I usually write term-based pieces for Inspired Mag, but I’ll admit: I was too embarrassed to submit this one for their readership. However, I think this poem exemplifies taking an
I don’t know if love was the easiest thing to write about when I was younger, but it was a common theme in a lot of my older poetry. The memory of stolen forehead kisses and the anxiousness of that first handhold with awkward childhood grace. I was always in love. My heart ached for romance, holding fast to the belief that those gastric butterflies were not just real, but necessary for teenage survival.
Here is an all-too-sweet poem from that age about L O V E. And then, of course, the rewrite.
My Love by 14-year-old Alexa
My love is in the darkness
With stars glittering bright.
My love is in the darkness
As I love you through the night.
My love is in the roses,
As red as red can be.
My love is in the roses
Will you find that love for me?
My love is in a poem,
As long as love will last.
My love is in a poem
With my heart still beating fast.
My love is in a song,
As lovely as time will trace.
My love is in a song
Being sung for your embrace.
My love is in the ocean
Where a million miles spread.
My love is in the ocean
On its seashell covered bed.
My love is in a lover’s heart,
Who knows my deepest fears.
My love is in a lover’s heart,
Who sheds with all my tears.
Love Stinks by 27-year-old Alexa
His love is an uncomfortable hug—
the embrace of an aunt your mom swears you met
when you were four or five,
and don’t you remember, sweetie?
The answer is always no.
Or that friend from high school
you tried to reconnect with
said you’d definitely keep in touch with
and then let them fade away into the depths
of the abyss that is pre-college memory
because both of you meant
that by keeping in touch you were really trying to say,
I would like never to experience these feelings of awkwardness again.
But we were talking about him.
The one who made the world so easy to understand for so long.
The one you wanted to marry.
The one you can’t even hug.
You see, he has a smell—
a nauseating stench so malodorous
you’d wish you were anosmic.
But my nose is at peak sniff
the culmination of odors from our pre-awkward,
I inhaled the other beds, trapped subtly in the oils of his hair
of the lies, sunken into the crevices of acne gone popped and scabbed over
of the loss of love, buried in the neck,
the subtle scent of lavender and drug store deodorant spray.
He smells of bathrooms of houses I’ve never seen,
of moments he felt unclean,
of cigarettes and guilt.
He smells of me.
Even now he smells of me.
And when I walk away from the hug
release my face from the confines of the collar of his shirt
the stink of him still lingers…
stronger still than any new perfume.
I found an old book project from 2003. Thought I would share it; and as always, rewrite it in the form of a shorter poem:
“Beautiful Dreamer” by ~15-year-old Alexa
I knew a boy who loved to dream
of the moon, stars, and pounds of ice cream.
But sometimes he dreamed he could soar through the air
and go to the places that no one would dare.
He wanted to fly with the birds in a V,
over the ocean and past the great sea.
But the problem with this is he didn’t have wings.
So he couldn’t do any, any such things.
He decided to try and make wings of his own.
So he worked day and night, worked his hands to the bone.
When he was finally finished he smiled with glee.
“It is time for me to fly,” he said happily.
He decided to show his mother the wings he had made,
but all she did was talk about being afraid
and about what she would do if he were to get hurt,
bruised on the knees and ripping his shirt.
But the little boy would never give in
because his dreams meant that he always would win.
So he sneaked to the roof when the house was asleep
and off he would jump in a large, long leap.
He took off in the air where he planned to stay,
but nothing that night went just his way.
He crashed to the ground with a thundering thump
and he slowly got up with a black and blue bump.
He went to his mother and cried many tears.
She had warned him of what had been part of her fears.
Dreams may come true, but this little boy found out
that dreams are what magic and love is about.
Twelve Years Later…Written today, about Twelve Years Later
I knew a boy who used to dream
of the moon, stars, and pounds of ice cream:
and like the moon, he phased;
like the stars, he shone too bright;
and like the ice cream,
a puddle of rocky road in the shape of a heart.
But melting was an art:
He came back from the ground one time, then two…hundred—
fall after fall,
year after year,
roof child to grounded adult,
his ice cream heart wrapped up in bits of cone.
