As Robert Frost said, “Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.”
There were a plethora of poems written throughout high school and into my first two years at Lee University. Many hopes, dreams, fears, furies and triumphs were written in random school notebooks. Notes taken for German classes, biology, algebra the New Testament and more were abandoned, but the poems were treasured.
Sometimes a poem brings a flush to my cheeks, or causes my heart to pound as I remember wrongs of yesteryear. I’ve never been good at keeping a diary, but those pieces can transport me to a dusty place in my timeline. Maybe I have not thought of the moment in a while, but it is there and it had significance in my life.
One such moment was personally immortalized in the poem titled “If only I had told you this ... then punched you in the face.”
Definitely straight to the point.
The moment happened in my sophomore year of college. My friend and I were walking back from Uchurch when a girl holding a jar with a missions sign stopped us. She and a rather tall fellow began speaking about Haiti and how it was her God-given mission to reach out to the people.
Except, she did not have the money to do so. We explained we also had no money. This was not what they wanted to hear. The guy launched into a speech about individuals unwilling to give. His words soon transitioned and found new ground in all of the wrongs of the world.
One of his statistics hit home with me and my friend. We were shocked and then enraged. Sharing a glance, we looked back at the guy and made short work of saying our goodbyes.
Who knew if his unintentional ignorance was contagious?
Although I was safely back in my dorm room, his words would not leave me. Or rather, his unfair assumptions had scraped and left me bleeding in the wake. With mounting frustration I turned to my computer and let the words come.
“And here is the bitter truth,
you speak to me of right,
tell me of the world’s wrong—
I hear your words, and slowly
my soul ignites. My anger
wells like an old friend. You
speak of truth like a martyr
of old, your lips form as if
honey falls in dollops. You
feel a King and I stumble. My
eyes upon you, behold a
Jester! Watch your words,
foolish child, for I know the
truth. I have felt the twisted
honesty of life. Preach
another sermon, sire
another tale, quicken your
words, my ears await. My
eyes are wide. I tilt my head,
I watch you talk. But inside,
imagine my cry, my rage,
My truth blooming deep,
a seed in my heart.
It blossoms under your
candid talk. Now, reach out
and grasp your Truth from
my heart, pluck the blossom
of Frank Reality, smell the
scent of pure adulterated,
Whenever I read the words I am immediately transported back to my sophomore year self with all of the anger, pain and bitter amusement from that night. It was easy to feel the victim. In fact, there is still a proclivity to sit in the role without looking beyond the four walls. When I do, it is easy to see how I might have forced someone into the same box.
How many times have my ignorant words had the same effect as that tall fellow’s? I wonder how often my focused ambition blinds me to the responses of others.
In Proverbs, Solomon offers up a reminder of the tongue’s power, “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”
Tall fellow’s words were rash and they hurt. However, I cannot think that my words have always brought healing. Thankfully, sweet salutations, words of encouragement, prayers, jokes, affirmation and considerate conversation offer ways to unbalance the scales in favor of healing.
Whether you believe Oscar Wilde, who said, “All bad poetry springs from genuine feeling,” in half or whole — he has a point. My poetry, from whimsical to scathing, is a remnant of who I was in a time I will never have back. As Carl Sandburg said, “Poetry is an echo, asking a shadow to dance.”
It also offers insight into how I can choose to behave today, tomorrow and beyond.
Maybe one day I will find my way back to the emotion-packed form of expression, but for now I will enjoy the writings as they are in hopes of harvesting more memories and reminders.