The Perils of Flying

Surprisingly, I don’t post every single poem I write on this blog.  This was one that I chose to withhold for reasons I won’t go into here.  It was one of the poems I wrote very rapidly (under 30 minutes), but was selected for publication in my school’s literary magazine.

The formatting of this poem was inspired by Marie Howe’s “Magdelene – The Seven Devils.”  This homage surely doesn’t do it justice, so please do read it if you have time.

I would like to thank the people who inspired this poem (and several others that have been/will be published) for their friendship and support during our journeys to health.

The first problem was that they said schizophrenia
if they meant bipolar disorder,
bipolar disorder if they meant D.I.D.,
and It’s okay if they meant Please leave.
The second problem was that they never said it was okay.

No, the first problem was really when you knocked
your laptop off your desk in class and didn’t tell
anyone that it wasn’t an accident, and the second problem –

the first problem was the night you spent
copying the Book of Revelations into a notebook
the second problem was the second night
and the third night was the first problem.

The second problem was that her skin didn’t feel
like fire and gold like the girl in your painting and
the third problem was that the closer you got to paradise
the louder the angels became,
the third problem was really

that the sixth heaven was full of angels
with voices like lions and the fourth problem
was the problem set you forgot about
since you had spent the third night covered in paint.

The fifth problem was that there was no problem.

The sixth problem was that there really was a problem,
and the seventh problem was that you didn’t see the other
six problems until it was much too late and you had nothing
to say to her when just yesterday you had talked about

eighteen different things over lunch including illegal whaling,
rap music, electrical circuits, surrealism, God, diamonds, and
the eighth problem, which was that you couldn’t
remember the last time you had slept and also that you
didn’t care.

The sixth problem was the night you finally fell asleep, the
seventh problem was the screaming that woke you up at three
in the morning – no, the seventh problem was that you looked
for whoever was screaming for half an hour before you realized

no one else could hear them. The seventh problem was also
when they said What are those scratches on your arms,
the eighth problem was when they didn’t believe what you said
about the angels, and the ninth problem,

which is also
the first, is that you are currently here,
in a room with a small neat bed, a pillow,
and no angels, and nothing about this
is what you had pictured for yourself,

nothing at all.


“Michigan Essay” (Excerpt) – Sufjan Stevens

We have been called to participate in the world’s creation from the very beginning.  Making music.  Baking cakes.  Sewing curtains.  These things mean something greater: that we have been known from the very start.  Our eye color, our hairline, our jawline, the shape of our big toe, the tone of our voice.  These things have been designed from the very beginning.  What kind of music we listen to.  The sort of skirt that looks good.  The baseball cap, the tennis shoe, the orange bandana.  We have been made to find these things for ourselves and take them in as ours, like adopted children: habits, hobbies, idiosyncrasies, gestures, moods, tastes, tendencies, worries.  They have been put in us for good measure.

Perhaps we don’t like what we see: our hips, our loss of hair, our shoe size, our dimples, our knuckles too big, our eating habits, our disposition.  We have disclosed these things in secret, likes and dislikes, behind doors with locks, our lonely rooms, our messy desks, our empty hearts, our sudden bursts of energy, our sudden bouts of depression.  Don’t worry.  Put away your mirrors and your beauty magazines and your books on tape.  There is someone right here who knows you more than you do, who is making room on the couch, who is fixing a meal, who is putting on your favorite record, who is listening intently to what you have to say, who is standing there with you, face to face, hand to hand, eye to eye, mouth to mouth.  There is no space left uncovered.  This is where you belong.