And when left on his own, he guided:
Polaris rising in the evening sky,
wings so big he couldn’t fly,
but he could jump
to heights so great the moon would envy,
shadows dancing in delight.
And there he went into the night:
the image of dreams in cosmic shadow puppets:
a boy transformed into a great bird,
casting shadows over his childhood.
Of this, he never stopped dreaming.
You thought of me for a moment,
a sort of passing, like the small mosquito on a less than succulent leg—
a flit, a flitter, then gone
into the clouds and ever-space of the out there,
more afterthought than present.
But on this moment, unlike others,
you chose to bite,
proboscis at the ready, elongated like a straw:
Perhaps an assemblage of moments formed into over a minute.
Perhaps guilt tugged at the skin so softly it started to itch.
Either way, you reached—
out, to, for what? I do not know,
but into ever-space you went a’reaching…
sending birds tweeting to the sky,
bearing news of great recompense,
yet words as empty as the second half
of the metaphorical glass.
And when more time has come to pass, you remember:
this is why I flit, why I flitter,
a world half empty,
and then there is forget.
The high of having tried,
the fear of being slapped away,
the reality of plucked wings…
Moments flash, leg after leg
into the great subconscious—
never to touch my skin again.
Know your worth to know your self: because to be worthless is to be without value; and to be without value, is to be without respect for self. To overvalue is to have ego. To undervalue, is to have low self esteem. To have no knowledge of value implies a lack of maturity or experience; in essence, you have not known enough of your self, and your self’s capabilities, to accurately compose a figure that is representative of your gross internal value.
But the knowledge or the ability to estimate accurate worth requires an understanding of all that makes you a commodity:
are you funny?
are you intelligent?
are you serious?
do you love?
do you eat with your hands?
And every answer to every question is compiled as data. And every compliment or criticism from outside parties is incorporated in data evaluation and analytics. Yet remember, third party data is not primary data and should often be taken with less weight depending on the determined significance of the source, i.e., parent, friend, ex-boyfriend, or sincerely off-base comment from that biatch from the lunch table.
Then you assess and separate the data into yearly and quinquennium periods and mark transitions over time. You make notes on times of distress, anger, and items outside the self’s control, and then note how the self reacted to similar events across the various time spans. You mine, you monitor, you add value points based on accomplishments and educational achievements, and then you add, divide, multiply, and pray that your value of self matches the value of the economy.
And then you realize the world has given you no choice. Despite your estimates, they’ll start you at 20 thousand under what you’re worth, and you, having been beaten down with data, start to believe that that is your actual worth when it isn’t. The world, your unfortunately heavy third party factor.
All it Takes
All it takes for you to be happy
is to admit,
that failing is just as great
that unhappiness is fleeting,
and all moments
are learning experiences
wrapped in awesome,
wrapped in sad.
And when it gets so bad,
it’ll probably be so good, too.
All it takes is you:
Your outlook, your perception,
your reflection on moments
so minute to the bigger picture,
you find yourself changed in seconds,
the gong of hours past, the equivalent of a lifetime.
But to own the failure, this is key;
it wasn’t him or her,
it wasn’t we— it’s you,
caught between what you thought you knew
and what you’ll never know,
the future undecided,
the anxiousness growing tall like unkempt weeds.
Anxious is as anxious fears,
the culmination revealed in private tears
and moments where escape seems better than confrontation.
But in this situation, to be happy is to take the leap,
no regrets for plans you didn’t keep,
or plans never made.
Just go with the gut,
become the product of enteric intuition,
your final decision the work of you and you alone.
All it takes for you to be happy,
for you to find inner smile,
is to stay awhile,
bask in the glory of a choice well impulsed,
take a breath to live a sentence without clause (i.e., simple),
and admit that success is just as great
As far as the poem below goes, I think it’s about a boy who is far away, or feels far away, but who probably likes the writer, or so she thinks. This is about her desire to be with him, and so she’s projecting her thoughts onto him hoping the situation will change. I was such a romantic teenager. But then again, weren’t we all?
