Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Don't Say it was a Dream

My steps were timid and hesitant as I walked across the junior college campus in the light rain. The campus was eerily quiet at night without the ordinary hustle and bustle of students. Repeatedly checking a slip of paper in my pocket, I searched the walls of buildings for numbers. Finally discovering the right building, I stole inside.
            I peered uncomfortably around the cheerfully lit hallways and checked my paper yet again, noting the room number for the thirtieth time. There it was, up the stairs. I opened the door and stared uncomfortably into the lecture room.
            Although I enjoyed creative writing and was even planning on being an English major, I had never attended a poetry reading. Even the words “poetry reading” conjured up images in my mind of unkempt flower children standing too close together, closing their eyes and swaying, ending the gathering with a group singing of “Kumbaya.” In contrast, about half the seats in the calm, brightly lit lecture room were filled with well-dressed students and intellectuals in sweaters, quietly murmuring to each other. I quickly chose a seat not too close to the front and pulled out my copy of Ilya Kaminsky’s Dancing in Odessa to review absentmindedly.
            I suppose I had expected deaf, Russian poet Ilya Kaminsky to resemble my imagined poetry-obsessed hippies; he surprised me with his short curly hair, baby face, rectangular glasses, and boyish grin. After graciously accepting the compliments made in his introduction, Ilya Kaminsky began to read.
            Startled, I resisted the urge to glance around at other members of the audience to gauge their reactions. Was everyone else hearing what I was hearing? The unintelligible, gibberish yelling? Although Kaminsky’s eyes were on the pages on his book, the alien sounds coming from his mouth were unrecognizable. I quickly flipped open my book to find the poem he was supposedly reading. With some difficulty, I waded through Kaminsky’s thick Russian accent and deaf pronunciation. As I listened and read, I discovered the words on the page.
            I truly discovered them at that moment. When I had read them before, I had heard in my mind the clear voice of an English professor, calmly and concisely pronouncing the words. I had not, nor could I have, imagined them being raggedly sung so hotly and richly in the way of Ilya Kaminsky. As I listened and read, I caught hold of one golden thread from Kaminsky’s life, and clasped a silver rope of my own.

The city trembled,
A ghost-ship setting sail.
At night, I woke to whisper: yes, we lived.
We lived, yes, don't say it was a dream.

            Flooding to my mind were a thousand memories; roller-skating down my street, singing in the shower, running the last few yards to the finish line, arriving in Sorrento at sunset, eating ice cream, tickling my baby nephew, crawling through mud caves, sobbing in my bedroom at night; a ghost-ship setting sail. The whisper resonated with me: yes, we lived. I lived! Yes! Don’t say it was a dream.
            And in me was awakened a sense of wonder at this world of poetry I had so long ignored. I never knew that words could do this. I never knew that one page of so few words could lift the blindness from my eyes so completely. I lived, yes. Don’t say it was a dream. 

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Spending some Quality Time with Myself

As you may (or may not) have noticed, I haven’t been doing a lot of blogging lately.  But it’s not because I’m going through a “non-blogging phase” or anything like that.  It’s actually because I have been going through a major transition in my life by moving to a new city and going to a new, much bigger, much different kind of school than I have ever been to before. 

So my life lately has been packed full of ups – but, as they are apt to do, a few downs have squeezed themselves in there as well.  Academically, everything is hugely exceeding my expectations in every way, and I’m absolutely stoked for every one of my classes.  I guess the “down” part would be the social aspect.  Not that I’ve been having a hard time talking to people or anything, but I always seem to forget that in a transition to a new place, there is always the awkward “making friends” stage.

There are two kinds of people: people who are good at making friends, and people who are good at keeping friends.  (And there are people who are good at both, who don’t appreciate their gift, and those unfortunate few who are good at neither.)  I’m the keeping kind, and making friends exasperates me.  Actually, trying to make friends always makes me question the value of our society.  (No exaggeration. …Well, maybe a little exaggeration.)  Making friends seems to rely so much on small nuances: whether or not you think the person’s voice is annoying or their eyes are captivating.  And we all observe each other carefully, upon first encounter, to see if we’re all keeping the appropriate social rules. 

Anyway, I think of the process of “making friends” as kind of pointless and foolish.  So although I have been putting forth effort to talk to my classmates and my roommates, I’ve been accepting a more independent lifestyle. I like it.  I think it would be perfect except for the fact that I remember so many good times when things were different and I had plenty of friends.  This week, I’ve often felt that the rest of my entire four years here at school will be as, well, lonely as this first week.  Mainly because of my lack of motivation to make friends.  Maybe that wouldn’t be the most horrible thing in the world, but either way I know, intellectually, that it will change.  (I repeatedly have to take deep breaths and remind myself of this.) In some ways I feel as though I’ve gone through a “life transplant” of sorts.  Where is the person I used to be?  The person I once thought I was?  The person I once professed myself to be?  My own new tendencies and inclinations are a surprise to me.  A pleasant surprise, since I have always wanted to be more independent, but admittedly a little bittersweet.  It’s like I’m finally saying goodbye to the teenager in me. A goodbye I’ve wanted to say for a long time, but a goodbye nonetheless.

Amid this period of self-discovery and reflection, my writing teacher had the class do our first assignment, describing ourselves a little differently than we normally might.  My next blog posts will be a little fewer and farther between since I'll be a lot busier than I was this summer, but I'm planning on posting some stuff I'm doing for school, which I'll work harder on and be more proud of.  

I Am

I am the green M&Ms.  I am the shower in the morning that’s just a little too cold.  I am the stripe on a polka dot shirt.  I am the bear in a campground – “She’s more afraid of you than you are of her.”  I am an eye roll and a silent laugh.

I am the little-known Shakespeare play.  I am the owl crying, “Who?” I am the map asking, “Where next?”  I am the too-small shoe that pinches your toes.

I am driving my car ten miles above the speed limit.  I am shouting to mountains, trying to change them.  I am bittersweet chocolate with almonds.  I am the bass section; “can you hear me?”

I am just like you.  I am not like you.  I am myself.