine made a terribly offensive comment and I had to decide my course of action.  There was a part of me – the part that is perpetually five years old – that wanted to scream “YOU’RE A BIG MEANIE FACE” and cry.  There was a part of me that wanted to explain why the comment was problematic, and why it hurt me.  And there was a part of me that just wanted to forget it ever happened and continue to be kind to this person, because our friendship was important to us both, important enough that I could realize that they were also imperfect and also still practicing.

I chose the third option.  It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, because aside from my parents and a few close friends, no one will ever know what the comment was, or how much it hurt me.  That was really problematic because I, like many other people, think of my life as a movie in which I am the protagonist, and it was disconcerting to think that there was never going to be a big reveal scene (with a soundtrack by Hans Zimmer) where the person realized their mistake.  That person has probably forgotten that they said the comment by now, actually, and in time I’ll forget it too.

I am not a saint and I am not a movie character.  I am a person.  I actually think that my imperfections are strengths, because they allow me to relate better to people who are suffering and to realize when I’ve done something wrong and improve for the next time.  It would be boring to be effortlessly kind all the time, wouldn’t it?  Where would be the challenge, then?

If my life were a movie (or a play) I think this is what I would like my character description to say:

Amber puts her well-being first, so she can help others more efficiently.  She dresses comfortably, is not afraid to raise her voice, and is kind to as many people as possible, including herself..  She cares about discrimination and the approval of others because humans are by nature social, but she is proud of her identities and knows that in the end she is in control of her own life.  Most importantly, she knows that the act of giving is in itself its greatest reward.

I don’t want to be a Nice Girl anymore.  I don’t want to be nice at all.  I want to be myself, flaws and all, and make the world a better place anyway.  Not because I’m playing a role, or because people want or expect me to, but because I want to.  That’s the most genuine type of kindness there is.

January 22

If someone has sent you something on paper it has to be something of great import.  A bill.  A love note.  Those two things are more alike than you’d think.  They both have the capacity to ruin your life, depending on whether you’re young or old or just poor or starved for affection or either/or; love is not picky.

I keep having dreams about you.  Your hair is reddish gold in the sunlight and you have cut it off until it is short and even all over your head, like fur.  I dream about running my fingers through it.  I dream about you falling asleep next to me.  The conditions for survival are this: never look back and always believe you are better than you are and that is, I suppose, where the gold comes in.  Call me an idiot but never call me uninformed.

You have tiny feet, too.  Tiny slender feet and strong, stubby legs, legs that stopped you from being a dancer because in ballet they want you to be as tall and thin as possible.  I would never.  I would break.  I would flinch the first time I saw a broken toenail.  My dance teacher never let us sit down during class.  ”It cramps your muscles,” she said.  I don’t know if that’s true or not but even now I don’t sit down when I’m working, I pace.  Back and forth.  Stronger with every turn around the room.  More determined.  Under my feet are iron and ice, which is a combination that is not as strong as it sounds like, but appearance is everything.

White: the absence of color.  Brown: the color of your shirt today.  Your hair is the color of wheat in a pre-Raphaelite painting, if they ever painted such mundane things as wheat.  I wanted to keep looking at you forever but I kept being distracted by things like what was going on in class, silly things, really, I’ve already done double integrals, in a past life, it seems like.  It’s like walking half a mile in heels on a day where the temperature never climbs above freezing and by the time you reach the destination it’s already nighttime.  The day is worn out and has retreated to its room.

I am not as alone as I think and the color brown is proof of that.

Quotes from my professors

Social psych:

Was it just me or was today awesome?  Thank you for participating and being engaged and generally being terrific.  If you can keep your energy and enthusiasm up for this class, like you did today, then we are going to have so much fun and learn so much. 

I can hardly wait for Friday. 


What I’m going to do is rub this teflon rod with this cat pelt. Unfortunately, this means one animal did die for the sake of Physics 102. It was an ugly cat, though, so nobody really cared.


The best Christmas cookies are made with lard.  Not that you really want to think about lard while you’re eating them, but it does make them all nice and flaky.


So you’re probably asking yourself, “Does this mean they were all high?”  The answer is yes.  They were flying.  Not metaphorically, either.  Literally.  They were flying.


There is a place in this class for anything you are interested in.  Science, photography, animals – anything.  This is a class where you can really push the limits of poetry and achieve incredible results.

It’s going to be a good semester.