Away from Me by 14-year-old Alexa
Away from me
You always go
If we’re in love
I’ll never know
Away from me
You always seem
To be the one
That’s in my dream
Away from me
You always fly
To watch the clouds
Race in the sky
Away from me
You always run
To sit and see
The setting sun
Away from me
You always stare
Across the room
When I am there
Away from me
You never are
That is my wish
Upon a star
The rewrite below is a little more serious. A little less hopeful.
Away it Went by 27-year-old Alexa
It seemed so simple when we were young,
when punches on the arm
were the grandest
of romantic gestures,
and when spotting each other
meant blushes and the future arrival
of airplane notes
that would dip and dart across the classroom sky.
But you were always out of reach of airplanes,
Your grand gestures were stolen glances
that were too well-timed,
too subtle to feel them upon my back,
to have had the chance to turn wistfully,
cheeks a-blush at the thought of gazes.
You never let me in—
you let me go.
Until years passed and punches turned to heartbreaks,
blushes saved for bedrooms and too much wine,
and the airplane notes, now the occasional electronic blip,
messages fired so quickly, that mistakes were always made.
We complicated what used to be simple.
Fools are made to be broken,
as fools do, fool about so foolishly.
Ah, to be young and foolish,
to bask in the Tom or Jane-foolery of
To be fooled once, twice, then shamed
over and over by the foolishness of love,
to rush in where angels fear to spread
gentle wings, so white,
you’d be foolish if you did not find them heavenly.
To play fool,
or to be played fool—
no difference to the heart;
it seeks to be heard
above a thousand, hundred fools
so loud you can’t hear it say it loves you back.
Foolish is as foolish does.
Selfish is as selfish…is.
To be foolish and to be selfish,
of the same make
since to love
is to have been foolish.
Since to stay if one does not love,
is indicative of
the selfish fool.
Oh, love. A fool’s errand.
The foolish heart speaks encyclopedias
of foolish words, and adjectives for beauty
only learned because the fool has fooled around
with syntax and dictionaries,
fooled away with logic or reason or sense,
to fool with the foolish sentiments of other fool hearts,
foolishly beating too rapidly,
foolishly blushing too red
at the attention of foolery.
But to be nobody’s fool—
this is something not so foolish,
to let the heart make a fool of itself,
to love unselfishly…
unfoolishly loving yourself,
before you can unfoolishly love others.
Fools are made to be broken.
So I thought I was a pretty deep teenager, with an emotional hole so bottomless, even the tears I cried would be poetic. Or I just thought my writing needed to have some sort of meaning. That writing about zombies or arts and crafts would be seen as too lighthearted and lacking substance.
I can’t remember why I wrote the poem below. But I can definitely take a crack at a rewrite that’s less, I don’t know…trying too hard???
Patience is the Key by 15-year-old Alexa
Patience is the key
You never know
Maybe if patience never existed
The world would have fallen pudding snacks
From careless openings of the gushy, savory delight.
The world would have open wounds,
where impatient doctors pull the bandage
and large chunks of hair come with it.
The world would have less wide-eyed intelligent children
With impatient books to be read, ones that can be skimmed,
Not taken lightly for content.
The world would have less music, where impatient ears crave the busy streets
The sounds of car horns and estranged yelling being as a beautiful symphony,
Opposed to the romantic flavor of jazz or the rich vocal silence of the piano.
The world would have death, where anxious surgeons forget to remove a bacteria,
Or forget to replace a heart.
The world would have pollution, where pedestrians lose all hope of ever crossing paths
With a trash can, heaving its need for the sweet incense of decaying paper and moldy apples.
The world would have war, where people forget that they are not the only ones to speak, their eager minds not wishing to hear words of justice, equality, and peace.
The world would be a closed lock, steely grips upon its empty hole.
But patience is the key.
Losing Patience by 27-year-old Alexa
I thought that patience was the key to everything,
but I was wrong;
it dwarfs our potential,
feeds at the upbringing of our fear…
Just to be clear:
Change happens for the impatient,
Actions taken must be active
not passive—aggressively approaching our lives,
the patience only to pace ourselves still relevant,
to appease the inner drive at least enough to compensate for the waiting.
