It took me 37 years to write
this poem. I was trained in calisthenics,
in uneasy gymnastics, in the art of folding myself
in order to fit into tiny spaces so that I could be
forgotten. I discovered when I was eight
that I have double-hinged joints – I can
collapse into matchbook size in spite
of your disbelief, in spite of other’s attempts
to imbue me with daylight and call me
woman. It took me 37 years
to grab this poem and pull its
frayed, exposed ends out of my veins. I
discovered when I was thirteen that
some people considered the girl-fruit
that hangs deliciously between my legs
a weapon; so I learned how to hide
my trigger fingers in closets, in bathrooms,
and under bedspreads, themselves blanketed
by the silence of night and the dark of
the house. For years, no one knew
how many times I flew while the souls
in our house were sleeping. It took me 37 years
to paint this poem onto my soles
and leave soul prints for everyone else
to find. When I was fifteen, I was scolded
for pouring pictures and ponderings with purpose
out of my pen. I didn’t know I had
a brain crowded with cross-wired neurons
and exposed heartbeats, but I knew that
the pen helped me speak of what I knew
lay just beyond the tips of my mind’s
fingers. I was told that my pen was a weapon
that I should keep safe in a case, never to
brandish that little one-shooter of ink lest I
become a black and unknown bard,
tatterdemalion, lining gutters with my words
and stuffing shadows into my jaw; but that pen
would never be so cruel as to leave me alone
without a voice. It took me 37 years
to write this poem, to finally begin
to understand how to own my words
and myself. I am more dangerous
than anyone could possibly know: I look
like a plump little saint, benign and brown,
but I wield far more than my skin
betrays. I have learned that universes
intersect inside my body. I have learned that
I do not love along straight lines and that I do not
have to love inside of closets. I have learned
that misshapen black feathers are beautiful
and that an ancient banyan tree of neurons
grows wild and unapologetic inside my brain.
And I have learned that words are far more lethal
than any gun, knife, or bomb that humankind
has ever fashioned. Understand this: I have
weapons, and I intend to use them. After
37 years, I am certain now that I have had
plenty of time to practice.
© 2013 Nicole Nicholson. All Rights Reserved.
This poem was written for We Write Poems Prompt #169: Dangerous Poems. Parts of this were written at the Rock the ‘Ville poetry readings this past Saturday. This prompt really forced me to think, to examine myself and my poems, and how they — and I — might be dangerous. I turned 37 today — I think it’s safe to say that I need to be way past worrying about pleasing people and just living my truth instead. I wish someone would have grabbed me by the shoulders, looked me in the eyes, and told me this when I was 17.
Speaking of the Rock the ‘Ville readings, my reading on Saturday went fantastic! I enjoyed the company and camaraderie of the poets and their family members who attended. We were a small but amazing crowd, I think — and all the poets we hear on Saturday were just absolutely amazing. I will post more about this in a few days, with a more extended write-up and…a video of my reading!
Just to give you a sample of what I did on Saturday, I have uploaded for your listening pleasure an audio clip of one of the poems I read, “Gulf Song”.
Some of you might remember that three years ago, “Gulf Song” appeared in Poets for Living Waters, but I have also included it in the new chapbook, Novena (remixed)! Click on the cover below to be taken to my books page, where you can read and listen to sample poems, watch a video of a poem from the book, and – *gasp* – BUY THE BOOK!
Thanks for reading and listening. I apologize I’ve not been able to read much of my fellow WWP’ers poems. I will do my best to visit your blogs and read your work.