For about three months, I’ve been juggling a few works of poetry. Night Sky with Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong; Up Jump the Boogie by John Murillo; and most recently Wild Embers by Nikita Gill which I immediately took to.
Now as you might guess, I didn’t finish any yet but I can already tell I’ll appreciate their final masterpieces. Each of the three represents, but not reduced to, a different pair of eyes to separate cultures.
So with Night Sky we’ve got a Vietnamese-born migrant who writes of family, grief, war, and love with overwhelming cadence at times, however, at other times pretty vague (for poetry I dare say) that I can’t begin to guess what I’m supposed to take from it. Again, I’m not finished so this is all subject to change. I discovered him when I came across his poem ‘Someday I Will Love Ocean Vuong‘ on The Yorker and I was hooked on the flow of words from one cleverly crafted concept to the next, and more importantly, the gentle cry of the message on self-love.
i read somewhere,
that your purpose is
to give your life meaning
Clever, i’d thought then
now, never a truer thing I saw
It’s all experience, hands-on
full throttle even when time
moves at a snail’s pace
It’s a real thing, to have died
and still, be breathing, limbs moving
It was/is my experience living on this edge
To know what it means
to have a freezer-burned soul
The thaw promised growth and healing
What’s good for me was not for the polar bear
Scattered around my body
are holes i dug with my
Like from the earth my mother came
ivy and moss flank the trellis of my ribs
to hold myself to me,
Perhaps, i realize, not so i did not fall apart
but to contain the new thing I become
each time i change
into the thing i’m supposed to be
i know what it means to
sit quietly at dawn and to
let the dew bathe me Continue reading
Eyeball that bit of wisdom. Read it again. One more time to be sure. Okay then. Maybe you recognize some of that in yourself, I know I do.
An infernally astute quote from John’s debut novel, Looking for Alaska. “Infernal” because it illustrates a sort of personal hell I should be scrambling to escape. A loop whose deeply rutted trail I’m vaguely aware of at the best of times and crystal sharp at the worst of times.
Which is f**king tedious? I mean if I could be aware of all the tomorrows I tell myself I have and not take them for granted, I’ll get my goals accomplished, every day I would be compelled to complete them.
But like the blessed idiot that I am, I do stupid sh*t anyway. And I could analyze to kingdom come about the lies I convince myself are truths, their roots lay in self-doubt and lack of self-compassion. I’ve thought out of the whys and have finally sifted and understood what some of my actual truths are. Three years ago this introspection would’ve been beyond me but I feel lighter at the thought that I’ve come so far that I can see how I could fortify wobbly foundations and continue to build my person. Growth is always the goal.
But essentially the labyrinth is a fantastic illusion that could make us or dismantle us and perhaps it can only work out if we realize that within it we can make new paths. That we can take a chainsaw to some of the dead ends, and plant new saplings.
The past is a ghost. The future a phantom horizon. The present? It’s where we live. It’s not always pleasant but it’s where our hearts beat, the precipice of the next moment. Isn’t it awful how we conjure those ghosts and let them possess us? How we often try to dream out the possible futures thereby plugging up the goodness that the present can offer?
I read Looking for Alaska about two years ago, stayed up until morning to finish it only to have a feeling of mental suspension and an excellent view of the void. Alaska was a bitch, sure, but to be fair she was a kid who had a lot going on under the surface.
Filed under Books, Thoughts