“Such Great Heights” – Iron and Wine

I am thinking it’s a sign
That the freckles in our eyes
Are mirror images and when we kiss
They’re perfectly aligned

And I have to speculate
That God himself did make us
Into corresponding shapes
Like puzzle pieces from the clay

And true it may seem like a stretch
But it’s thoughts like this that catch
My troubled head when you’re away
When I am missing you to death

When you are out there on the road
For several weeks of shows
And when you scan the radio
I hope this song will guide you home

They will see us waving from such great heights
Come down now, they’ll say
But everything looks perfect from far away
Come down now but we’ll stay

I’ve tried my best to leave
This all on your machine
But the persistent beat
It sounded thin upon listening

And that frankly will not fly
You’ll hear the shrillest highs
And lowest lows with the windows down
When this is guiding you home

They will see us waving from such great heights
Come down now, they’ll say
But everything looks perfect from far away
Come down now but we’ll stay

[February 10]

I’ve been trying to write about happiness
for weeks now, but every time I open
my notebook, the words don’t feel right.
It’s not like I’m unfamiliar
with happiness, but
I’ve never been able to capture it,
hold it down, shove it inside
for later, when I need it.

I need happiness so much these days.
Everyone does. On my lunch breaks,
I wander the library, my breath smelling
of protein bars and diet Coke. I’ve blundered
into the psychology section more
than once, reading the one-word titles
of the dusty books: Anger. Love. Crying.

There’s this misconception
that people with depression never feel
happiness. We do, of course, but it’s
briefer than what I imagine is normal
and somehow all the better
for that. It’s as elusive as
the linger of cologne
along your collarbone. It’s as quiet
as a sunlit sky.

We keep chasing happiness. I practice
saying we instead of I,
tying myself so firmly to
the world that there is no chance
of my ever letting go. I doodle
in my notes, endless, firmly
written sequences, we, everyone,
we, us, yes, everyone chasing
after joy as if it were not
something that would appear
anyway, inescapably and when
we least expect it, like birds
returning in the spring.


February 14, 2000: A chubby little girl with big eyes and bigger feet has spent hours planning and executing the design for her Valentine’s Day shoebox.  It is decorated with puffy stickers (her favorite), doodles and zigzags, and white glue covered in glitter.  She has just learned the term crosshatch from her mother, and has put maybe an excessive amount on the top of her box.  This morning, though, she wakes up with a throat that feels like it’s been scratched raw.  Her dad stays home from work and drives her to the doctor, who says strep.  

The little girl does not know that she will be sick for almost every Valentine’s, Christmas, and Halloween party for the next five years.  Children get sick a lot, but rarely with such impeccable timing.

February 13, 2004: A somewhat bigger, but still quite little, girl is staring across the room at the first boy she has ever had a crush on.  He sidles regretfully up to the box on her desk and drops a Valentine from two fingers into the top.  Over a decade later, the girl will idly remember this moment as she is doing biology homework.  She thinks the Valentine may have been sports themed.  She vaguely remembers that the boy had blond hair and a snubbed nose but, beyond that, can remember nothing.

February 14, 2008: This past year, a new Linkin Park album has come out, and the girl listens to it on repeat.  She is at her mother’s house for the weekend and lies on her stomach with the cat curled up in the small of her back: And now you’re gone, and I was wrong/I never knew what it was like/To be alone… She wears black eyeliner, with no eyeshadow, and has one pink wristband from Hot Topic which she treasures more than life itself.  She fills notebooks with terrible poetry.  She has no idea, not yet, how loved she truly is.

February 14, 2011: A young woman (she’s 17) is visiting the university to which she has been accepted and will soon attend.  She misses her family and her boyfriend.  Her hosts have set up a cot for her to sleep on, and as she curls up, she glimpses a single rose on the nightstand.  She wonders if anyone will ever give her a rose.  (Someone does, eventually.)

February 14, 2013, probably: The lights are out in the common room.  On the couch, the young woman is dead asleep.  Her legs and big feet stick out from under the blanket.  They hurt terribly.  It is cold.

February 2, 2015: It’s February again.  The month of my birthday, my 22nd this year, and the month of Valentine’s Day, on which I never, ever have a date.  It’s become something of an inside joke I have with myself, a running streak I’d sort of regret breaking.  But I really like Valentine’s Day, for some perverse reason.  I spend so much time falling in love with people and places and songs and tastes that it’s nice to have one day, one day a year, when I fall in love with myself.