And if you find yourself hesitating,
Think of possibilities, think of fact,
but don’t let the world pass you by.
Because the idiom they say is true,
life flashes in a blink…
Still: Patience is an ally, not a key.
To know patience is to know the need to lose it,
to keep anxiousness tamed,
as if emotion were a lion, bear, or tiger…
Oh, my! The need to keep your soul at rest,
to let your heart decide if action or patience is best—
then the key is not in patience,
but in decision:
A skeleton key.
The universal unlocker.
Finding balance, your lock-pick;
choice, your tools.
Going back through my older writing, I’m still amazed by how the me of over ten years ago loved to rhyme. So below you’ll find an older poem, then an on-the-spot version with an adult’s attempt at rhyme. It’s a testament to how craft changes as you age.
A Friend in Need by 15-year-old Alexa
It may be a cover
To hide just your face
But what you are hiding
You could never trace
It stands in your heart
And rests in your soul
And with its desire
It can burn through a hole
Your digging your mountain
Against all your wills
You make no more wishes
And share no more thrills
You tell us you’re angry
Then don’t tell us why
You say “nothing’s wrong”
But you sit there and cry
We try to say things
That will soothe your weak heart
But our verbal connection
Is miles apart
Just don’t lie to me
And say “go away”
I’m not leaving your side
Because I promised I’d stay
Don’t try to get rid
Of a person who’s there
I’m trying to show you
I actually care
Can’t you just get
that I’m trying my best?
I leave you alone
So it can get off your chest
But if it won’t leave
I’ll be there when you call
When you have everything
Or nothing at all
Friend Needed by 27-year-old Alexa
I know you,
lost between freedom and obligation,
in the notes and strums of life
that hypnotize as much as hinder.
There you wander,
among dreamers of the same band,
your band mates, sheep,
amazed you still have dreams with lack of sleep,
since you spend most nights in a state of ponder.
It’s beyond me how you work in waking static,
your actions more erratic than calculated,
more free-form than trapped in rhythmic verse,
despite the lack of rest or repose so consistent with stable,
but I’ve told you time and time again,
if you are able,
to reach out, in waking or in dreaming,
when life feels more like nightmare sans the screaming,
you’ll find me here,
a lighthouse when your ship is nearing rocky shore.
I beg of you to tell me more,
to let me be the beacon before the sinking…
to know what you must be thinking,
guiding boat without a wheel.
But do you think of how I feel?
To be a beacon with no boat?
To wait patiently, light spinning like the hands of a clock:
I know you,
lost between selfishness and friendship,
hypnotized by Sirens,
into the depths of the sea.
But as long as you have me,
despite it all,
your lack of conversation,
lack of calls,
I’ll still be there.
A band mate.
light spinning in the dark.
I found a poem from 2003 from my old Compaq Presario; actually, I found quite a few. But I’ll share them one by one. First the original poem from 2003, then an on-the-spot rewrite, as a sort of answer to my 15-year-old self.
“Hide and Seek,” by 15-year-old Alexa
Hush your breath
Try not to speak
The world is colder
Hide and seek
The closet door
Don’t say a word
Close your eyes
and don’t be heard
and whisper less
trying to catch
what caused this mess
Afraid to try
and be found again
One more time
and count to ten.
Hide and Seek,” by 27-year-old Alexa
I count to the door:
One, two, three,
and hear a giggle, because someone knows
I’m cheating, peeking past open fingers,
closing my eyes into paper-thin slits
and squinting hard into the darkness,
as they would do,
if they were still the seeker.
But I never would have been here
counting to a wall
if I had only been more careful,
traded giggles for the concealed silence
my grandma called patience
and self reflection.
But hunger had led me astray,
a stomach so full of grumble
I couldn’t help but laugh,
the aftermath inevitable
as my laughter sank warily into the dark
and I was found;
hands enclosed around a cookie,
answering the long unanswered question of child song, Who stole it?
It was me.
My mouth full and my heart heavy,
I allowed myself to be tagged,
prize in hand,
forced to chase after laughter in the dark.